In less than 2 weeks, I will have a 9-year old at home and it amazes me how fast time flies by. I miss being able to pick up and carry my daughter–who is now almost as tall as I am. I also miss seeing her try to walk for the first time or experience new things with a sense of awe and wonder. There are still many big moments to come–some of which, like dating, I have no desire to experience ever. But I look forward to surviving and thriving through them all, regardless.
One of the things I aim to have with Jenesis is an open communication policy. I want her to know that she can come to me with anything, no matter what. Sometimes, it is difficult to drill this type of policy into the hearts and minds of children. Their ability to see the long game is skewed and their overall opinion of time is that it is torture. They also do not want to suffer consequences for their actions and fail to see that hiding the truth only makes the problem worse in the long run.
For instance, Jenesis has a habit of “forgetting the truth” when she does something that she knows is wrong. Last week, I found her watching a mature show on Netflix, “Glee”. It is Rated PG-13, and I have allowed her to watch certain episodes–particularly the singing portions when we are together. When I brought it to her attention she told me, “You said we could watch it together”. She failed to realize that watching it by herself was not the same thing as watching it together.
I try to limit her exposure to a lot because innocence cannot be regained once it is gone. I want her to remain young and carefree for as long as it is in my control. However, children have a natural curiosity for adult things–always wanting to know more when they are not quite ready.
I was raised with two differing styles of parenting from my childhood. My parents are divorced and thus had different ideas of how to handle/or not handle adult content in the home. My father and step-mother allowed us to watch adult content when they were present but told us to “cover our eyes” when an adult scene came on. The funny thing is, we could still hear sounds and conversations and I feel this approach only served to increase our desire as children to see what was going on behind our hands. Pretty soon, when we were not being supervised we found ourselves secretly watching adult stations trying to figure out what our parents did not want us to know.
My mother similarly watched adult content while we were around, but did not instruct us to cover our eyes. Part of the time we would cover them out of habit, but other times we would look to her for direction. When no direction came, we figured it was okay to keep watching. I can tell you as an adult now, that it was not. Passive parenting inspires confusion and leads the child to make mature decisions with little to no guidance. A lot of my adolescence was spent making poor choices based on my limited point of view.
As a parent now, I chose to go a completely different route with my daughter. I did not want her exposed to anything that was not meant for her age. I do not watch adult content in front of her or listen to music with adult themes. The problem with my method is that she spends a large amount of her life in a school where I cannot protect her from the influence of peers. Everyone she comes into contact with has a unique home background and when you mix all of these kids together you are bound to get a host of conflicting information. If I do not give her the right information at home, she may eventually make bad choices based on what she learned from her friends.
So, this past week I chose to sit her down and have an open and candid conversation about this mixed up world around us. With her growing interest in adult material, I know it is my responsibility to give enough information so that she is informed but not enough to taint her innocence.
Some of the themes in “Glee” include: teenage pregnancy, homosexuality, drugs, sex and the list goes on and on. I wanted to know which of these themes she saw and what she thought or knew of each one. I explained my expectations of her as a little young lady and addressed what was right vs. what was wrong for her age. I felt the need to even detail her upcoming menstrual cycle and the changes that will come along with that.
I know parenting is not a perfect process and many mistakes will be made along the way. But children are the highest blessing and it is our responsibility as parents to give them the absolute best we have. I will never take this honor for granted. I pray God will continue to give us all the grace to grow and teach our children well before we release them into the world, on their own.