When We Give Pornography to Our Children

Do I have your attention? Good, I want to. I’m coming to you with a serious topic, but one which is important and is on my mind often. Let me begin with a disclaimer- this could get a little rough. I hope you’ll read this in its entirety, though. I really want your feedback. Please feel free to comment directly to this blog, or to this post through Facebook. 

Let’s  jump right in… Parenting is the most challenging role I’ve ever had. I’d say any of us who are parents could agree with this statement. I’m sure this same sentiment has been reverberated from parent to parent throughout history. I believe, however, that parenting in the 21st century comes with its own set of unique challenges and obstacles. 

Today our children have access to more information at their fingertips (literally) than any other generation before them. Through the use of modern technology, our children have a virtual Pandora’s box of information accessible to them. The moment we place that iPhone, iPad, other smartphone, or computer into their hands, we allow them passageway into any chat room, social media site, group text, private text, or search engine. It is staggering the information- both good and bad- which we so willingly hand over to our very eager children. As a parent, this has been a concern of mine for a while now, and I’d like to ask what your family does to safeguard against all of the harmful things they can and do very easily stumble across. 

Let me explain just a bit further. It is human nature to be curious about things. This is a good time to point out that this “human nature” of which I speak is also our “sin nature.” Scripture tells us that we are all sinners by nature (think Adam and Eve), and we are creatures who can easily be led astray by temptations of this world. I want to speak to you frankly here, but I’ll keep it delicate. I think this level of brutal honesty is necessary for the point to be fully realized. I can remember as a child the very first time my eyes saw something that they shouldn’t have. I can tell you my age, the place, and what I was doing. I knew that someone my family knew kept a certain type of magazine in their house (hidden, no less); but regardless, it was stumbled across one day and the temptation began. As a child, I flipped through those pages, knowing full well that my eyes had NO BUSINESS being there, but my human nature took over. I was curious. I didn’t realize it at the time in my childish mind, but in that moment an invisible threshold was crossed. A boundary of innocence which, through the years and through life experiences, gets whittled away a tiny sliver at a time until that innocence is so far in our background that we have to strain to remember it. Think back to your personal situations. I’ll bet most of you can remember these life-altering and life-affecting moments without even having to try very much. 

I can tell you that it was in the fifth grade that I cheated on a test for the first time, and was so overcome with guilt that I was sick to my stomach for weeks afterwards. Another life-changing moment. A threshold moment. 

I can tell you the first time I snuck and watched a Rated “R” movie. I can tell you my age, where I was, the name of the movie, and the scene which had the most impact. A life-changing moment. A threshold moment.

I can remember being a teenager, and my mother speaking to my sister and I about the importance of our sexual purity. I remember her explanation that not only was it God’s plan that we reserve these sacred, sexual acts to take place within the sanctity of marriage, but that there was an emotional and environmental consequence as well if we fell outside the boundaries of God’s guidelines. She said that once a girl (or boy) loses their virginity, then it’s most likely that they will continue to be intimate from that point on with anyone and everyone else they date up until finding their future spouse. Once your virginity has been “lost” (What a deceiving way to say that really. I’m pretty sure we know EXACTLY where it went), there’s nothing left to save for our future spouse, right? So, this being the thinking, why should I wait with anyone else? I remember understanding some of her words, but not fully grasping their truth, until I watched a close friend live out this experience. She gave herself over and over, moving from one failed relationship to the next. Leaving invisible, but very real remnants of herself behind in each relationship as she moved through them. Small pieces of her soul, her essence, being chiseled off and left behind with the boyfriend of that month. Eventually, there isn’t much of “you” left. You couldn’t see it at the time, but again, life-changing moments. Threshold moments. 

Our children today don’t have to accidentally stumble across the sin in this world, they don’t have to wait until they are at a friend’s home or even until they are out of their parent’s eyesight, it’s handed to them for birthdays and Christmases. It’s wrapped up with a pretty red bow in packages of 8, 16, and 32 gigabytes. We hand it to our children, children who have been taught right from wrong, and we just TRUST them to make the right decisions. Reality check- they are CHILDREN. These threshold moments actually play into the fabric of who we become as adults. Once these thresholds are crossed, there is no going back. You can’t regain innocence once it’s gone.

