I was surprised this week by how quickly the influence I have in my child’s life is challenged by outside forces. My wife and I have worked pretty hard to shelter our boys from things that we believe are inappropriate for their age. We do our best to limit them to G rate movies, they typically watch only pre-viewed dvds or Netflix shows, and we quickly turn the channel if an “inappropriate commercial” appears on TV. I have even gone so far as to tear the “batwoman” pages out of a coloring book because of its voluptuous nature.
Like most parents we noticed right from the first day of kindergarten that our bubble of protection had been shattered. Our son came home talking of video games, and super heroes that we had never exposed him to. All of a sudden he knows who Darth Vader is and is telling me the plot line to the Star Wars movies. He starts to do things like “made you look” and “eenie meenie miny moe.” He tells me that Benji Molina is his favorite Cardinals player. All of these previously unknown tidbits were a bit of a shock to our naïve belief that we could filter all possible influences. These tidbits were perfectly tame however, in comparison to what he came home talking about this week.
My wife received a call from a classmate’s mother describing what her son had heard at school. Apparently another boy had said something about “sexy kissing” and told my son and his friend that this occurs when you take all your clothes off and touch your “P-Ps” together. Mom calls teacher, teacher tells principal, boys are called to the office, the culprit apologizes, and my son receives his first lesson about the birds and the bees. Ugh! We felt sick. I know many would consider this incident minor; but again our belief system had been shaken. The beliefs that we could protect our son, that school is a safe place, that the kids in his class are OK, and that we can wait to give “the talk” for several more years are false.
As the dust settled, I was processing through this incident with a fellow therapist, father to four boys, and Christian leader. He was telling me about how he spoke to his boys regarding sex and at what ages he had “the talk” with them. He told me how he had not yet talked with his 7 year old. He stated that he had probably waited too long and has been meaning to sit down with him. What? My son is 6; are you telling me that I need to have “the talk” with him now? As I continue to think through this incident I am more convinced that the sooner I talk with my son the better. I have realized that the negative influences that I am protecting against will fill any vacuum that I have left open. If I, as a Christian father, am silent regarding this very important topic, the not so silent fathers and older brothers of my sons classmates, will influence him with out my knowing. I am convinced, that no matter what the topic, I must make my influence and voice more powerful than the voices of the world. At this point in his young life he listens to me and believes that I know everything. In a few short years I will know nothing and have less ability to present a powerful voice of influence.
So, I am struck by the importance of teaching the lessons of values, morals, and decision making today rather than tomorrow. I am convicted that if I desire to raise men of character then I must start today. I must read the bible with them, I must pray with them, I must have the hard conversations, I must teach them to make choices, I must teach them to stand up to wrongs and champion rights. I am convicted that I must be a man of character myself and allow my life to speak powerfully into the hearts of my boys. Oh what a challenging task!!