Most of us have experienced this sort of comment. ‘All kids do that.’ Usually it’s meant well. A ‘sympathetic’ comment when the person doesn’t know what to say, or just doesn’t get it, or genuinely thinks there’s no difference between their children and those affected by earlier trauma.
The phrase annoys me to varying degrees, and I’ve always assumed that this is dependent upon what is left in my resilience tanks. Topped up and I can shrug it off. (Unless it’s from a ‘professional’ who should know better.) Stressed out and it really annoys me.
A while ago I realised why ‘all kids do that’ occasionally goes way beyond annoying for me. It’s because I interpret the phrase as a total denial of what our daughters have endured.
Denial is the very devil. Denial means the truth is submerged. Denial means nothing has to change. I don’t mean that I want all and sundry knowing the girls’ history. Of course I don’t. That is their story, and they will get to decide if they want to share it.
As a society we are only just emerging from a near total denial of organised child abuse. I am from a generation which experienced prolonged and ritualistic abuse, known about by adults, but not acknowledged. Denied.
As a Social Worker I quickly became aware that many adults with learning disabilities had been, and in some cases were still being, abused. A fact which many colleagues denied had any impact on people! Labels such as ‘challenging’, ‘personality disorder’ and so on, were banded about without much thought. Labels which deny the person’s history and consign them to further misery.
The person – friend or professional – who denies may be protecting themselves from uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. But at what cost?
When you hear ‘all kids do that’, how do you respond?