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CJ Heck

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Mommy, What's Abuse? (Children)
By CJ Heck
Thursday, September 28, 2006

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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Sometimes grownup issues are hard to explain to a child ...

Mommy, What’s Abuse?

When Hannah Hobbes got home from school, she looked for her Mommy. Mommy was putting clean dishes away in the kitchen cupboard, so Hannah plopped herself into one of the four chairs at the round oak table. "Hi Mommy. I'm home."

Mommy stopped what she was doing. She looked over at her pretty six-year-old daughter. Hannah was usually a bright and bubbly little girl -- almost always wearing a cheerful smile which brought the cutest two dimples right along with it. Today, Mommy could see right away that there was something wrong. "Hello Hannah-Banana. Everything okay today at school?"

With all that had happened today, Hannah couldn't help it, she started to cry. Her jumbled words all came out at once. "I was talking to Janie at school today. Mommy, Janie was so sad. It made me feel sad, too. She's staying with her grandma and grampa because her mommy is in the hospital. Oh, Mommy! Janie said policemen came and took her daddy to jail! When the policemen took her to her grandma's house, she heard them whispering the word 'abuse'.”

Hannah stopped talking and took a deep breath. She was feeling just awful and the tears wouldn't stop making little rivers down her cheeks. To make things even worse, her nose was crying, too, and she swiped at it with her sleeve.

Mommy sat down in the chair next to Hannah at the table and handed Hannah a tissue for her nose. Then slowly, Mommy patted her lap. Hannah saw and climbed up on mommy's lap. She really needed one of those special Mommy-hugs right now.

Feeling safe inside her hug, Hannah asked, "Mommy, what's abuse?"

Mommy gave her a gentle squeeze and laid her cheek on the soft brown hair. Slowly she answered Hannah. "Well, honey, abuse is a very bad thing. That's when someone who is bigger or stronger or older hurts someone else. It can be with words that hurt, or with actions that hurt. Sometimes it's someone they love, and that makes it hurt even more."

Hannah might have felt safe, but she still felt confused. She just didn't understand, and so the tears kept coming. "Janie's very upset. She told me her mommy and daddy might get a divorce. Mommy, I've been over there lots of times. Her daddy and mommy act happy. Don't they love each other any more?"

Mommy thought for a moment. This was a grown-up situation and she wished it had not touched Hannah‘s life in any way, but it had. She had to find a kind way to explain this to Hannah. "Hannah, people can love each other and still not be good for each other. Do you understand?"

Hannah sniffled and shook her head in a great big ‘NO‘. "This is too hard. I don't understand! Janie said they get angry and shout a lot. She said sometimes her daddy hurts her mommy, but then he's always sorry. Then things are okay again. Janie says they're happy and she doesn't want them to get a divorce."

"I know -- I’m sure Janie doesn’t want them to get a divorce. Please listen to me, honey. Hurting someone you love is always wrong. Janie has lived that way all of her life. To Janie, that is what's normal. She doesn't have anything else to compare it with."

Mommy could see that Hannah was hurting inside. She just had to find some way to help her understand. Then Mommy spotted Hannah's dog, Jeffie, all curled up in a ball and fast asleep on the rag rug over by the kitchen sink. She thought and thought and at last, Mommy had an idea.

"Hannah, let‘s talk about Jeffie. We've had Jeffie for a long time -- even longer than we've had you. You really love that old dog, don‘t you?"

Hannah sniffled, but she couldn't help but smile, too. Jeffie was a great dog! He was her best friend in the whole world. She told him all of her secrets -- and she knew his secrets, too. (He didn't like broccoli or spinach either)

Mommy interrupted her thoughts by asking, "Hannah, how would you feel if you came home from school one day and Jeffie didn’t run up to you and lick your face, wagging his tail and his whole body along with it? What if Jeffie bared his teeth and growled at you?"

