This morning I read a post on my friend Jennifers’s blog Hip As I Wanna Be called No, My 12 Year Old Won’t Visit Your Bedroom, and my first instinct was to pull my kids out of school, throw away all technology, draw the blinds, and play board games together in happy family harmony until they’re twenty-five.
Of course I can’t really do that. But it doesn’t mean that I won’t shelter them.
Somehow we have come to a place in parenting where some grown men and women are worried more about their children’s fleeting popularity and “happiness” than they are about helping them to become healthy, whole adults. I have no problem being the mom of “uncool” kids if that means that I am keeping them from developmentally inappropriate situations, protecting them from having to make decisions for which they are not yet psychologically and emotionally prepared. I don’t mind telling them that they can’t read a certain book yet or see a certain movie, that it isn’t time for a cell phone, and that at the tender age of eight boys are friends, they are not “boyfriends”. And when the day comes that cell phones make it into the hands of my children – God help me – I am ready to be that mom who enforces seemingly ridiculous rules about who we text, when we text, and where we text. My children already know that computers and phones stay out of bedrooms, and when technology is in their hands, doors are open. That rule is not changing. And just to be clear, I will enforce these rules as much to keep my children from initiating these inappropriate conversations as I will be to keep them from receiving these sorts of communications.
Kids mimic what they see and hear, what those around them are doing and talking about. My husband and I have tried to find a balance and keep the lines of communication with us open for our kids to discuss what they’re observing. Our definition of this balance involves our kids riding the bus, but sitting near the front with kids their own ages. They go to the movies, but not movies with romantic storylines or a focus on being pretty to get the boy/athletic to get the girl. They watch TV, but not shows with rude or degrading characters. My daughter helps choose her clothing (recently heard “No more butterflies, okay?”), but will not own a cleavage enhancing, off-the-shoulder shirt like they sell at a popular children’s clothing store until….well, never. Okay, maybe when she’s twenty-five and we finally unlock the doors and let them out of the house.
The point? It is my responsibility to care for and protect my child’s emotional, spiritual and psychological health just as much as it is my responsibility to keep them physically safe and well. And it is a responsibility that I take very seriously.
I am thrilled that my friend’s son came to her when he received that series of shocking texts. I’m happy for him. I’m happy for her. And I’m happy for that little girl – because let’s face it, that’s what she still is – that this boy chose to walk away from the conversation she initiated rather than engaging in it. I can only imagine the confusion she must be feeling about her decision to write those words and about the responses she may have gotten to them from others in the past.
I hope that when my children someday face similar situations, they will know to come to me. And they will know that I will continue to be the shelter in the storm that they need. And for all of this, I make no apologies.