I think it’s well known, now, that I don’t want to be an over-protective parent.
I can handle the occasional trip to the hospital, but I do not want to take any risks when it comes to my boys’ innocence. I take that seriously.
A few months ago, we had an incident with a neighbor boy who told my boys to go try out a certain sexual act. I was mortified and heartbroken that that innocence was robbed from my boys. I was even more concerned how this seven year old became aware of this information in the first place. I feared abuse gave him the knowledge of that activitiy. But I also considered the mere relay of information as abuse to my kids.
Another neighbor talked to this boy’s mom and she didn’t seem concerned with the situation.
When Asher told me what this boy told him, I did not have the appropriate response. According to all the parenting articles I’ve read, when your kid says a bad word or does something inappropriate to get your attention, you’re supposed to ignore them, or have a very mild reaction and just tell them, “That’s inappropriate, don’t say that again.”
So when Isaac and Asher came inside from playing and Asher blurted out, “Guess what ‘So-and-So’ told me to do…” My first response was:
“GASP! WHAT? He said WHAT?” (think Schwartz’s mom on the phone in The Christmas Story) I made Asher repeat himself and Isaac concurred, yes, that’s what the kid said.
I got my wits about me and calmly responded, “Well, that is a very inappropriate thing to say. I hope I never hear you repeat that to anyone else,” and then went about fixing dinner.
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to draw any attention to the phrase they just repeated to me. I wanted them to forget it completely and never mention it again. But I also needed to go back to them and to thank them for coming and telling me; to tell them that they can always tell me the things they hear on the playground. I also needed to remind them about how to keep their bodies safe and what is appropriate behavior when it comes to their body. So, we came back to that conversation before bedtime that night.
I prayed for a long time that my boys would completely forget the words they were told. And the neighbor boy moved away just a couple of weeks later, so I don’t fear that more information or inappropriate situations will come from that boy. But the whole thing really upset me, and I pray with all my heart that my boys were not changed from that experience.
I decided that day that our boys would be home schooled and they’d never leave the house again.
But we can’t protect our kids from these situations forever.
Sex is everywhere they go, everything they see, and hear in public. You can’t drive down the street without seeing billboards. You can’t flip through the radio stations without hearing an inappropriate song.
This six year old boy was suspended for telling a girl, “I’m sexy and I know it.” He was just repeating a song he’d heard. My boys sing that song around the house all the time. I have never played it in my house or car, but I wonder if it was played in gym class or by some friend. The other day, Asher pulled his short legs up, making his pants look the shape of underwear, and told me, “Hey Mom, I’m saxy and I know it.” I’ve been telling my boys that I don’t like that song and asking them not to sing it around the house. But you know how catchy songs are. They stick in your head.
I’ve been waiting for my boys to ask me what “sexy” means. I’ve tried to come up with some appropriate answers but they haven’t asked. So, when Asher brought my attention to the song, I told him he doesn’t even know what “Saxy” means. He pulled his pant legs back up, exposing his pasty white thighs and said, “This is saxy!” Apparently our fourth grade neighbor told him that.
Later on I heard Isaac correcting Asher, “It’s sexy. Not saxy.” Asher stuck to his guns and said, “Nope, it’s saxy.”
It’s funny to talk about, but not when I’m having to deal with it in real time. I know the American Academy of Pediatrics is advising parents to talk about sex from birth. We don’t want it to be a taboo topic that my boys don’t ask us about because then they’ll get all their information from their friends. But we also aren’t going to explain the birds and the bees to our first grader. It’s all about appropriate timing and appropriate amounts of sharing.
When I thought about talking about puberty and sex with my boys, I always assumed that would be Randall’s job. He’s the man of the house, he can talk to my boys about that stuff. But these situations just pop up unexpectedly and Randall’s not always around. In fact, Randall’s out working most of the time my boys are awake. So, I’m going to need to be better prepared next time I have to answer a question or respond to a similar situation.
Ugh. Just another difficult and subjective task a parent has to navigate. Any advice is welcomed!
I just feel so inadequate some days.
