Childhood is an Abyss of Secrets and Shame, but Parents Don’t Ask about Them

We are both silent, and I’m patiently waiting for her to begin. I know it’s difficult for her, I see shame in her eyes and she’s often looking down, wringing her hands and arranging her hair nervously each second.

She needs time and I feel she has decided to speak, to tell what I have suspected from the beginning of our joint work.

It was emerging slowly, hard and very painfully.

At was afflictive to remember, to tell, to make sense of.

And she started fitfully, quietly, through crying.

Healing tears of the soul.

She was 8 or 9 years old. They lived in a medium-sized apartment building. They were family friends.

She called him “uncle”, he and his wife had two children and she played with them.

And still, something was wrong, she felt that in his presence she was tense, she sensed his look on her and it somehow disturbed her.

The “uncle” was lovable, even too much.

He always wanted to fondle her, to pinch her little cheek slightly, of purely good feelings.

He especially insisted on her sitting in his lap – she’s a child, he kind of wanted to make her happy.

She refused, but her own parents, especially her father, scolded her – mind your manners, uncle wants to hug you, why do you refuse it?

How can you refuse?

How dare you trust your own sensations?

We know better, and it’s more important that we don’t ridicule ourselves and we don’t offend this uncle, get rid of your feelings, you’re only a child, they’re not important …

The “uncle” began to drop in more often, exactly when the parents weren’t at home, “accidentally”, of course, although he knew very well when they were at work. He insisted to go in and wait for them, demanding her to stay with him, to talk, to tell him about herself, for instance if she had a boyfriend, if she liked someone etc.

She remembers that he asked her such questions only when there wasn’t anybody else around and they made her feel uncomfortable and frankly nasty …

She is telling me about an accident when they were travelling in a car after a wedding party both families had attended. Late in the evening, at the back seat, they sat down – she, her father and the uncle who strongly insisted that she, the child, should sit down between them, but her father sat down next to him, to chat, they were quite drunk. All the time, the uncle caressed her little neck and back while his other hand was over her father’s shoulders in the dark car!

And more, and more, and more, she was like a collapsed dam of memories, feelings, emotions – anger, shame, disgust, sorrow, despair and so much pain…

Did my client tell about it, did she share with anybody?

Not in the beginning. She shares how confused she was, she wasn’t sure what was happening, she was ashamed and frightened, not knowing why and what of, but she felt it very strong with her whole body, she was trembling and had the feeling she would throw up, that she had a ball in her stomach, just by thinking of that man. And she had the feeling something wrong was going on but she wasn’t able to name it or explain it.

She plucked up courage and told her parents, yet more than once, but nobody listened to her, nobody took the words of the little girl seriously, even the opposite, they blamed her that she lied, that she imagined because she was only a child who was obviously seeking attention!?

Afterwards, I hear something even more shocking. Her father suggested to buy her a dog so that she had something to deal with, not to disgrace them, as well as the neighbor – this good and kind person…

To escape this nightmare, later on she applied for a school in another town and moved to the boarding-house, taking with her all the memories. Over the years, these memories transformed and concealed various things like strong depression, stammering that had come out of nothing, eczema that wasn’t treatable and appeared again and again shouting out she wanted to be left alone and not to be touched in any way, by anybody.

And guilt.

Enormous, smashing, devastating guilt whether she hadn’t provoked “that” by herself, “these things” she had tried to forget by becoming a total workaholic years later because if she stopped for a single moment, the “thing” from the past could emerge.

And to some extent she had succeeded, partly with pills, partly with alcohol, to slur over the memories until the moment of the first panic attack, then the second one, then the emergency calls, the lack of a physical reason for all this and the careless hint of a doctor from another emergency team she had called at night, “Girl, you need a psychiatrist or a psychologist, not us”.

And more pills and alcohol, again and again …

A vicious circle.

And then she wrote me, we started working and only months after our first meeting she was ready to tell, to say, to shout the words that she had swallowed for years and we were able to go along the treatment road.

No, this is not an isolated case and yes, such things continue happening much more often than you imagine.

From now on, I will use the word “must” many times because there are things that must be said clearly and expressly.

We, the parents, are the ones who must teach our children to set borders, to be aware that nobody, never and in no way has the right to touch them and to make them do anything that disturbs them!

That their bodies are private!!!

That they must not hug, kiss, touch or greet anybody if it’s not pleasant for them and if it disturbs them, whether it’s a relative or a friend, especially in the second case!

Children have an innate radar and recognize the impure intentions under the kind mask, so fuck the good education when the child says that he/she doesn’t want to do any of the above listed things, respect his/her will and try to find out why and whether there is something the child wants to share with you!

That their private parts, the ones hidden under the clothes and underwear must never and for no reason be showed to, touched or photographed by people they know or strangers!

That they must believe their bodies and feelings and when they feel fear and their little hearts are pounding in their chests and they’re trembling they must immediately look for help!

We are the ones who must teach them to speak and share with us but also, we must learn to listen to them when they do it!

First, we, as parents, must respect and keep their boundaries and their right to privacy, starting with the basic, minor, everyday things at the everyday level.

Because if mother and father don’t do this, if they, for example, burst into my room or into the bathroom at any time, without asking me and knocking on the door, then it is normal and then why shouldn’t I allow it to another person, although in other circumstances?

We must talk to our children, we must listen to them and hear what they want to tell us, we must teach them to set clear and healthy boundaries on a physical and emotional level!

And let’s not delay today, because tomorrow may be late …