How many of you have ever seen the experiment that was on tv a few years ago, where a group of children who had been taught about gun safety, were placed in a room with an unloaded gun, and were secretly recorded to show their reactions? Here’s a link in case you haven’t:

https://youtu.be/7fdnyvwIzg0 Children and Guns

I see this as exactly what we are doing to our kids and teens when we arm them with these life-alterers, these creators of threshold moments, disguised as pieces of technology. I’ll bet if you took your child’s phone at this very moment, and simply did a Google search of any number of violent or sexually-driven words, and then clicked on “images” you’d be astounded to see what they can so easily pull up. Our children can see pornography (FREE) at their fingertips in the comfort of their own home, car, or school. There are pictures and videos that NO ONE would want their child having access to, and yet we not only give this access to our kids, but we also pay the bill for this each month. What is going on???! If Snapchat doesn’t make you a little bit nervous, I think maybe you’ve not thoroughly thought things through. 

So, I’m not trying to get completely overboard with this, and saying no one should ever have a phone. I am saying, however, that parents need to be cognizant of what their children have access to, what they are viewing, who they are talking with, and what those conversations consist of daily. Children are children. They are curious. Just like I was. Just like you were. It would be foolish of us to assume our child is always going to make the “right” decision. We want them to, of course, and we pray to that end, but just like us, they are human. 

I’d like to hear from you if you don’t mind to share your thoughts on the matter.  What parental controls have you placed on your devices, on your children, and on your environment to ensure that your child is being protected? After all, isn’t that our job as the parent? We can’t keep them innocent forever, but aren’t we supposed to protect them for as long as we can? 

The Selfishness We Call “Divorce”

It’s both fortunate and unfortunate to me that in my circle of friends and acquaintances I’ve become the “go to” person for questions about divorce, because I’ve been there. People see me as proof that you CAN get through an unthinkably difficult time, and have a peaceful, productive life on the other side of this heart-wrenchingly painful mountain.

In the last week alone, I’ve had 3 different people come to me asking advice on the subject, or wanting to speak with me about mine. One was a sweet friend I’d not seen in a while. She and I used to go to church together, and I subbed for her a few times at Rogersville City School. This kind woman came to me in a sea of people during the Heritage Days festival, gently touched my arm, and quietly said, “I’ve always wanted to tell you how much I admire how you handled things after your divorce. You went to school, got your teaching degree, and just moved right on with life. Some people just shut down. You didn’t.” I felt I owed it to her and myself to be very honest in my response. I replied back, “I had children, and we had to eat. I had no choice, but to move on. There were days I wanted to quit, but I couldn’t. God was faithful to us.”

I want to always give a very truthful and realistic picture of what divorce looked like for me. It would be unfair of me to paint it prettier than it actually was. If a friend has gotten to the point that they have come to me for advice- whether it be the name of my attorney, or just encouraging words about moving ahead in life- I want to be sure that they understand this road is dark, and long, and Satan comes at you from all directions trying to break you down as much as he possibly can. That may look like many things to many different people; but in my case, I was entering a full out war that I had no idea was coming, and I want to help prepare my friend for the battle ahead.

My marriage lasted a total of 10 years. It’s not pertinent to list all of the why’s behind the dissolution of my marriage. It’s personal, and I have children to protect. Let’s just suffice it to say that my home became an unhealthy place for both my children and myself. He and I tried Christian counseling. We talked to pastors, cried at prayer rails, had deep into the night discussions, but one person alone can’t repair a broken marriage. The first thing I tell anyone who comes to me is that divorce was the absolute last resort for me. I tried for years, and behaviors weren’t getting better, if anything, they were getting worse. We had separated and reconciled. That was short lived. It all just became too much.

In January of 2011, my father died. Four months later, while standing at my front door, with a 6-year-old Elijah in my arms, I was served with divorce papers. In an instant I felt my entire world cave in around me. I was a stay-at-home mom at the time, and my first thought became, “How are we going to live?”

If I could freeze that very moment in time, I wish I could have time-traveled back, given that Amanda a big hug, and told her that I’d seen the future, and everything would be fine. Fortunately for me, I had an amazing circle of family and friends who did that for me. They lifted me up when I could barely crawl. Having a personal relationship with the Lord, and having believers to talk to and pray with are TRULY the only things that got me through.

