1 Day, 4 Kids, 1000 Miles & 18 Hours

Posted by jael on Nov 30, 2010 in Parenting, Spiritual Journey

The Good News:  As celebrated in Happily Ever After, my sister was married in Boca Grande the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

The Bad News:  The budget mandated that our family had to make it a road trip, not a plane ride to get to Florida, and that we must be back to work the Monday after the wedding.

The Staggering News:  To fully participate in the 4:30 p.m. wedding and reception on Saturday with family and friends we had not seen in years, our family would have to drive home from Boca Grande on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, one of the most heavily traveled days of the year.  This meant 1 day, 4 kids, 1000 miles and 18 hours.

The Results:  0 fights.  0 complaints.  0 requests for potty breaks.  0 requests for snacks.  0 queries if we where there yet.



Like suspended animation.

The Husband was convinced at times we were actually moving backwards, and that must be why we couldn’t hear the children complain.

It was like a Stepford SUV bubble.

Don’t get me wrong, we are profoundly grateful.  There were at least two times when we were parked on I 95, not moving for literal hours, that I wanted to burst out into fits of tears, profanity, and self-pity, but couldn’t because of my role model children.

And it was a long 18 hours.  We only stopped four times for simultaneous gas, potty, snack and driver-switch breaks.  My back is still sore from all the sitting.  Florida and the Carolinas are flat lands too.  Mind numbing.  Yet the children rolled along nonplused reading, watching movies, napping, telling wedding stories.



Like suspended animation.

The Husband was convinced at times we were actually moving backwards, and that must be why we couldn’t hear the children complain.

It was like a Stepford SUV bubble.

I almost chose not to post this because I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t believe me.

If you’re a regular reader, however, you know I don’t pack any punches.

I tell the truth, I didn’t come to fool you.

And, to tell you the truth, I don’t know how they did it.  These are kids ages 5-12 who can easily engage in mortal combat in the comfort of our own home about whose turn it is to sweep and whose turn it is to wipe the table.

Was there something soporific about the wedding cake with piña colada icing? Were they so sleep deprived that they couldn’t spare the energy to fight?



Like suspended animation.

The Husband was convinced at times we were actually moving backwards, and that must be why we couldn’t hear the children complain.

It was like a Stepford SUV bubble.

Don’t get me wrong, we are profoundly grateful.

Let them eat cake!

I did my best,
it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel,
so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth,
I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!


Happily Ever After

Posted by jael on Nov 29, 2010 in Spiritual Journey

Under the brilliant Boca Grande sun, on a beach treasured with shells, my sister married her best friend last night. Her radiance veiled her face in a lace of anticipation.  Serene ebullience enhanced the beauty of her long, blond, mermaid-like tresses.  Her gown played with the light like a dolphin in the water.  The emerald dangle of her earrings bounced against her jaw line to crown her brilliant, white smile. The pearl accent of her bodice shimmered like the moist joy of   dancing green eyes. Those same green seas held him in her safe harbor as she recited original vows she’d waited a lifetime to believe in and proclaim.  The bride and groom poured white and black sand from separate vases into one urn to decant their unity before guests and family.

After the ceremony, she was alone with her groom and photographer on the beach at sunset.  There was nothing posed or artificial about their tsunami joy. Wave after wave of delight, love, and sweet bliss painted their faces in a portrait of Genesis.  Those were my most cherished moments of the wedding.  I watched them from a distance, their wedding license in my hand, and knew for certain that from their perspective they were the only two people on the planet.  Their love had made each other One and Whole and Well in the lighthouse of each other’s arms. It was then I knew for certain they were each other’s homeland; she his island of paradise regained, as is he hers.


I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!


Her Father’s Eyes

Posted by jael on Nov 26, 2010 in Parenting, Spiritual Journey

My children have often heard me say, “Your Grammy is not the woman who raised me.”  This expression has many interpretations that include your grammy is more patient, flexible, available, and/or free with her purse than the mother I remember as a child.  This generational delta expresses itself across time, families and cultures.  Traditionally, grandparents have more experience, money and expertise than the parents who actually have to live with the children in question.  Bill Cosby offers his typically hysterical account of the contrast between how his father parented him as compared to how Grandpa Cosby treats the grandchildren.  Likewise, Popsie pampers my children in a way entirely distinct from my upbringing.

