Monday, 22 March 2010

Trust Is Hard to Restore

photo used with permission attributed/non-derivative Creative Commons2010
Tragically, perhaps, once a question has escaped a parent's mouth and landed on the floor in front of the child, there is no way to make it not have been asked. 

Restoring trust is harder than it looks. Apologies only make reparations on the damage done in the moment. The break in trust lives on long past the event, and the apology. 

Truly, trust can only be restored by constantly and consistently refraining from repeating the offence. I am reasonably quick on the uptake, and managed to discover this (mostly by falling on my face, but I have found over the years that personal humiliation is an astonishingly effective learning tool) quite a long time ago, but with enough repetition to be absolutely certain what I was really doing...
Someone asked me if I'd asked one of my kids something about The Future with some particular boy. It reminded me that I've learned that there are some questions my sister can ask my kids, their friends can ask them, their grandparents can ask them, even total strangers can ask them... but I can't ask.

In my kids' heads, by virtue of me being The Mom, I can't ask some questions. Because the questions are loaded. 

Because they imply a preference or an opinion that should have nothing to do with how they live their lives. 

Because even if I'm dying of curiosity, it's none of my business until they decide to share. 

The weight of my status as 'mom' imparts extra meaning in questions --even if for me (or whomever) it is merely idle curiosity.

Questions from mom's face just will not be heard neutrally by her kids' ears.

5 Questions A Mom Can't Ask

1. Do you think you have a future with him?
This implies that I want (or don't want) her to be involved with him for a long time. That implication on its own colours the child's view of what she's supposed to think or want.
2. Can you afford that?
This implies two things: a. I have any reason to be in on your finances, and; b. I don't think you should be buying whatever it is you're talking about. A: none of my business, and; B: WOW, so totally none of my business.

3. Is your apartment clean?
Wow, yeah, still none of my business.

4. Have you kissed him?
My sister can (and has) asked questions like this... I can't. I just can't. I can't imply that I think she should have, and I can't imply that I think her judgement is poor. I just can't ask. Do you think that's safe?
Same thing, really --the only reason to ask this kind of question is because I clearly don't think it is. Either I don't trust you to have any rational sense of danger, or I think you're too stupid to know what a sense of danger means. 

Can't ask. 

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