I had a talk with my exhusband just yesterday. It was one of those hour-long talks that we have on occasion. He and I have come miraculously far during this journey over the last 5 years.  What once was a world of restraining orders and unbridled hatred, has with time, evolved into a relationship where we can attend ball games together, and school functions. He will sometimes bring me medicine when I am sick. I’ve even been to dinner with my children, him, and his girlfriend. It was all very Bruce Willis/Demi Moore of us. 😊 He and I were having a very frank discussion about finances. Both of us feel the financial strains of this divorce.

I can tell you, first hand, what it feels like to live in fear of losing your home. I can tell you what it feels like to be in line at Wal-Mart with a cart full of groceries, and to have your card declined. I can tell you what it’s like to have to call your mother, and ask if you can borrow a few rolls of toilet paper because you are out, and have no money. I can tell you what it’s like to have to humble yourself to go to this same, generous mother and say to her that I’m 2 weeks out from a check, and I have nothing left for me and my children to live on.

I pray anyone reading this never has to go through this. Or, maybe you already have. It’s a very humbling experience. Not one that I’ve shared with many people, but it is the reality of divorce. I came from a marriage where sticking to a budget wasn’t really an issue. There was always plenty. He had a wonderful job. All of that changed in the blink of an eye.

So, I’m a 41-year-old, stay-at-home mom, and I’m going to have to formulate a plan “B” quickly. Who knew I’d ever even need a plan “B”? Certainly not me. My plan was this man, this marriage, these children, and this life. With the serving of one piece of paper that all came to a screeching halt. It was audible.

The next parts are the pieces to the story I want to be sure my friends understand. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t enjoyable. I certainly wasn’t the model of daily Christian strength that I’d like to proclaim I was. I wasn’t. I fell to pieces initially. I went a little crazy. I did things I wasn’t proud of. My dad was gone, my marriage was over, and my future seemed bleak. God has allowed me throughout my Christian walk with Him to sink down into these valleys of despair at times. There were MANY days that the thought of even getting out of bed was too much. My saving grace in all of this was my children. As much as my soul was beaten down, and I had lost so much of my internal fight, I knew I had to get up each day, and take care of these little ones. Their worlds were being flipped upside down, too. I couldn’t allow myself to forget that while I was busy drowning in self-pity.

The rest of the story is an exercise in faith and hope. God showed me, through continuous prayer, that He had a plan for me. I found a career path that would make me as available to my children as I could possibly be. Teaching. I researched, and found a 16-month program at Tusculum College which allowed me to take classes in the evenings and on weekends. I met some of the most wonderful people I’d ever known in this program, and I know God positioned them in the same program, at this exact time, so we could be in one another’s lives. My family helped me with childcare, so I could attend classes. My exhusband even helped out on weekends. I was able to graduate the Master’s program with honors. I now had my teaching certification. Fast-forward on a few month, and many interviews/applications later, and I was blessed to be given a job at Hawkins Elementary School teaching my own 5th grade class! The call came 9 days before the 2015-2016 school year began. I was crying so hard when I received the call from the principal of the school, that I wasn’t even sure he could hear me saying, “YES!” through all of the sobbing.

What I learned in my experience is that divorce is the ultimate act of selfishness. Whether it be one or both parties. At some point in the marriage, someone (or you both), decide that your own needs become greater and more important than the needs of your family. What this experience did to my own children was heartbreaking to watch. My job was to love and protect them during their time on this earth. Now, because their father and I couldn’t be responsible enough to work out our own issues, these innocent little ones are thrown into a life change that they never asked for. My children are products of a broken home. The guilt that comes with that is immeasurable, and impossible to adequately verbalized. It’s daily. The only comfort I take is that I know that while our HOME may have been broken, I know they saw a mother who ultimately was NOT, and who gives all the glory to God for her strength.

I encourage my friends to have a realistic view of what is about to happen if they choose this path. It’s not “divorce parties” and freedom like some women like to imagine. (Actually, that may not be 100% true. There are people who do have their big divorce parties, but I just think that’s further outward evidence of what selfish creatures we’ve allowed ourselves to become. The destruction of a family is NOTHING to be celebrated) It’s one of the biggest doses of reality you’ll ever have. It’s excruciating to watch your babies go through. It’s an admission of failure. Divorce, and the death of my father, are hands down the most difficult life moments I’ve had.

