…are toxic. I think that many adults, maybe even most adults, would agree that secrets can be dangerous. After all, isn’t that why we keep them? To protect those we love? Or maybe, if we’re honest with ourselves, we keep them to protect us.
I have secrets. And I assume everyone does. I don’t have many people in my life that I trust enough to tell them to, so I just keep them to myself. I wish I could trust someone enough to tell, but I’ve been hurt too many times. Secrets weigh a lot. They weigh me down. They make me feel in control…but in control of what? They make the walls I’ve built thicker, so it’s harder to let someone in. But I still keep them. Afraid of being judged, or letting someone down (heaven knows I’ve done that enough), or of losing people I love. I long for someone I can trust enough to tell my secrets to so I can shed the weight. Sometimes I feel like it’s too late to tell anyone, too much time has passed and it won’t make a difference anymore. Sometimes I feel like it’s too soon to tell anyone, like some obscure statute of limitations hasn’t run out yet.
I got a call from T’s school. They said there had been an incident and could I come to school immediately. I got in my car and drove the 4 blocks to his school. When I turned the corner to the 4th block I saw a police car at the school and I knew the officer was there to talk to me. My mind raced as I thought of all the possibilities. T is a good kid, a great kid. I didn’t know what “the incident” was, but I knew it wasn’t good. As I walk in to the office I am greeted by the vice principal and the officer. We walked into the principals office and the door was closed behind us. My heart felt like it was missing at least every other beat. The vice principal began to explain and as reality set in, I felt lost, angry, scared, upset, unsure of how to handle the news I had just received.
T has been keeping secrets for over a year. At 7 years old he should not have secrets, especially heavy ones. Over a year ago, he was touched, and ask to do things by another student, inappropriate things. He did what was asked of him, and some others he wasn’t willing to talk about today. Sometime over the last couple weeks he asked a couple other kids to do these things with him, the same things that were done to him over a year ago. I don’t understand, and I doubt I ever will. If I’m this confused, I can only imagine how much more confusion he has been dealing with. Gathering details…recorded interview with the officer…I can barely wrap my mind around it. I need time to think and to process the information, but I can’t yet. I’ve got stuff to do today. Stuff that must get done today.
When we finally get home I can’t stand the thought of being home, so dinner will be a dinner out tonight. At dinner I decide that I need to give his parents a chance to process the information. I need to give them the same instructions the officer gave me. “Don’t punish him. He’s not in trouble. Talk to him about private parts, about how they are his, and no one else is allowed to touch them. If he is willing to talk, then listen. Don’t pry and don’t ask questions in a way that will lead his answers. Love him. Let him know he is not at fault.” I write an email. I write it knowing that dad will not be able to read it all before calling to yell at me and freak out about what happened to his son, but hoping that he reads it all. He doesn’t. I write it hoping to give them a chance to process the information before they try to talk to him. I didn’t have time to process it, I was brought in, sat down, given the facts, and told to take him home and keep him out of school on Monday. My phone rings just minutes after sending the email. Apparently, they missed the part of the email where I tell them I’m giving them a chance to process the information.
I talk to dad as best I can while he yells at me, grilling me to tell him the facts. I’m in a restaurant. I excuse myself to walk to the store where “Uncle” and T will meet me. Dad keeps yelling and telling me to “beat his ass” for what happened. Yup. Not gonna happen. I’ve been tense all afternoon, and I’m tensing up more talking to dad. Dad keeps yelling and I try to tell him I need to go so I can be present with Tanis and give him the attention and support he needs. Dad tells me “He’s fine…you need to calm me down!” My battery dies and I feel relieved that the yelling has stopped for the moment. Then I began to feel angry as I process what dad said during the “conversation”. T is willing to talk to me, he seems a little embarrassed, and not quite sure why he isn’t in trouble, but when we got home he told me everything. If I punish him at this point, then that open line of communication stops dead in its tracks.
T is sorry I had to come to the school because of what happened. I’m not worried about coming to the school. I’m worried about the effects this will have on T long term. I love this little boy. My family and I have sacrificed so much to be here for him. I feel like dad thinks I’m nothing more than a babysitter he can boss around. I’m trying to protect T and help him and teach him right from wrong. I haven’t had a 7 year old in my house for almost 10 years, and it’s not easy trying to pick up where someone else left off. It hasn’t been easy, but he’s worth it.