Please excuse me friends, but I’m having a moment here. You see tonight I encountered the reality of the harsh world that we live in within the four walls of my home. Tonight consisted of a very heartbreaking conversation that had to take place with one of my young children about an image that had popped up on the iPad at school during a very innocent search for a related assignment.
Up until this point my children hadn’t really needed any “talks” but tonight, at an age far too ripe for any child, issues had to be discussed that I hoped could have been avoided until they were …. well …forever…or at least 10! Naive? Maybe – but you carry someone for 9 months, then endure unbearable pain to deliver that person, bring them home knowing that their complete survival is dependent on you, and teach them everything from smiling to walking to riding a bike, not to mention all of the bedtime rituals of hugs, kisses, stories, prayers, more hugs, more kisses, midnight wake-ups and endless nights of rocking chairs, lullaby’s, prayer’s, and tears from both parties…and then tell me that I don’t have a right to feel that way! But I digress.
It wasn’t the big life talk…we haven’t even made it there yet….but this…tonight…it make’s me angry. I know, I know…you’re sick of all of the anger going on in the world with world leaders, and policies, and the list goes on and on and on….and yeah…I agree that we need more love in this hate-filled world…but right now I’m angry. I’m angry that in this sex-driven world in which we live a young child can go on an iPad for a school project and find indecency…I’m angry that what was once private has now become something for public consumption…I’m angry that I can’t go into a grocery store in the checkout line without having to flip magazine covers or avert my eyes…I’m angry that I can’t go on Netflix without having to scroll past disgusting images to get to the shows I want to watch…I’m angry that my children come home asking what “sexy” means because they’ve heard it in school by other children who likely are just as clueless but know enough from the images that are plastered everywhere that it’s now something to be equated with power. But most of all, I’m angry that the innocence of our children, of my children, is being stolen at every corner and it’s all happening right under our noses.
So what do we do about it? How do we shield them? How do we protect these one’s that we have raised with, quite literally, our blood, sweat and tears, from the lust-driven world around them that wait’s to entice them at every turn? Honestly, right now I’m afraid that neither one of us will like that answer…but if we allow that answer to drive us to fear, we’ll either shame or isolate them and neither of those options are realistic or beneficial.
I don’t pretend for one minute to have all of the answers…as I’m sure you know…parenting manuals are never one-size-fits-all, but what I can tell you is this; open communication and valuing the relationship over the issue will create a safe atmosphere for your child, and in a world of unsafe things bombarding them, they need to know that you are safe. I definitely have my flaws, but right now despite the heartbreak, I can say that I am so sooo thankful that my child felt safe enough to willingly tell me what they saw without any prompting or foreknowledge on my part so that the door could be opened to have a healthy discussion without shame, anger, or fear.
Maybe for you your children have already crossed this hurdle, and forgive me, as I have no experience raising teenagers or adults, but I’d like to challenge you with the same thing…regardless of what struggle your child is facing…keep the lines open by creating a safe atmosphere where they can come to you and know that you will always value the relationship you have over the issues they are facing. It may not have immediate results, especially if you have a different history with your child as of now, but keep with it…eventually trust will be restored…and when that happens…your opinions will be invaluable to them.
As far as practical resources, for approaching the subject of internet safety and what to do when our children see inappropriate images, I would highly recommend the book “Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids” by Kristen A. Jenson M.A. and Gail A. Poyner Ph.D. It covers this topic from a very scientific point of view looking at how the brain is divided into the thinking and feeling side and how those side’s both work, as well as providing a simple, graphic-free definition of what pornography is, why it’s dangerous (covering addiction and why addiction is harmful), and most importantly, how to reject it. Straight up guys, I’m (sadly) not receiving any reimbursements for endorsing this book and I wasn’t coerced by anyone into writing anything – I’m just a mama trying to help other mama’s in any way that I can. 😉 And if you don’t need this resource yet, I’d still consider getting it in advance…I bought it around June and it was gathering dust until tonight when I was so thankful to be able to pull it out for our conversation. (And don’t worry..it’s written from the point of view of a child having a conversation with his mom so it leave’s out much of the gooey cheesiness that other books in this genre tend to ooze of).
So anyways, I guess the light at the end of the tunnel in all of this is that sometimes life sucks…(ha ha…that wasn’t it…wait …for….it…) but you know, after the tears subsided and my mom anger melted away (as I got partway through my blog post…and yes there will be follow-up…not pointing of the finger and blame since I trust and am very grateful for our teacher’s and school…but definitely a working together to continually improve in this ongoing battle) I realized something that brought much comfort to my heart….and that is this: my child trusts me. It’s a scary world out there guys, but when we’ve invested into the little people in our lives and demonstrated that we’re not going to freak out when they spill the milk everywhere but instead teach them to wipe up their mess with hugs and reassurance to carry on (and sometimes that means leading by example when we spill the milk!)…they’ll trust us with the bigger spills that happen…because they know that above all…we love them…and that relationship is more important than the bumps, spills, and messes that come their way…it’s a safe place in a not-so-safe world. And after all, isn’t that what we really want for them? Not to be so sheltered that any ripple in life rocks them…but to empower them to make those good decisions with room to grow, knowing that when mistakes are made – we’re always in their corner to toss them the towel with one hand and help them up with the other.
Editor’s Note: This post was written at an earlier time and I’m pleased to report that my child continues to quickly point out signs of immodesty on magazines or TV ads as they appear. I couldn’t be more proud!
Thank you to Astrid Mueller at astridmueller.com for the pretty Free Watercolor brush stroke shown above! Be sure to check out her lovely site.