Posts Tagged With: teen years

Protecting our Children

A typical Tuesday night. 5:00. I pull up allrecipes.com on my iPad and grab a pot. I busy myself mixing ingredients as N, my two-year-old climbs up on the barstool and commandeers my tablet. Not two minutes later the familiar lyrics of “The Hamster Dance” fills the kitchen and the glow of the screen lights up my son’s smug grin. As I stir the simmering pot, I notice he has found his way to the paint application and is quickly filling the blank space with a rainbow of colors. Dinner ready, table set, I scoop him up and set him in the high chair. Before I close the iPad and turn off his music, I discover that in the ten minutes he took control, he managed to pose for four selfies, write a novel of toddler gibberish in a document, change my background settings, take off airplane mode, renew our library books, fix two bugs, clean the finger printed screen, order three books on Amazon and write 100 lines of code (ok, so I’m only halfway exaggerating).HPIM1512

My two-year-old knows how to navigate my tablet better than I do.

And frankly, that scares me.

Years ago while I was unmarried and still in college I had the opportunity to spend a summer as a camp counselor for a church program called “Especially For Youth.” Each week we worked with two “co-counselors” and a set of about 8-12 teenagers each. It was an incredible, faith-building experience. One week while talking with my male co-counselor I was surprised to find out that the night before eight of his ten boys, ranging in age from 16-18, confided in him that they had accessed and viewed pornographic images. I was shocked. How could that be? These were really great kids who had everything in the world going for them.

Eight out of ten. I know it isn’t a big enough pool of boys to create a real statistic, but it was none-the-less alarming to me. Now, ten years down the road and (almost) four boys of my own, the image of those kind, handsome young men and their confessions burns in my mind.

If you think that porn has no harm or lasting affect on the person or those associated with them, think again. If you think it is healthy, I have to disagree. If you feel you are alone in the fight, you’re not.

Pornography is… addictive. It impairs decision-making capacities and it “hooks” its users, drawing them back obsessively for more and more. A man who had been addicted to pornography and to hard drugs wrote me this comparison: “In my eyes cocaine doesn’t hold a candle to this. I have done both. … Quitting even the hardest drugs was nothing compared to [trying to quit pornography]” (letter of Mar. 20, 2005). –Dallin H. Oaks

This is a taboo topic I never dreamed of writing about, let alone thought I’d ever have to worry about. But with the power of the Internet at our fingertips, at our two-year-olds’ fingertips, the topic becomes a bit more real. I watch my six-year old create planes and helicopters out of bristle blocks with his brothers, laugh at the same knock-knock joke for the fiftieth time, then cuddle up with his stuffed animal monkey after he’s said his prayers. So innocent. I wish more than anything I could protect him and help him keep that innocence forever. But I can’t wrap him in bubble wrap.

So as moms, what can we do? The dangers are out there, and they are real. I don’t have all the answers. I hardly have any, and probably not all great ones. But I’m learning, and my thoughts are this:

Sure, we can secure our internet, put the computer in a public and heavy-traffic location. Limit their phone data, check their texts. We can micromanage every facet of their lives, but the only way to really help them, to protect them, is to create a relationship with them and love them. No security measures can compare to helping them see their self-worth and that of others. If we maintain an open communication with them, know their friends and genuinely have an interest in them, and help them to understand the seriousness of this addiction, of the way becoming involved in such activities could change their lives and current and future relationships, I think it might help. It’s certainly not foolproof, but why not try?

“My plea—and I wish I were more eloquent in voicing it—is a plea to save the children. Too many of them walk with pain and fear, in loneliness and despair. Children need sunlight. They need happiness. They need love and nurture.” –Gordon B. Hinkley

Being a mom has been by far one of the greatest blessings of my life. As I twirl all 22 pounds of two-year-old sweetness around the air to the fifth repeat of “The Hamster Dance” ( if only he would show me how to turn the darn repeat off!!), I remember what an incredible, wonderful, daunting responsibility I have to raise these boys to be kind, considerate, courageous, stalwart, chivalrous gentlemen. For their teachers, their professors, their future employers. For your daughters, for their children. For God. It’s kind of a big deal, and I hope and pray I can get it right.

IMG_5180What have you done or plan to do to protect your children from the scary stuff out there? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Also, here’s another link that I thought was good for moms in case you are interested.