Being in The Villages with my father this week, I have several times thought about the distinctions between how my dad interacts with our four children and how I perceived him as a child.  I have always been something of a daddy’s girl.  I have long adored my father and basked in the warmth of his pride.  His eyes can still transport me to that time in a blink of their blue.  There is something dense and heady when he looks at me in a flash of gestalt awareness and sees me in a new way.  Even as a child, I could register the surprise in his eyes as they measured that I had done something he did not know I could master, or when I exceeded his expectations of quality.  Likewise, there was ice in his gaze when I made choices that disappointed him.  I knew my father had high standards for himself and his children.  I internalized his drive, but not his precision.  As such, it was always something of a thrill for me to surpass his bar.

One of the times I remember most clearly was when I was cast as the Lion in The Wizard of Oz. I was 10 at the time, my parents were still together, and they both worked full time.  Our pace was latch key and brisk, so neither of them had access to my rehearsals at home or school.  Another mom offered to let me use an old Halloween costume for the show, so neither of them saw me in character before the night of the play.  Even from the stage, I could see his eyes wide in surprise. With each solo, and The Lion gets three baby, I sang as if he were the only one in the room.  As far as I was concerned, it was true enough, and his joy gave me courage to sing like The King of the Forest.  He took us to Tinkler’s for a hot fudge sundae afterward to celebrate.  I had extra chopped nuts on mine, as many as I wanted.  Hot fudge had never and has never ever tasted so sweet.  Ice cream kissed my mouth like sweet lipstick as he looked at me with delight, smiled at me and shook his head.  It was one of those times his eyes were thirsty and drank me into his heart.  It was one of my childhood’s finest moments.  It was dear and rare, like fine wine, and I still remember its heady glow.

It is not dear or rare when he looks at my children.  When my father puts his eyes on my babies, there is pure and constant delight.  His heart is always thirsty for their whimsy, beauty and antics.  His ears don’t bristle when they get too loud, his brow does not creased when they ask for something, and his eyes polka blue fire.  His eyes light on them like a butterfly dances on flower petals.  It is a graceful exchange made possible only through metamorphosis. My caterpillar father is a Monarch grandfather.

I love my father’s eyes.

I recall an Amy Grant song she made popular before she went pop:

Her Father’s Eyes

I may not be every mother’s dream for her little girl.
And my face may not grace the mind of everyone in the world.
But that’s all right as long as I can have one wish I pray.
When people look inside my life, I want to hear them say.

She’s got her Father’s eyes, her Father’s eyes
Eyes that find the good in things, When good is not around.
Eyes that find the source of help, When help just can’t be found.
Eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain.
Knowin’ what you’re going through, and feeling it the same.
Just like my Father’s eyes, my Father’s eyes, my Father’s eyes
Just like my Father’s eyes.

And on that day when we will pay for all the deeds we have done,
Good and bad they’ll all be had to see by everyone
And when you’re called to stand and tell just what you saw in me,
More than anything I know, I want your words to be


I have not always been my father’s dream for his little girl.

And my life may not fulfill every wish he had for my world.

But that’s all right as long as I can have his love for mine.

My father’s eyes delight in his grandbabies.

He has been positioned by time and role to love them in a new way.

My Father has touched my father’s eyes.

Eyes that find the good in things, When good is not around.

Eyes that find the source of help, When help just can’t be found.

Eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain.

Knowin’what your’re going through, and feeling it the same.

Just like my Father’s eyes.

What joy!

And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!


