Trust. Firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing.
Trust is a tough one. Trust for me is something that is not automatic. I am a skeptic at heart. When I meet you, I do not automatically trust you. I am careful. I size you up. Well at least now I do. I’ve been burned enough in the past to know. There have been VERY few in my life that I can say I “trust”. That makes those that I do that much more valuable and precious to me.
Trust has to be earned. It is a rule of life.
Parenting this is difficult. Teaching kids to be cautious about people is not easy. Mostly because they are not skeptics. They are naturally willing and positive people. All of those quotes about seeing the world through the eyes of a child are repeated for a reason. Children want to believe. They want to believe that everyone is good, means well, has their best interest at heart. It’s how we’ve ended up with so many horrific consequences on the internet, runaways and abductions. Children trust and believe - sometimes without a second thought.
I have tried to teach my children to be cautious about people. Sharing my husband’s theory of “You can be friendly without being friends.” But ultimately they reach out to an individual or a situation that just ends up hurting them.
I am very good at seeing through people. I’m not sure why. But I can read people very well. I am occasionally blind-sided by one who fooled me, but for the most part – I can spend a bit of time with you and I’ve got your number if it is insincere. People should not mistake my kindness or polite demeanor as trust.
When my kids were little they would make friends and it wouldn’t take me long to figure out that things were going to end badly with one. I could predict the train wreck miles away. I would flash all sorts of warning signs and signals at my kids – practically shouting – “AVOID THIS ONE AT ALL COSTS!!” But I was always overridden by the hope my children have that something or someone is actually good and not inherently bad.
The worst thing is navigating your children out of those circumstances. They engage with someone and put their trust into them. Eventually, that person hurts them. Betrays them. Competes with them in a detrimental way. Lets them down. Shows their true colors. Spin it however you like, the feeling is the same.
I don’t think anything is worse than believing someone is your friend, to learn that they aren’t. That you’ve been misled. That they were not who you believed. Part of you is angry that they did that to you but another part of you is furious that you allowed it to happen. Now take that situation and have it done to your child. As a parent, you just feel helpless.
For years I watched it go on with my kids when they were younger. That Mama Bear would rage up inside of me and I would have to try to calm her down and tuck her away. I did my best to let my children handle most of those quandaries. Sometimes it went well, other times not so much. But I knew that I couldn't fight their battles. It was a fact of life that they would just have to learn the hard way. Sometimes repeatedly.
I watched Son #1 be bullied for years by the same kids over and over. Then they would invite him to their birthday parties and my son would beg to go. Heartbreaking. I watched Son #2 call someone his best friend that never included him in anything he did with other kids. Year after year, Son #2 would tell me how he was going to dress up in a group theme for Halloween with his “best friend” but each year that best friend would coordinate it with others and purposefully leave my son out. They were always hurt. Always surprised that it happened. So willing to forgive and jump right back into the frying pan only to be served up again.
I am still watching Son #3 and Daughter go through this. Hanging on every word of their “friends.” Promises made that are broken. Secrets shared that are never kept. Being made fun of. Gossiped about. I watch kids come into my backyard to play that I know are unkind. I know that they are not sincere friends. I know them to be “users.” But my kids will engage every time. Seeming desperate for friendship that they will take anyone willing to give them the time of day.
Now that Son #1 and Son #2 are older. Nearly 16 and 17 now. They are figuring it out. Son #1 has developed the awareness. He sizes people up now. He is not in a rush to make a friend anymore. In fact, he could care less if his interaction develops into anything at all. He understands the nature of people now. In looking at colleges now and trying to think about majors, he said something the other day. “I just want to do something that I can be left alone and not deal with people.” I found that interesting. I found that sad. I found that he had finally grown up and was seeing it all for what it was. No longer tainted through child eyes that believed in the good of all people. He had experienced enough now to know differently. While I wanted to be able to tell him that he shouldn’t feel that way and that all people are not like that and yada, yada, yada – the TRUTH of the matter is he had learned it for himself.
Recently my daughter has been trying to decide what to do about her birthday. She turned 11 this week. Apparently a party this year is not as cut and dry as it was last year when she turned 10. She has a pretty good idea about who is sincere and who isn’t as far as her circle of “friends.” She knows who talks about her. She knows who is out to get her. She knows who pretends to be her friend but is secretly ready to stab her in the back. I also know who they are. But when it is time to sit down and call a spade a spade – we are at a loss. All of a sudden you look at a birthday party list of girls that you don’t feel good about. It is very troubling. I wondered if it was just easier when she just believed everybody liked her.
I’m not sure what is worse…
Watching your kids fall all over themselves trying to be friends with kids who are mean and untrustworthy?
Realizing that your kids have figured it all out and see the world the way you do.
"The key is to get to know people and trust them to be who they are. Instead, we trust people to be who we want them to be- and when they're not, we cry.” ~David Duchovny