21
Jul
  

Politics, Porn, Terror & Police — YES, Talk To Your Kids

By Lisa Barr

The other day a friend shared a disturbing story about her friend’s two little boys on their camp bus being indoctrinated into the Porn World by two older boys who showed them blatantly inappropriate nude pics. The younger boys, 8 and 6, didn’t know what to do with the troubling information — so they did the only think they could think of: They told their Mom.

When Mom asked about her boys’ day at camp, she was expecting to hear about baseball, tennis, swimming — instead she learned about a young woman with cherry red lips and long blonde hair not wearing her bathing suit. She was, no surprise, beside herself, called the camp and took immediate action. But no matter what course of action she had taken, Mom could not undo the images now firmly embedded in her young sons’ heads.

It’s been a tough summer in the Parenting Department, having to explain lots of traumatic subjects, with the onslaught of horrific terror attacks in our own backyard and abroad, way below-the-belt politics on both sides, police assassinations and heated protests based on racial discrimination, and now for this particular mother, having to explain naked pictures to her two young sons when she was saving “The Talk” for a few years down the line.

And herein lies the problem: Are we, as parents, ever truly ready for those zingers thrown our way?

Life as we know it has changed. Innocence has taken a backseat to new world realities, and we have to deal. So as parents we, too, must evolve, and tackle the tough subjects simply, with clarity, love, and real answers (not the stork-delivered-the-baby explanations). Whatever your politics may be, I can say unequivocally that what parents really want for their children are three things: safety, good health, and happiness.

Not so easy.

I always wanted to write the book, What To Expect When You’re NOT Expecting It — how to answer those age inappropriate questions when they zap you. There is no shielding or shutting off the TV or the radio. If your kids go to camp or summer school, or if they play sports, or they hang out at the neighborhood pool, or if they have a phone or an XBox — there WILL be older kids with older information, exposing what you are still trying to hide.

My advice is to get there before Teenage Boy Next Door hands out the goods before you do.
Here are some questions that I’ve heard recently in the Mommy Hood:

Why do people hate each other so much, Mommy?

Am I safe if I go to a movie, a concert, a mall, or travel on an airplane?

Are there terrorists in our neighborhood too?

Why are policemen getting killed?

Do black and white people hate each other?

It goes on and on — so many subjects to tackle this summer. My girls, now 19, 17, 16 — are asking similar questions just at a more mature level. My answers have to be better, deeper, fuller, and also leave enough room to not simply impose my views but also to allow my daughters the freedom to make up their own minds.

How’s this one: I voted for Hillary Clinton as a write-in when she was running for president the first time around, AND Donald Trump saved my job at a newspaper when I was a Single Full-Time Working Mom — a young journalist in a tough situation years ago. My thoughts, my views, are akin to The Mixed-up Chameleon, pretty much summing up my state of political confusion. I also was once a reporter covering terrorism in the Middle East before my kids were born, so I’ve seen close up the devastation of terror attacks and hatred. I’ve got a lot to give — but how much do kids really need to know?

When did it get so damn complicated?

With all the things I’ve done along my life’s journey, my greatest, most important job is M.O.M. — and like all of us, half the time I hope what I’m doing/saying won’t put them into therapy for life.

We are all flying by the seats of our pants — so don’t feel alone. We all have a basic outline of how we want to be as a parent. The porn story on the bus reminds me that we have to be battle-ready for surprises.

It is key to stay ahead of the game, and explain world events to our young kids, our tweenagers, our teens, and have heart-to-hearts with our young adult children.

Don’t wait.

There is a silver lining I want to tell the Mom of the boys exposed to porn: The first thing her children did with that information is TALK TO HER.

That’s what we’ve got, my friends. With all of our parenting humps and bumps … if your kids feel that they can talk to you about the hard subjects without repercussion but with honesty, then you have done your job. They will seek you out through the years with the good stuff and the tough stuff, knowing you will be there to listen, not to judge.

With all my parenting mistakes — that’s the one thing I did right. Looking back and looking forward, my girls CAN talk to me. I give my opinion. I make my stand-on-soapbox lectures. I don’t shame them. I show them options, and lay out choices. At times, I’ve been known to be overprotective, a pain in their asses, uber-repetitive, a nagger. I’ve also been known to bring the textbook or the forgotten lunch lying on the kitchen table to school instead of teaching them that lesson. I’ve also been known to pick up their puzzle pieces when they should be doing it themselves. Yeah, I’ve made every mistake in the book — except for one — I’ve never closed the door to communication, no matter their age.

My advice: Start now. Talk Truth, at whatever level they can understand.

You be the messenger. And if the boys-on-the-bus get in your way by arriving first — you can and should take back your power of communication, your power to explain what seems inexplicable. That’s real life, real love, and especially in this era of tough times, real parenting.

Lisa Barr is the editor and creator of GIRLilla Warfare and author of the award-winning novel Fugitive Colors.

 

 

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