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Categories: children, parenthood | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Sticks and Stones–Bullying and What We Can Do to Help

My first grader came home from school the other day to tell me about a boy who hasn’t been very nice. “He doesn’t want to be my friend, Mom. I was trying to be his, but he doesn’t want to. He never wants to pass the frisbee to me. He just isn’t nice to me and I don’t know why.” My heart broke. I’m pretty sure I held back tears as I thought about what a tough world he was now a part of. And then a moment came to my mind from many years ago. A day that I probably had filed in the back of my mind to be forgotten. But as we walked up our driveway, the thoughts came flooding back.

Summer 206 156

I can remember the moment vividly. I was a senior that year, and my assigned seat in Mr. M’s class was just a few back from her and her friends. In front of her sat a larger guy, someone I guess you wouldn’t call “cool.” In fact, to put it bluntly, he was a geek. He had bottle cap glasses, pimples, his clothes were old and baggy, and he ate lunch at that one spot in the commons area with all the other dorky kids. I don’t remember his name, but I certainly remember hers. Everyone knew her name. She was one of the most popular girls in school. Pretty, athletic…she was what every girl wanted to be, who every boy wanted to be with. As Mr. M wrote on the board the room was silent with scribbling pencils. Just ahead, I saw her pull out a quarter. Getting the attention of her friends, she smiled and leaned forward in her desk. In front of her, his pants opened like a plumber’s, giving just enough space for a quarter to slip through. Her friends stifled laughs as the quarter dropped from her fingers. His head jerked up. As he ran to the bathroom to retrieve the object now located in his britches, she smirked as several laughed at his expense.

And life went on. The boy was humiliated, the girl got a good laugh, the cycle continued. No one stood up. Not a classmate, not a parent, not a teacher.

Even while writing this my heart races with the memories of those days. Honestly, I was just a bit scared of her. Of all of them. And so I kept my thoughts to myself. If only I could go back. If only I had the courage in those days to stand up for those who were torn down. If only I’d put myself in the lines of fire to save someone else’s self-esteem, image, and heartache.

…But I didn’t.

Maybe by watching and not doing anything My lack of action was just as bad as what they had done.

“When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:

Stop it!

It’s that simple.”

–Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I have no idea what the answer is. Listening to my little boy broke my heart, and I desperately wish I had an answer. But the more the story brewed in my mind, I did have a few thoughts. Maybe we can still change the tides of bullying. It’s worth a shot.

  • How do we talk about others in front of our children? They listen even when we don’t think they are.
  • Do we show them courage by standing up to others who rip those less fortunate (or more, jealousy is a strong emotion) down with gossip?
  • Do we actively encourage our kids to treat others with kindness and respect? And do we show them every day how that looks in our interactions with friends, family and strangers alike?
  • Do we happily serve others and encourage our kids to do the same?
  • Do we encourage our children to play with others who are different from them and encourage them to include those who aren’t being included?

I’m only a mom to small children. I know the teenage years will prove to be much more difficult in these regards. But maybe if we start now. Maybe if we try to teach them while they’re young, it will stick. And maybe it won’t, but it’s worth a shot.

IMGP0419Looking back, I struggled with situations like these, not so much because of the girls who thought others were less than them, but because the adults around us didn’t seem to notice or care. In some ways it was even encouraged, without them knowing, of course. It was discouraging as a kid, and now as an adult I continue to watch it from this side of life. A bully doesn’t always attack with fists. In a majority of situations, bullies attack with word and deed. And they hurt. These predators are often charming, charismatic, lovable, pretty or handsome, seem to be well-liked, athletic, and smart. But what they do to classmates “less” than them is devastating. If we as adults joke around with them, put them on a pedestal and treat them as if they were high and mighty, try to be their friend, and laugh at their seemingly harmless jokes, the cycle will continue. Do we really want that?

We don’t have to be mean. We don’t have to stop treating them with respect and kindness. But let’s try to be more watchful. Let’s try to bring those up that otherwise might find themselves down. We must be conscientious of how we treat all children, charming, funny, cute…or not.

I wish I knew the answers. I wish I could go back and stand up for others instead of idly standing by. I wish I could change unkind words I have said in the past to and about others. I wish I could protect my son from those boys and girls that don’t want to be his friend and who don’t want to be kind. I wish so many things, but for now I will hope that we can encourage our children and do better ourselves. Let’s stop the bullying, no matter how old we happen to be.

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A great 10 minute video. Definitely worth the watch!

Bullying–Stop It by Dieter F. Uchtdorf

And here’s just the talk:

The Merciful Obtain Mercy

Categories: parenthood | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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