The moral to my story is that God was faithful. He was strong when I was weak. It’s not an easy road, and it’s certainly not something I eagerly encourage anyone to do. Divorce goes against my own spiritual beliefs. That’s another blog in itself. I’ll save it for a different day. While I don’t want to be an advocate for divorce, I do want to offer hope to those going through it. There is life on the other side. It takes work. It takes an admission that you can’t do it alone, and it takes a willingness to be quiet, and listen to that sometimes soft voice of God. He won’t fail you. When you’ve lost your faith in love, He is the one relationship you can count on to be everlasting.

 

 

Proactive Parenting

If I were to die today I would hope that one of the first, if not THE first, things said about me is that I loved my children.  I am a woman who waited late in life to have my babies.  I had my daughter when I was 33 and my son at 34.  I can promise you that for the 18 years (and possibly even longer) prior to each of their births these babies were hoped for, prayed for, dreamed about, and waited on.  I knew that there were many things I wanted to do with my life, but my number one goal throughout has always been to be a mother.  I know that in this day and age of  women’s rights and the quest for sexual equality statements such as this may make some people’s hair stand on end, but I don’t care.  I don’t agree that women should be thought of as the weaker sex.  I feel that being designated and designed “female”, the only creatures chosen to carry that tiny, miraculous life force inside of us for nine months, is statement enough of the unspoken strength the Lord knew that women, especially mothers, would possess.

I guess this is why when I see people take a backseat approach to parenting I get so confused.  I can’t imagine that there is a more awesome responsibility bestowed upon us as humans than to shape, mold, and guide the little spirits which are gifted to us.  I can count on two hands right now the number of people who immediately come to mind who- for one circumstance or another (divorce, laziness, etc.)- have just decided they no longer want to parent their kids.  Really?  When was this sheet passed around?  I didn’t realize that children and the responsibility of parenting came with a return policy.

Is being a parent difficult?  Yes.  Is it exhausting some days?  Yes.  Is it the most challenging responsibility you will face in your lifetime?  I’d be willing to bet yes, but I can also assure you that it is the task which will most pay off in the long run if handled prayerfully and properly.  Am I implying that I’m a perfect parent?  Far from it.  I have made my share of mistakes, and will probably make more before they both cross that stage to get their diplomas; but there are two things I can go to sleep each night knowing with certainty there is no one on this planet who loved those children today anymore than I did and there is no one else on this planet who will stand up for them and protect them like I will.

I remember when my kids were little we used to go to the dreaded McDonald’s playland at least weekly.  That place was a nightmare.  It smelled like chicken nuggets and dirty socks.  I shiver to think of the bacteria festering on every square inch of that plastic hell.  This “playland” was very often just a loud, torturous, free for all for children under the age of 8.  One afternoon I sat and watched with my own eyes as a bigger kid took his foot and kicked my then about 3-year-old son in the face.  I was mortified.  My first instinct was to run to him, which I did.  My second instinct was to look around for the parent of this brute child whom I knew would be rising out of her seat to come and offer assistance and apologies.  Hardly.  After scanning the room I knew she had to be one of two women, both in their early 20’s, sitting and casually chatting with one another.  Neither woman so much as lifted an eyebrow.  I entertained for one second the idea of not saying anything.  What if they thought I was being pushy?  What if they thought I was overreacting?  Then SANITY set in.  My child is 3 years old and can’t stand up for himself.  If I don’t do this then who will?  It was a liberating thought.  It’s my job as Elijah’s mother to protect him.  I marched my not-s0-happy-yet-calm self right over to that table and stood there until these young ladies looked up.  “Your son kicked my child in the face and I just wanted to let you know because I’m sure you’re going handle this with him.”  The girl didn’t move.  There was no apology.  No disciplining of the child.  It turned into her noticeably being perturbed that I had even bothered her with this situation.  Chalk this up to the “kids will be kids” theory and just move on.  Wow.  Yes.  Kids WILL be kids especially when they aren’t being parented, guided, and instructed.  Anyone whose child has ever experienced an injustice at the hands of my children (and my having knowledge of the event) can be assured that their child will get an apology from mine and I will offer an apology as well.  How my child behaves is a direct reflection upon me.  I’m the parent.  It’s my job to ensure that my children know how to behave around others.  They are also expected to know how to behave when we are at home.  Do my children always do what they are supposed to do?  Of course not.  I don’t need to go into a complete psychology on the dynamics of a child’s mind and how it is perfectly natural for them to push boundaries, especially in times of stress or transition, to see just what exactly they can get away with doing.  My children do know, however, that for misbehavior there is consequence.  It’s not fun for me either, but I know it’s what God expects of me.  Just as I expect good behavior from my children, God expects proactive parenting from those adults to whom He has given the responsibility of rearing a child.

