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A few times a day, my littlest cousin, who is five, goes up to one of her parents and says, “Can I tell you a secret?”
They always stop what they’re doing, and look down at her, and say “Of course, sweetie. You can always tell me anything, no matter what.”
And there’s a little bit of a pause while she stretches up to her parents’ ear and holds her hand over her mouth. And she says something like, “Mommmmyyy, we’re watching Phineas and Ferb but I didn’t agree,” or, “Daaaad, can I have an apple?” or just, “I love you!”
And then they laugh and everything starts up again and they say, “I love you, too,” or, “Sure, but only a little one because dinner’s soon,” or, “Well, you picked what to watch last time, sometimes you need to take turns.”
I don’t know when she’ll have one of those secrets that everyone is scared of, the kind that stop you cold and make it hard to sleep, the kind that make you feel trapped because they’re stuck in your bones and no matter how far you run, every time you stop to breathe they’re still there. I don’t know if she’ll tell her parents, in one of those late night master bedroom conversations where you can’t stop crying, or if she’ll ask her big brother and sister for help, or if I’ll get an email one night, can I tell you a secret?
But I hope she knows that whatever it is, whenever she decides to speak up and whomever she tells, she will be heard. That no matter what happens, she is fabulous and brave and worthy, and she deserves to be safe. I want her to grow up in a world where all of that is true, where she knows it in her bones like the secrets she will have to carry, because she’s five years old and there’s nothing any of us can do to protect her from the world she’s growing into. So I hope that we’re giving her tools to fight back, and the knowledge that we’ll support her, because that’s what we all deserve.