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The Catholic New World


Apr. 1 , 2007


Caroline had a curiously adult tone in her voice the other evening when she announced, “Once again, Mom, you just don’t understand.”

I had to stifle a giggle, because I understood all too well. I understood that she wanted to stay up later; that to her, the book she was reading was more important than the sleep I said she needed; that no child, anywhere, anytime, believes his or her parents really understand much of anything.

But I also understood she didn’t want to hear any of that.

“OK,” I said. “Then explain it to me.”

That challenge drew a roll of they eyes and a completely exasperated, “Mom!”

But then she laughed, and I laughed, and took advantage of the good feeling to remind her that I was once a kid, too, and I was just as sure my mother didn’t understand.

That conversation came back tome this week when I interviewed Erin Sorenson of the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center. The center provides a facility and a framework to coordinate all the pieces of child sex abuse investigations, in hopes of making them easier on the children and their families as well as more effective.

One way to help protect children from abuse, Sorenson said, is to keep the lines of communication open with them, and to show them that you do remember what it was like to be a kid.

But the hard part is the actual remembering, I think.. I clearly remember going to school and playing outside and sitting down at the table for dinner. I remember getting so lost in books that I was completely unaware of what was going on around me.

But I don’t remember so much the harder parts—having to live on someone else’s timetable, under discipline that just didn’t seem fair, feeling that I just didn’t fit anywhere.

It wasn’t until got older, maybe until I had children of my own, that I saw how many of the things I resented were for my own good, for my health and safety and happiness. I learned a little earlier, I think, that most people go through periods of uncertainty and wonder if they will ever feel secure in their place in the world.

So I tell Caroline that I don’t really understand what it’s like to be her—nobody can, because she is unique—but I do understand more than she knows, and one day, she’ll get that.

But then I am reminded of Jesus when his parents took him to the Temple in Jerusalem for Passover when he was 12, and inadvertently left him behind. When they found him, he said, “Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?”

I can almost see the eyes roll.

Martin is a Catholic New World staff writer. Contact her at [email protected]

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