Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A follow-up on Z and J's story

Gary took Scott, his buddy J, and J's dad backpacking on Sunday. It's raining today, which is the day they planned to come out. The timing could be worse, though my guess is Gary wouldn't have minded if it had held off one more day. It's a short-ish walk from their camp to the car...maybe they're lucky enough to be above the clouds.

Scott and Gary gone is not a break for me. J and Connor are gasoline and flame, so Connor stayed home with me. We've been painting the entire house. The garage addition needs to be painted and rather than try to match the house color, which we weren't too crazy about anyway, we decided to go for something completely different. Connor and I got quite a lot done during these past 3 days. The rain gives us a break from painting this morning. Gary has the camera with him, so I'll post pictures later.

J's mom called Sunday night so she could zero in a little more on where they are backpacking. That gave us an opportunity to talk a little bit about what had happened with Z and J. She and I hadn't talked since the long conversation when I told her about what I'd overheard.

She said she and her husband had had a long talk with J. She said they'd introduced it as casually as they could by saying "Scott's mom overheard that there was something Z had wanted you to do? And what was it again?" She said for a while he hesitated, saying they "don't want to hear it"; seemed quite ashamed and afraid. But they gently persisted and she said she could feel him relax when he finally let down and told them the story. She said it was very healing for all of them, and clearly a relief for J; an opportunity for them all to reaffirm their love for and connection with each other. She thanked me.

You know, there is something so beautiful about taking an experience from my childhood that was handled punitively and transforming it into this instrument of affirmation. It makes me tearful. I guess there is always, always, a door open for redemption.

She said that she'd told another friend about it, and this woman had highly recommended a counselor that specializes in issues such as this with children. J's mom took him, and said they're going to continue to see her for a while. It was very positive.

She told me about having spoken with Z's mom. She said that at first Z's mom believed that the children had been kidding, but as they conversed the potential significance seemed to penetrate more deeply.

Remembering my conversation with Z's mom I recall that she was not defensive, but I had sensed a little resistance. I'd felt uneasy about how far and how hard to push against the resistance and had decided my job was to report the conversation as I'd heard it. I worried then about whether I'd been too accommodating, but I think now that it had been a good choice to not go further. That was a conversation best left to the parents of the children involved. It sounds like it was a meaningful talk between them, and that Z's mom received J's mom's concerns about how this had arisen in Z, and took them seriously.

Regarding the question of children's sexuality, which I posed in my post earlier, I did some more reflection, and I posed the question to my counselor. My own primary encounters with sexual feeling as a child came in first or second grade through a friend, her older sister, and their mother. At 6 and 8 these children told me stories of children being raped, killed...whispered of "bad things" being done to their mother that meant she couldn't have children. They had been adopted, by a mother whose religion was darkly fundamentalist, and a father who seemed religiously indifferent. I had been an adult for many years before it occurred to me that these girls may have been sexually abused themselves, and so the prism through which their information was transmitted to me was quite disturbed. Reflecting upon this, I realized that this may be the "danger" of childhood sexuality...if their roots are in a poisoned pool they may be spreading a stunted version. The danger wasn't so much moral rot and decay, but the deformation of what should become a meaningful and joyful part of being alive. Sadly, my parents came from an era that treated sexual curiosity as a symptom of deep character flaws. They believed that harsh preemptive action was required to head this off.

Sharon, my counselor, put it this way: at such a young age an immature body hasn't begun to supply the hormones that awaken and support sexual maturing. A childish mind tends to misinterpret, as I suspect had happened with my friends; they'd already received a warped version of sexuality which was distorted further by their immature perspective. Sharon said that such premature exposure to sexuality tends to be overstimulating, and the growing nervous system can then become addicted to the intensity of this overstimulation.

Protection of a child's future experience of an aspect of humanity that is meant to bring them joy is a very different priority from that of protecting them from some sort of abstract ruin. It certainly shifts the emphasis in action taken.

I very much hope that Z's mother was able to find a way to affirm her love and connection with Z through the avenue of this overheard conversation as well. J and his family spread love, warmth, and light into the world with their opportunity...I'm so grateful to have been a part of it.


Aunt Becky said...

I don't have anything important to say here other than that I'm here and reading.

Sheri said...

Thanks for the follow-up. When I read your post about this story originally, I thought you had handled it beautifully. This confirms my initial feelings. Good for you!

excavator said...

Thank you, Aunt Becky. I appreciate your presence a lot.

Thanks, Sheri.