Blessed Be His Name

Posted by admin on Nov 25, 2010 in Parenting, Spiritual Journey

As a child in my grandmother’s home, this would be the day that I traditionally would wake up nauseous, the stench of slow-roasted turkey thick in the air.  When Beauty made turkey, it was a 28-30 pound affair.  Her stuffing was stock full of giblets.  For the uninitiated, I am not even going to tell you what giblets are.  It’s Thanksgiving after all, and as I could never stomach them as a kid, it seems unfair to distress innocents with an explication. Her table fed 35-40, depending who was able to travel home and who was in the woods hunting. In later years, each family brought a dish to pass that became known as “their dish.”

It’s been years since I sat at that table, but I remember the smell.  In fact, one of the most vivid memories I have of being invited to The Husband’s grandparents’ house for the first time was the aroma of turkey baking.  That smell, which for whatever reason has always caused my nose to recoil, was enough to take my already nervous stomach over the top.  I spent the rest of the morning in the bathroom and am still teased about it four children later by The Husband’s family.

Like so many, I am thankful for many things this Thanksgiving. I imagine that my catalogue reads much like your own, and above all else we count our family, church family, friends and school communities among the things for which we most earnestly rejoice.  It is a song of constant Praise to be able to circle in relationship with each other as we journey through the hills and valleys of this gift of life.

The experience I am most grateful for this week centers around an intense experience at my father’s table.  My father and I had a significant communication glitch, and my feelings were really hurt.  From the moment of the exchange, all parties knew it had been a misspeak. There was complete consensus among the stakeholders to repair the relational damage, mend together, and not go to bed until everyone felt well and safe again.  However, despite the high emotion and potential for a really bad scene, no one got angry.  No one yelled.  No one maligned another, pointed a finger, leveled an accusation, assigned blame or quit.  My Nana Mamma was the triage mediator of crisis.  This beloved woman, who has gifted my life with so many rescue sentences of wisdom that I have held on to over my coming of age like life buoys, followed me into the bathroom and cradled me in the quilt of her arms as I cried.

I am grateful for this because it documents so much growth in relationships and skills.  Speaking only for myself, I know as certainly as I know my children’s middle names that there was a time, and humbly I confess a time not that long ago, that I would have attacked with anger, hurled profanity bombs and left, or at least threatened to leave the home.  I would have rehearsed the hurt, and held on to the anger like a spoiled poodle.  I would have carried a grudge, thought it a confirmation of all that is wrong in the world in general and my father specifically.

Certainly, the dynamic wasn’t as tasty as Dutch apple pie with French vanilla ice cream, but I am thankful for the experience nonetheless.  It provided an opportunity for the people I most love on this planet to learn new things about each other.  Next to The Husband and our babies, there is no one I have ever loved more than my father.  I adore him.  I have looked up to him as long as my neck had the strength to look up.  It wasn’t until I was 13 that I realized that he could not defend me from every dragon in these deep blue seas.

A lot has happened between 13 and now, and my love for him has only grown over time.  I simply have never known anyone as consistent and fierce as he.  He is a defender of truth and family.  His loyalties run deep and remain.  I respect that about him the most.  He will never quit me.

Finally, God has done enough work on my heart, I feel like I can reciprocate that kind of love to him, The Husband and my babies.  There have been times that I have felt discouraged that God hadn’t yet mended this broken heart of mine.  There are issues in my life I have prayed over as ardently as I know how, and felt little traction.  This exchange gave me a yardstick to celebrate some measureable growth.  It’s been incremental and far from even, but God’s been super busy with heart.

This Thanksgiving, I am reminded of what one of my brothers from another mother said about dangerous prayers.  He reminded our home group to be aware that when you pray dangerous prayers that God will answer them, sometimes in ways we neither welcome nor expected in the moment.

I think the misfire between me and my father may have been such an answer, or the beginning of a beginning of an answer, to a dangerous prayer of my heart for years.  I have prayed, and will continue to pray to be clean.  I have asked God to search my heart and help me forgive myself and others for those residual woundings  that keep me separate from His Grace and Will in my life.

I don’t love my father less because we had a miscommunication, I love him more, because it cracked the door for us to have a deeper relationship and understand each other better.  My Nana Mamma, who I adore, showed me once again that she stands for me and claims me as her own.