God, I do not want to screw up my kids more than I already have. Please give me wisdom and discernment when it comes to navigating how to talk about sex with my kids. Please protect their innocence until they are emotionally ready. Please protect them from abuse, physically or verbally that will take away the innocence they have left.
Asher: Mom! Isaac just jumped off the deck, but he’s not hurt!
Mom: [Open mouth stare]
Isaac: [enters through the garage door]
Mom: Isaac Benjamin, come here.
Isaac: [trying (not too hard) to hide a smile.] What?
Mom: Did you just jump off of the deck?
Mom: On purpose? Or did you fall off?
Isaac: On purpose, but I slid down the rail and hanged from the deck and then dropped.
Mom: Was that a wise decision?
Isaac: Yes! It was awesome!
I was speechless, so I just laughed at him and told him we were calling his father (because that’s what you call your dear husband when his kid does something stupid). Randall all but congratulated him, but admitted this was not a conversation to have over the phone.
Randall and I talked. He wants to raise kids that are not afraid to be adventurous. I want to raise kids that don’t know the ER nurses by name. But again, we’re at this tension between safety and adventure.
We decided that we should commend Isaac for taking a risk, but remind him to always consider the consequences when he decides to endanger himself… We told him that we were proud of him for assessing the situation and hanging from the deck before he let go the remaining 2-3 feet. We reminded him that when you choose to jump from the deck, you risk breaking a bone which takes a long time to heal, and even when you decide to hang off the deck, you risk getting splinters. We told him to always consider all the repercussions before he acts on a chance.
I want my kids to know that I love them and would rather them always be safe, but I also think there is an important life lesson that comes when your kids are able to make their own mistakes. It lets them know that parents know best, but also respect you enough to let you decide for yourself.
Please be assured that I know a seven year old is not old enough to decide most things for himself. But when the possibility is a skinned knee or splinter, I think it’s worth a shot for an adventure. I want Isaac to always be able to talk to me about the actions he’s considering and the risks he’s taking and even the mistakes he’s made. This was our first test to see how we’d react.
The last rule we gave him was to keep it a secret. We don’t want all the neighborhood kids coming over and jumping off our deck. If your kids come over to play, we will not allow them to participate in risky behavior and we asked Isaac not to tell anyone about the risks he’s taking.
Fifteen minutes later, of course, Isaac was pretending to tightrope walk across the top of our 10 foot tall swing set in front of the neighbor kids…
Philippe Petit had absolutely NO FEAR of heights. This is not the kind of kid I want to raise. Yes, I want my son to notice beauty and to have adventures, no I don’t want him to participate in needless acts of danger. There is a place for healthy fear!
But I also don’t want fear to stop my kids from living an adventurous life. Asher is already wise enough to learn from others’ mistakes, but he doesn’t want to take his training wheels off because he’s seen the kind of scrapes you get when you fall off your bike…
So how do we as parents walk the tightrope between safety, adventure, and fearlessness?
For me, I’m going to take it one day at a time. When Isaac decides to try to jump off of the roof, I’m going to draw the line and hold my ground! I’m going to keep praying for my boys. I have never been a worrier, never like I am when I worry about my boys. But worrying doesn’t help anything. I will continue to pray each night for their health and safety. But just like allowing kids to be exposed to germs strengthens their immune system, I’m going to allow my kids to be exposed to risks to strengthen their character. I pray for protection from harm and protection for their innocence.
I sincerely question what I would do if something happened to one of my boys. Because things do happen, even when our kids aren’t being daring. Will I regret this philosophy some day? Honestly, I don’t know. I can’t say. But for now, I’m going to give my children limits. I’m going to give them freedoms as well. And I’m going to give them to God and do the best I can as a parent.
God, help me to make wise decisions when it comes to parenting my kids. For my kids, I pray the blessing from Numbers 6:24-26:
‘May the Lord bless you and protect you, Isaac and Asher. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.’
Tabby had a bad day this week. She’s acting perfectly normal now and I have high hopes that we’ll get another year or so out of our old girl. I think a dog can find the will to last a few more years when she has someone who loves her like this boy loves his dog.