Today in church Pastor Greg made the statement that if God made you a parent He will provide you with the tools you need to do the job.  I think it’s easy for some of us to lose sight of that.  Myself included.  The truth of the matter is that parenting takes time.  It takes effort.  It takes prayer and consideration.  It involves mistake making and learning from those mistakes and moving on.  I don’t think there is any way for us to be the parents we were designed to be without having a direct line of communication with God.  How are we supposed to hear His instruction and plan for our lives and the lives of our children if our lines of communication with Him are full of static?  Greg said that God will give us the knowledge we need to protect them and to steer them through challenges.  He may even give us insight into future situations to be on guard for.

There are times my children may come home from school and tell me that a particular child was not nice to them.  Maybe the child called them a name or made fun of them.  I will usually begin by explaining to my kids that some people have bad manners and this is never acceptable, neither for other children to do to them nor for them to do to other people.  I then encourage my child to go to a teacher if the behavior continues again so it can be dealt with in the moment it happens.  There are times when even that doesn’t solve the problem.  If the issues continues I will then take it up with the other parent.  I think so much of how we handle situations in our lives can be influenced by whether we handle the problem negatively or positively.  A negative situation can be handled in a positive fashion.  I don’t have to find this parent at a ballgame and throw a chair at them.  I firmly believe the Jerry Springer-esque behaviors that so many adults exhibit are  childish, redneck, ridiculous, and fruitless.  If I truly want to get a message across to someone this is most effectively done in a calm, rational manner as opposed to throwing a screaming, insane, arm-flapping tangent.  I will calmly call or speak to the other parent in person.  In most cases a solution is found and that’s the end of that.  I’m sure there are some mothers out there who wouldn’t appreciate such a phone call from another parent, but let me tell you this- if MY child is the one making fun of someone or misbehaving I EXPECT to be informed.  Otherwise, how am I supposed to be dealing with this issue at home?  I’ve never been afraid to ruffle feathers when it comes to my children.  My love for my children will always supersede my pride.

When I first gave birth so many people said to me jokingly, “Too bad they don’t come with an instruction manual.”  We as parents aren’t given a manual on what we are to do perfectly do in each circumstance.  Our children likewise aren’t given a manual on how to perfectly behave in each circumstance.  We are, in essence, the “manual” for our children.  They will do their learning through us.  They will see in us how to deal with this world we live in.  That is why it is imperative that in order to give the most informative and up-to-date information and guidance to our children we must literally bury ourselves in the Word.

I can promise you this- if we don’t parent our children ourselves then our children will be parented by the world around them.  Think how scary that though is.  Society is selfish and sinful and corrupt.  As Christians we are IN this world, but we are not OF this world.  Thank goodness.  That’s our saving grace in this insane rat race.  So, mothers like myself who find yourself newly single- I urge you not to lose sight of the harsh transition your children are going through.  Their lives are literally turned upside down.  This is the time your children will probably need you present the most.  Don’t be so wrapped up in that new boyfriend or search for one that you put your kids on the back burner because you’re too busy planning your outfit for Saturday night.  Dads, I can’t even tell you the vital importance you have in your children’s foundations.  You are to be the very reflection of Christ in their lives.  Don’t bring these children into the world and then think it’s okay for you to bolt when times get too hard or when you’re transitioning on to your next family, next phase in life.  All of us, whether divorced, single or remarried, have the same responsibility to our children.  If you are man/woman enough to bring a child into this world you should be man/woman enough to do the best job of parenting that you can.

I’ve heard it joked that when our kids are young our only job as parents is to make sure that they don’t die.  As a new parent you are so careful and cautious about each breath they take, each step they make… This doesn’t stop at infancy.  We need to be just as watchful over them and mindful of them throughout their lives.  Your ultimate responsibility for your child(ren) is to see that they come to a saving knowledge of their Heavenly Father.  Their safety and their success here on earth is secondary.  You have a spiritual responsibility to your children as well as a physical one.  Parenting is a hands-on, 24-hour-a-day responsibility.  The moment you become a parent your life stops being about you.  That’s how it must be.  That’s how it should be.  Parent with conviction.  Let your children rest securely in the love that they witness you possess for them through your parenting.

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