I am grateful.

I am happy.

I am loved.

I love in return.

Blessed Be His Name.

And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!


He is the Potter

Posted by jael on Nov 23, 2010 in Parenting, Spiritual Journey

My Nana-blitzed kids enjoyed pottery adventure with their grandmother today.  There is something freedom making about a lump of clay.  Each child immediately identified its liberty.  It sits there in front of you ever patient and waits for your hand to discover what it was made to be.  Typical of our children, they went in entirely different directions with their projects like the four points of a compass. The Baby made a picture frame, The Oldest Girl made a heart pinch pot, The Middle Girl made a pedestal box, and The Boy made a caricature of his grandfather complete with a huge, giving-a-raspberry tongue.

It delights their Nana to see them chase their own muses and the children really groove the wave of her sincere presence.  They feel her eyes like a hug when she watches them with complete appreciation.  It’s an intangible gift that she gives them and compliments their whimsy.  As such, it was no surprise to us that each of the kids crafted a clay creation that reflected their unique signatures.

What did surprise us, however, was what happened after they sculpted their wares.  Each pulled off, somewhat subdued as if still connected with his creative muse, and independently, without consulting each other did something creative.

The Middle Girl and The Oldest Girl sketched and wrote poems.

With permission, here are their poems:

The Rose

thorny stems,
pale green leaves
given from person to person
beautiful and deadly
full of white lies
the rose is like love.

The Oldest Girl

The Face of Love

The face of love
flew off my pillow with
beautiful wings,
leaving a sweet smelling
pink mist behind her.
She left feeling of
joy and love!
I decided to go out
and put good things
in the world
I now love the outdoors,
but I had seen the face
of love and I
have been changed.

The Middle Girl

Their pottery and poems remind me once again, He is the Potter, and they His clay.  How much I delight in the children He gave us!

And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!


I Am Not Worthy to Receive You

Posted by jael on Nov 22, 2010 in Parenting, Spiritual Journey

We arrived safely at my father’s home in The Villages of Florida.  This is the land of golf carts, NRA, silver hair and “Florida’s Friendliest Retirement Hometown.”  I don’t want to say that the neighborhoods are conservative, but the women think Glenn Beck is a hottie.  As do the men.

Needless to say, guest passes clearly visible notwithstanding, The Mamma was not to be missed at church this morning.  In fact, I knew the woman who the usher slated me to sit next to at church was clearly aggravated before I ever made it to the pew.  Her old body snapped to rigid attention like a green recruit in a basic training formation.  She stroked her huge, paisley hand bag that sat next to her on the bench like a spoiled cat sprawled out under the sun.  It was wider than my back side.  Naturally, I thought she intended to move it so that I could sit.  That was not her intension.  She fluffed up her precious tote to mark the barrier between us.  I had to rotate my hips, cross my legs and sit slightly sideways to fit into the small slice of pew left for me.  She partnered her purse’s prominent position with an angry pout in my direction.  Her eyes dared me to say something.

She needn’t have worried.  I wasn’t there to make friends or stake territory.  I was there to check in with my Glorious Father and bathe a few moments in His ever present, agape love.  I wanted Him to know that I sought His Light and Protection, and no lady with a big bag and bad attitude was going to distract me from my Jesus.  My Father was there to receive me, of course.  He has placed me where I am and knew I needed a little extra sweet drink from His well of life.  I abided in His presence and was grateful for my sliver of pew.

The woman’s behavior resonated with me on many levels.  First, I confess I found it humorous that she would act in a way that could so easily be perceived as inhospitable at church.  Though I took no offense, I certainly did notice her behavior.  Whereas I chalked it up to a frustrated person who had gotten there on time, and didn’t want the inconvenience of having to slide in, I am aware that there was a time that I would have been not only offended, but also angry.  I am grateful to have been gifted traction in this area as God has begun His work on my heart.  I am also mindful of what an impact we might have on each other as we interact with strangers and guests at church.  As a guest in this church, I was not made to feel welcome by the woman who sat next to me.  In fact, quite the opposite was true.  Had I sought welcome, or the warmth of human kindness, I would not have found it in the corner of the pew I’d been assigned.  I wonder how the same experience would have been for another guest.  I was there for a quiet chat with my Father, but what would have been my take away if I had also sought a smile, nod or moment of community communion?