Hannah stopped crying just long enough to giggle a little at the silliness. "Mommy, Jeffie loves me. He would NEVER do that." Hannah tried to sniff her nose tears back inside and Mommy handed her a clean tissue from the green box on the table.

Mommy went on to ask, "But what if he did show his teeth and growl at you? What do you think you would you do?"

Hannah‘s big blue eyes looked up at the ceiling. Why is Mommy asking such silly things about Jeffie? "Mommy, If he did THAT, I would tell him to stop!"

Mommy was thinking about Hannah‘s answer. Now she knew what to ask her next. Then she said, "And what if that didn't work? What if Jeffie growled some more, maybe even louder? What if he even tried to bite you?"

Hannah couldn't believe what she was hearing. "Then I would yell at him! I would yell at him and say ‘JEFFIE, NO! STOP‘!"

Then Mommy asked Hannah, "What if that only made him even madder and he DID bite you?"

Hannah answered, "Then I would want to hurt him for biting me, but I know you're not supposed to do that. We would probably have to put him in a cage so he couldn't bite any more. Or maybe, we could take him to a place where people teach dogs that biting is bad."

Mommy smiled. This was working. "Excellent answer, Hannah. How long do you think that would take?"

Hannah thought for a minute. "Well, until he stopped biting, I guess."

Then Mommy went on to ask, "What if he decided never to stop biting? What if Jeffie hurt you very badly? What if he hurt you so bad that you had to go to the hospital?"

"I don't know, Mommy!” Hannah yelled. “I don't want to think about that! He WOULD stop biting. He WOULD. I know he would!" The thought that Jeffie would ever hurt her that bad brought fresh tears to Hannah’s eyes and she mopped at them with her already damp tissue.

Mommy gave her another hug and then said, "Yes, Hannah. He could learn to stop biting, but he would have to be willing to learn how very wrong it is to hurt someone you love."

Suddenly Hannah’s eyes opened very wide. She understood what Mommy was trying to say. It was all making sense to her now. What happened with Janie's daddy was like Mommy’s story about Jeffie. "Mommy? When Janie's daddy hurt her mommy, the jail is just like Jeffie's cage, right?"

"That's right, Hannah," answered Mommy.

"And Mommy, Janie’s daddy really could go somewhere and learn how not to do that any more, right?"

"Right again, Hannah."

Hannah nodded her head in understanding. "Well, I hope he decides to learn. Then he won't have to be in jail and he could go home. Then they wouldn't have to get a divorce. I don't want Janie to live like that. Janie's my friend and I want her to always be happy."

Mommy smiled and wiped the last of Hannah's tears off with her apron.

"I love you, little Hannah-Banana," she said with another Mommy-hug. "You're a very smart little girl."

"I love you, too, Mommy," and with a smile, Hannah wiped her nose with her sleeve and hopped down to go wake up Jeffie.

       Web Site: Barking Spiders Poetry for Children

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Reviewed by J Howard 5/21/2011
oh goodness, just now see this title. interesting how life's situations present themselves at different points-helping us all to understand the challenges we meet in life.
so well done-
Reviewed by Karis Speed 4/23/2009
i realy enjoyed this storie it touched my i am only twelve but i remeber when i was little and asked my mom the same thing i didnt understand but then she got to my level and told me what abuse was
Reviewed by Donald Beaulieu 10/12/2007
Sometimes we need to see like children inorder to talk to them. Sometimes we have to get down on the floor and be their size. Sometimes we need to remember the little me inside. What a beautiful insight to a most difficult situation. The explination was superb and the writing great.
Reviewed by Mary Coe 9/14/2007
this was a very touching story. It's not easy trying to explain something like abuse to a small child. Good write.
Reviewed by Rhonda Galizia 6/19/2007
Outstanding, CJ.

One of the most serious and difficult plagues of modern society, and you have very tenderly and truthfully dealt with it.

