Note: Did not mean to repost this, but for some reason the WP app unpublished things. I haven’t figured out what I’m doing wrong.
A lot of trouble is introduced to our children through play, secret games. As careful as a parent may be, there eventually comes a time when their child goes to play at a friend’s house, or has a sleepover at church camp or a relative’s house. Maybe, it’s even a friend who comes over to play with them, right under your own roof. That was the case for me. Nothing at all feels threatening about the activity, yet our children sense something isn’t right. We adults need to know when our kids think something’s a little off, a little strange, because Satan and his demons are always burying landmines, hoping one will get triggered and bring death or destruction. With children, destroying innocence is one of his frequent objectives.
Sometimes, those violations of innocence come through other children who are acting out their own violations. This is one way an innocent child processes the hurt they’ve experienced, unwittingly victimizing another child—sometimes very seriously. However, most cases are brushed off as child’s play, and sometimes that is the case. However, sometimes it is a red flag that another child would never recognize, but an adult who’s paying attention might.
She was a girl from our church who spent a few days at our house one summer—I think my Mother was babysitting. In real life we weren’t really friends, but in the church world every kid is your de facto friend, especially when your parents are the pastors.
Since I loved to play, and my sisters were out of the baby doll stage, I was happy to have a younger playmate. She seemed quiet and nice. We’d watch cartoons and play with dolls, and maybe make hobo sticks and pretend to run away. (I always wanted to be a hobo.) If she didn’t like that, I’d come up with something else. Finding something to play was never a problem for me.
Well, come to find out this girl had other games in mind. I thought her games were boring and very weird, but it turned out she was pushy and whiney. She had to have her way, and as the youngest in my family it didn’t take much to make me acquiesce. Plus, she was my guest. I had to let her pick some of the games, even if I did not like them. And, I did not. I did not think they were fun, and I did not like her bossiness. I was very glad when she went home. We moved at the end of that summer, so I never had to play with her, again.
Years later, I was a young mother volunteering with the Children’s Issues Conference when I learned about something called acting out. This is when a child who has been victimized acts out her abuse on another child. When I learned about this, I remembered that little girl and her strange and secret games. Now, I understood. I didn’t think about her, though, and what this meant for her. What had she gone through? When that memory revisited me this week—I have no idea why, but have to assume it was a work of the Holy Spirit—I began to see that little girl through my old lady eyes. I started to ask questions. What happened to her? Who hurt her? Oh, God, how is she doing? Is she okay? Did she get help? Did she find healing? Is it too late? What about her little brother? What happened to him?
I will probably never know the answer to these questions, but I started to ask other questions. What if my Mother had known about the games she wanted to play? Would my Mother have recognized what they were a symptom of, or would she have just scolded us both and told us to play Parcheesi? It never occurred to me to talk to my Mother about her games, but what if she had asked me if we’d played any new games? What if she had recognized this girl was acting out a trauma she had experienced? What if she had attended a Children’s Issues Conference? She would most certainly have intervened somehow. Maybe, it would have made all the difference in that little girl’s life.
AN INSPIRED QUESTION
As I have been thinking about all of this these past several days, I have thought about my grandbabies. My daughter hated when I asked her, “So, what did you and Polly do?” I could have never learned anything by asking that question. How about her kids? Will they be eager to run down a list of all they did at their first sleepover? Today’s children are not only acting out what they may have experienced, but what they may have been taught in school or watched on their own cell phones. Sexual content is confronting our children at home, at school, at the library, and even at the hospital. Today our children actually face the risk of being groomed by another child for sex trafficking. I know that sounds extreme—I really wish it was—but children are facing a depth of depravity most of us could never imagine.
So, with all of this harsh reality swirling in my mind, I had an inspired thought. It was an idea that just dropped into my head, and made so much sense to me. I really think it was an inspiration from the Holy Spirit, so if it ever bears good fruit, He gets the credit. If it’s a dumb idea that is remembered no more, I’ll take the blame.
Here’s the big question, asked with a relaxed and happy tone; wide open ears and eyes—open to all those silent cues your children give you: Did you play any new games?
A simple question, but it’s a question that could ferret out something that to your child was just a weird or boring game, yet in reality was a predator’s grooming or a victim’s acting out. You see, I think most children know when something isn’t quite right, so they hesitate to tell us the truth in fear that they might get in trouble. If we start asking this question early, no matter who they’ve spent time with—they will learn early that Mom or Dad are just always going to ask, because they seem to always be on the look-out for fun, new games. They won’t think twice about telling you they made homemade parachutes with Poppa and jumped form the deck, or that Sunday School friend showed them a movie with naked people. When kids don’t think we’re suspicious, they aren’t afraid of getting in trouble. And, when we establish a habit of “debriefing” after any visit away, they not only learn this is normal, but they may even look forward to telling you about something “weird” that happened. “When the bottle landed on us, we were supposed to go in the closet. Junie and Roger and me thought that was dumb. So, we went in the other room and played Parcheesi.” )That was literally me, by the way, at a youth group party in junior high. I had no idea what was supposed to happen in the closet. I always thought Spin the Bottle was like an anti-game. LOL)
DID YOU PLAY ANY NEW GAMES?
Talk to your kids. Be the person they are the most comfortable talking to, no matter what it is they have to say. Yes, it’s wonderful if they have other adults they confide in, but be sure they know they can tell you anything. They won’t learn that, because you tell them. They’ll learn that, because you don’t overreact—some exceptions allowed. It might make you shake in your boots with rage, but you’re a grown-up. You can control yourself and listen, asking those leading questions, For example, “That sounds weird, right?” “What did you think about that?” “Were you surprised Marnie did that?”
Your kids don’t have to know everything that’s going on inside you (Well, that’s the last time she goes to Sandy’s house…), but it does give you an opportunity to acknowledge their good choices, and suggest better ways for them to handle a hard situation. “You did the right thing, but remember: you can always call us, any time. Next time you feel uncomfortable there, just tell Sandy you aren’t feeling well, and we’ll come pick you up.”
Talking with our kids, coaching them through life’s highs and lows, is our great privilege as parents. And, I do believe this simple question is a good place to start. In the end, you may be doing more than guarding your own; you may be saving another.
Blessings to you and yours! ❤