One of the moments of highest emotion in a Catholic mass is the moment of transsubstantiation.  It is in this instant that Catholics believe that the emblems of host and wine miracously transform into the literal flesh and blood of Christ.  As such, the Holy Eucharist is among the most sacred of Catholic emblems.  In preparation for communion, the congregation says the following prayer.  It is as much a part of my childhood memories as perogie.  Though not Catholic anymore, I still am undone by the words of this prayer, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.”

Certainly, I am not worthy to receive the scandalous Grace of Christ.  Before I ever believed  in His mercy, I knew this.  However, being back in a Catholic church along side of a territorial parrishoner who couldn’t even be bothered to move her purse so that a guest could sit down to join her congregation’s worship, I have to wonder how differently we would operate in our church families if we truly understood how many opportunities we have to love each other in His name.

I love that woman and her purse.  She didn’t want to be bothered with me, and that is all good.  I kept my space and enjoyed her soulful singing and sincerity.

It is well we know we are not worthy to receive Him.  It makes His gift to us all the more precious.

Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah


On The Road Again

Posted by jael on Nov 21, 2010 in Parenting, Spiritual Journey, Technology

A little more than three months ago, the family packed up and headed out of town for a spontaneous beach weekend. See No Carb Left Behind and No Thing Left Behind for the whimsical touch and feel of that trip.

Today we travel in the same vehicle with the same children, but alas, we seem a quart low on the whimsy. Would that there were a dipstick for whimsy… We could measure how low we are, and top off at the closest Pick Quick.

As any parent of children of any age knows, however, we don’t have the technology for that kind of roadside assistance yet. The noblest of efforts to execute 800 miles with four children in one day simply invites the macabre. It is a good thing indeed The Husband appreciates gallows humor.  Even Jack Skellington would find the vehicle version of Time Out humorous. The child invited to reflect upon his/her choices must sit silently with their eyes closed for 15 minutes. No iPod, no movie, and no snack bag. Repeat offenders have to facilitate a road trip game, but that really punishes all for the offense of the one.  Since breakfast there has been mental combat over such world pressing issues like the cereal box, how one asked another to borrow a book, who got to fill up his/her water glass first, how to share a bag of Cheetos, and who got to open the foil package of Pop-Tarts. We still have 200 miles to go, and I am sorely tempted to violate the open container laws of Georgia.

On this particular trip, we travel to Florida to celebrate Thanksgiving and attend a family wedding. We will stay in three different family homes over our eight night stay and drive a total of over 2,500 miles. This reality adds to the already sharp edge of tired children who live an over-scheduled mix of academics, athletics, social, and church activities.  Our resources are tissue paper thin parentally as well. The Husband travelled last week, including the weekend, and I participated in a certification conference.

I miss the beach.  I miss that suspended free fall joy that comes outside of an agenda. I miss the sunshine pace and rolling waves and how no one wore a watch.  I guarantee you that Nana has had her nose pressed against the glass already, and we are still three hours out.  I want to hear a conflict about how much sand is in the bed, or that The Middle Girl’s face hurts from smiling so much, instead of her present condition of lips that are so chapped they bleed. I miss the lingering expectation of discovery and fun.

I haven’t yelled at anyone today, and know we’ve all done our best, but I wish I had mustered more of The Beach Mom persona for the kids today, rather than the somewhat crispy and frazzled mom that barely got us packed and on the road. I believe I am central to the creation of the tone of our adventures, and it’s time for me to shift my behaviors and choose to splash some unexpected fun on the scene. Maybe we can do backward dinner and start with ice cream sundaes. Maybe we can do parking lot yoga. Maybe I can shine light into the corners of this dark truck until they feel the love here and anticipate it in the home we will arrive at tonight.