Love&Hugs, Rhonda
Reviewed by Walt Hardester 5/14/2007
How to explain adult life to a child? have a wonderful are able to put this thing in a way that a child can relate to, her doggie. I am seriously impressed at your insightful rendering on this one. I have a grandaughter who is at the tender age of 5, and with the proliferation of the internet...and the possiblilty of profit from sexualy explicit material, even people who are not perverts are getting in on the act. It disturbs me greatly. what can decent people do? unfortunately. vigilantyism isn't leagal either.........I cry for the sorry state of humanity these days.....

Reviewed by Poetess of The Soul Sheila G 5/12/2007
This short story is short and Powerful!
CJ I love your way of writing, it just flowedddddd!
You covered every meaningful ? from mom to her child and
her child to mom/parent,
This hit real close to home for me, being abused sexually!
and the way you explained it, was teary... but, Excellent!
EVery Parent should read this!
Warmly, WArrior Lady Sheeeoox
Reviewed by Miller Caldwell 11/28/2006
Dear CJ
I know it's me again in the same day but hold on.
Before I retired though ill health to be an author I was the Regional Reporter to the Children's Hearings. I know that means nothing outside the Scottish Legal fraternity. (I prosecuted offenders in Children's cases.)
This article "Mommy, What's Abuse? strikes home for me as I had to deal with sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children.
Your article would have been an excellent guide in the Hearing room.
I could return to my former office with this article to inform my successor if you would agree to this suggestion.
Reviewed by Jim Parsons 10/19/2006
Hi, by Heck, that's a good analogy for a small child. Cheers, Jim
Reviewed by Malcolm Watts 10/2/2006
This is a wonderful piece CJ. Have you thought about getting it done in a childrens book that could be marketed - particularly in schools and clinics. I think there is very little of this kind of work published and a real need for it.
Malcolm Watts MSW Social Worker
Reviewed by Denise Contreras 9/28/2006
This really shows an example of abuse a good way to explain it to a child who does not know what abuse is. It is so sad but so many families have abuse in them of some kind. What a wonderful story you wrote and very educational for children to read.
Thanks Hugs Angela
Reviewed by Joyce Bowling 9/28/2006
Oh my gosh! CJ this is a very powerful story, and sad to say I see and hear of this type of abuse much more often than I choose. Usually every year I have at least one, sometimes two, and occasionally more students who live with this type of abuse. Very moving and cleverly written.
Joyce Bowling
Reviewed by Felix Perry 9/28/2006
CJ this is a great story with a lesson that may help other mother's answer this question when it comes up. All too often parents tend to ignore or make light of these type of issues when it comes to children and I think that is wrong. YOur story proves you can answer truthfully but with gentleness concerns of the young.

Reviewed by Victor Buhagiar 9/28/2006
CJ, a sad story, but very actual and you are a good story teller. Parents should read this and learn. Victor
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 9/28/2006
Heartrending and believable story, CJ; very well done and lovingly presented. God help those dear little ones; they should not be treated this way. If a person can't raise a child in the right way, give them to someone who CAN!!!!! Abusers to me are nothing more than animals, and they should be locked up forever before they harm any more children!! BRAVA!

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :( >tears! <
Reviewed by H. Lena Jones 9/28/2006
Lovely, well written story, CJ. You handled the situation well. It's not an easy subject to discuss with adults much less a child. Abusers, in my opinion, suffer from a deep inner problem, which they themselves don't understand. When they abuse they are most likely appealing for help, because they don't know how to ask straight out. That is so sad! Your stories are so insightful. Thanks, dearest CJ.

God Bless
Love, Lena
Reviewed by Peter Paton 9/28/2006

A tender and thoughtful approach to one of the taboo subjects in our world..

I always find the truth is the best way to explain these difficult and painful subjects to our children..

The truth, the whole truth, and the nothing but the truth...

And if I remember right,..... Popeye was quite fond of spinach...;)



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