Trust Versus Fear

4 Nov

“It is one of the jobs of an 11-year-old to do stupid things. It’s my job to help you find a solution when you do.”

At 7:00 last night, I was getting ready to head to my friend’s house for a little girl’s night when Beans came into the bedroom. She started what I was certain would be a story, like so many before, that ended with “…and then it broke.” The expression on her face was so worried, I was sure I was about to hear that my precious iPhone had been murdered or my engagement ring had been inadvertently flushed down a toilet. Instead she started to cry and apologize repeatedly, nearly hysterically. Of course, my instinctive response is to repeat “What is it? What?” over and over in a gradually higher octave until I am nearly shrieking with worry. Which makes her more hysterical. I know, I’m awesome.

Finally, she explained, in the most circuitous way imaginable, that she had attempted to carve her playdate’s name into the back of her pumpkin with a powered Dremel tool and had somehow managed to accidentally grind a hole into her wrist. She and her friend managed to conceal this whole incident from my mother, who was watching them while Hubby and I were at parent-teacher conferences, and tended to the wound themselves with water, a Band-Aid and Vaseline petroleum jelly. (When I questioned them later about the use of Vaseline instead of, say, Neosporin, they reminded me that I had once proclaimed that “Vaseline is good for everything.” I guess I should have been more specific.)

And then they went to the movies.

Four hours later, after the movie was over and the friend had gone home, my voice and its oft-told tales of germs and infections began to whisper in my daughter’s ear Jiminy Cricket-style, animated by the guilt of having not told me in the first place. She forced herself into my bedroom to confess.

Long-story short: 2 1/2 hours in the emergency room later, she ended up with a tetanus shot, a week’s worth of antibiotics and a fine dressing on her wound.

“Beans, why didn’t you just tell me?”

She was afraid. Afraid that I would be angry that she was doing something she clearly should not have been doing, and then hurt herself doing it.

She was afraid, and in her fear, she didn’t trust that I would see past the mistake to help her deal with the consequence.

Ouch. I felt like the worst parent ever as I came to that realization.

“No matter what, if you are hurt or being hurt, you tell me. I will NEVER be angry. My job is to keep you safe and to support you.”

That’s an important lesson. Today it was just about pumpkins and power tools. Tomorrow will bring more complicated scenarios.

It took a lot of courage for my daughter to confess (bolstered as it was by the fear of gangrene) and I am proud of her. It isn’t always easy to trust someone when you’re scared – even your mom.

Have your kids ever had to get past their fear to tell you the truth about something? How did you handle that situation?

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