And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!


Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning, the devil says…

Posted by jael on Nov 19, 2010 in Spiritual Journey
An Allelujah to me from one of my dear friends:

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning, the devil says,


What makes this more inspirational than humorous to me is its embedded premise.

What would a woman like this think like?  Specifically.  Where would her thoughts dwell?

What would such a woman act like?  What would those actions look like?  Whom would they serve?

What would a woman like this value?

And now these three remain:

faith, hope and love.

But the greatest of these is love… (1 Cor 13:13 NIV).

A woman like this would think about the service of others and how her life can be a gift to her communities.

Such a woman would dwell in possibilities as an image bearer heir.

A woman like this would carry a plate and a hammer.

Such a woman would value agape love.

God’s own light may shine through a woman like this.

I want to let my light shine.

Hallelujah, Halleluhah,
Hallelujah, Halleluhah,
Hallelujah, Halleluhah,
Hallelujah, Halleluhah!


reality therapy: broken yo-yo

Posted by jael on Nov 17, 2010 in Education, Parenting, Spiritual Journey

If you missed me… thank you!  I have missed you and this space.

Last week I was at an intensive, immersion conference on Choice Theory, Reality Therapy, and Lead Management.  It had been quite awhile since I was in full participant/student mode and most days began and ended with my scalp vibrating like an electric toothbrush. The days were full, the sessions dense with content, the activities stretched me like taffy at the State Fair and the role plays were better than most movies as they portrayed relational dynamics so central to my core.  The nights were full of reading assignments, homework, and frantically trying to catch up and support what was happening at home.  Of course, The Husband travelled the same week, and the coverage of the children and their many events looked like an Amish Quilt… so many hands and favors were stitched together to pull it off.

I am grateful on every level.  Thanksgiving has come early to this weary heart of mine and I sing Hallelujah with a resonate sincerity that I have missed from my voice.  I am grateful for the many relationships in my life and the people who came forward to pitch in and help me attend the conference.  I am grateful to my kids who juggled in a way we rarely ask of them, and managed to keep their cards moving with both parents gone from the routine and home.  I am grateful to have been able to plug into such an oasis of vital content and adaptable strategies that I could put to immediate use to improve my pictures of quality and bring value to others.  I am grateful to be reminded how much I love study… I love everything about it.  I love the reading, I adore taking notes, I delight in sketching and bringing order to the new information as I integrate it into what I already have discovered, I love the discussions, I love the role plays, I love the questions, I love the challenge, I love the ping of epiphany.  The whole process for me is like an ice cream buffet.  Delicious!

I challenged myself to remain in the moment of each study encounter and press it for all the juice it could pour into my thirsty heart. The activity that prompted some push back from me was a sensory one.  I felt some resistance to the process, and hadn’t needed to create from external prompts in years.

We were instructed to pair off and go for a walk outside.  We were instructed to refrain from any speaking and to attend to our sensory perceptions.  We were asked to identify the sights, sounds, smells, textures and even the taste of the experience.

I was a bit rigid at first.  I walked with a soulful guy whose hair is even longer than mine and felt uncertain about the encounter.  However, it was a vibrant autumnal day, and the breeze kissed with just enough chill to keep me alert to possibilities.  Before long, I fingered rocks and twigs like rosary beads, blew dandelion puffs, and smelled vines.

When we got back to the conference room, we were asked to refrain from speaking and to write down our perceptions.  We were asked to title the piece with the central discovery object of our observation.

Here’s my entry:

broken yo-yo

gather gleaner
and beware the jabberwocky
a brisk chill licks
our faces with harvest breeze
leaves float
in fandango whimsy
oranges polka
brown waltz
yellow yammers across
the azure sky like a seductive tango
the plan above paints
its horizontal cloud
as gossamer as a question mark
where are you going to?
musky leaves
hide moist, bitter onions
that bite the air
like the broken, black stones
of four square
reedy weeds leverage cracks
to unpave blacktop
and target greens
huff and puff huff

The exercise continued as we shared our perceptions and discussed how differently as partners we filtered the same walk experiences.

