I remember the days when my husband and I could communicate things we didn’t want the kids to know right away by spelling out the word. When my oldest was in 1st grade and had just gotten to the point of reading by herself, I would still spelling things out. I figured because she was barely reading, I could still spell faster than she could form the word in her head.
One weekend, when I needed the kids out of the house for a couple hours so I could accomplish something, I thought my husband could take them to the swimming pool. I didn’t want to dash my daughters’ hopes if he wasn’t on board, so I spelled out “pool.” He must’ve been tired or especially distracted, because he just wasn’t getting it. I kept spelling P-O-O-L over and over. Finally, my daughter leans in toward him and says, “Dad, pool, she’s spelling pool!” It was all downhill from there; spelling was no longer an option.
All of this went through my head as I sat in front of the TV a couple years ago watching Ellen Degeneres with my oldest daughter. I kept glancing at her making sure she understood the jokes. Of course she understood them, she was almost 16 years old at the time and she was laughing out loud. It kind of jerked my heartstrings when I realized she had reached another aspect of her life where she didn’t need me.
Although they are both in high school now, I don’t and never have approved of cursing; nor do I allow them to curse. But sometimes in moments of extreme distress, pain, or surprise it slips out of my husband or me or other adults in their lives. When we apologize to the children for our lapse in judgment, the kids usually say, “That’s okay, I hear worse at school.”
Again, my heart skips a beat when I realize they are learning life’s lessons, and sometimes hard ones, without me. Not that I’m out to teach them curse words, but I’d like to think they’d come to me if they had questions. But when my youngest was around 11 years old, I found out if she heard a word she didn’t understand, she’d surreptitiously look it up on the internet connection of her Nintendo DS (a hand-held video game unit).
I have to say, I spent a lot of hours agonizing over whether to let them have the Nintendo DS, specifically because it had an internet connection. My daughter told me she didn’t ask me what the word meant because she knew I didn’t approve of cursing and thought she might get in trouble for repeating it. More probably, she figured I’d want to know who said the word to her and I’d track them down and punish them for tearing away another layer of her innocence.
I didn’t know whether to feel bad she didn’t tell me because she worried about my reaction or to be glad because she understood the lesson that curse words are inappropriate. Either way, my youngest was showing signs of growing up and I wasn’t needed as much anymore.
I’ve tried to protect them from some of the harsh realities of life by putting the brakes on internet, social media, cell phones and texting. But eventually, as they’ve gotten older and have understood the reasons I’ve shielded them from those things, they’ve been allowed to use them. Sure, it’s not always been smooth sailing and sometimes they’ve lost their privileges until they can show me they understand how to use those things responsibly.
But very soon, it won’t always be up to me. They will be too old for me to tell them what to do. For now, though, it’s best that they learn how to manage the realities of our world responsibly while they are still under my watch.
Everything started with me and no matter how old they get, I will always be the mother of their universe.
Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. She is committed to writing about the humor amidst the chaos of a family. You can also read more of her writing and her daily blog on her website livingwithgleigh.com. Her column is available every week at maplevalleyreporter.com under the Lifestyles section.