It was fascinating and ever applicable to how differently people in the same house or community can experience the same encounter differently.

The lesson was especially timely for my family.

And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!


What is the right age

Posted by jael on Nov 9, 2010 in Education, Parenting, Spiritual Journey

to talk to my daughter about rape?

This visceral question posed by a sincere, blogging mother in, “What is the Right Age To Talk to My Daughter About Rape?” blocks an airway quicker and more completely than a too hastily chewed chunk of steak.  Her most accurate, chilling and speak-for-themselves-statistics about violence against young girls furthers the gasping need for an emotional Heimlich maneuver.

This gestalt of revulsion, however sincere, is not enough to protect our daughters unless we leverage the valuable information Lisen provides and communicate with our daughters.

I have three daughters, 10, 8 and 5.  Would I prefer to chat with them about Because of Winn Dixie, or plot delicious excuses to creatively infuse a recipe with Scharffen Berger Bittersweet Baking Chunks than discuss rape?  Absolutely.  Nothing hard about that math.

However, I’d rather prompt some uncomfortable conversations than hold any one of their hands in an Emergency Room as a physician completes a rape kit.

And that’s what it boils down to… the deferral of denial… that this tragic offense can happen to me or mine. It’s the real life version of the willing suspension of disbelief in reverse.  Instead of the maintenance of the happily ever after story line, we must acknowledge that rape isn’t something that only happens to other women or other people’s children.

It’s what a Mamma must be willing to acknowledge if she wants to protect her kids.

In most families, I expect it wouldn’t be starting a discussion from whole cloth either.  Parents have been teaching their kids about Stranger Danger for generations now.  I can’t be the only Mamma that’s been asked what might bad strangers do.  However vague the language, most of us have already seeded the idea that there are people out there that might want to do children harm.  This assertion is reinforced by our pediatrician.  Every time she does an annual exam on one of the kids, when the time comes to check his/her “private place,” she will state, “You know that no one should touch you here except Mom or Dad or a doctor.”

After every physical for years,  I add to the doctor’s statement, “You know that no one should touch you there except Mamma or Papa, or a doctor with Mamma or Papa’s permission.”

I have already begun to talk to my son and daughters about rape.  We need to talk to our boys too as the sad reality is, they can also be victimized.  In our family, we talk about how they are in charge of their bodies. We teach them that they own the permission of who can and cannot touch them, hug them, or offer them physical attention. Recently, one of my daughters expressed discomfort about an extended family member hugging her when she didn’t want to be hugged and holding her hand when she wanted to let go.  We discussed as a family that this was good practice for us all to consider how to tell a person verbally and nonverbally that we don’t want to be touched. As a shockingly high incidence of rape occurs by an assailant known or related to the victim, this kind of preparation is fundamental.

What is the right age to talk to our children about rape?  I think we begin to indirectly talk to them about rape, the threat of rape and abduction as early as preschool. For that age group, it is age appropriate to employ other language like Stranger Danger and personal safety.  Shocking as it is to assert, however, I believe that children should learn about the threat of date rape and rape before Middle School.

That said, I also assert children should be educated in STDs, birth control, drugs and tobacco, and the warning signs of suicide before Middle School.  I expect this list to outrage some… and I accept that.  However, children can’t make informed personal decisions without information to balance and make them critical of their feeling.  Middle School is a completely inward, ego centric, identity defining time in an individual’s architecture.  Without a map to help create context to their roller coaster reactions, tweens and teens can make big mistakes.  Worse yet, the mistakes they make can promote them relationally, sexually, or legally into adult situations that they do not have the life skills, maturity or experience base to bear.

We need to fortify our children with appropriate, timely, factual information so that they don’t get ensnared in the shadows and dragged away.

We also need to pray a fortification of protection and wisdom around their precious hearts, bodies, minds and relationships.

Speak the truth, row, pray.  Pray, row, speak the truth…

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

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