Holding onto Innocence

Summer break has officially started! I look forward to this time of year almost as much as my children. Summer break is an open invitation for the curious exploring inventors that are confined to a strict schedule for 9 months of the year. I have a great picture of my two youngest children playing in a creek, covered in mud and smiling from ear to ear on the first day of summer break two years ago.  It is the perfect picture of innocence and youth.

While I am looking forward to this summer, I want to push pause for just a moment because I need this summer to last longer than any other summer in the history of childhood.  This is the summer before middle school for child number two, and I just want to hold onto his innocence a little longer. I confess – I would love to raise my kids in a bubble! I do my best to shelter them from quite a bit and monitor what they are exposed to the best I can.  The oldest – now going into 8th grade – even does a great job of not talking about certain issues or topics around her younger brothers.

My middle child is truly the picture perfect example of childhood innocence, and it breaks my heart to know that middle school is right around the corner. This middle child is just naïve by nature and a very black and white thinker. He believes everyone is doing the right thing and doesn’t understand that some kids enjoy doing the wrong thing. This is the kid that constantly extends the “olive branch” even when my adult brain wants him to just snap that branch off! I worry about him, because he is a follower and middle school is full of bad influences to follow.

I know I am not the perfect parent and I need a shirt that says “Bad Mom Moment Number??????” but wanting my child to remain innocent for as long as possible can’t be a bad mom moment. I hear the way some of the kids in his grade talk and I just can’t believe they know some of these words??  When our oldest got off the bus in first grade and told me that a boy said “saxy” (no spelling error, just a first grade interpretation of the word), I began limiting the number of days or times our kids could ride the bus. To school is always a less than 5-minute ride, so that has been allowed. Home from school is always a much longer ride, so I arrange car pools or my afternoon schedule to pick them up from school. I can’t limit the amount of time my children are exposed to middle school, so now I’m trying to enjoy the innocence of my middle child as much as possible while it lasts.

I think my other frustration is with some parents or lack of parenting. (Wow! This is going to be a very judgmental paragraph.) How do you let your child talk this way? Why does your 11-year-old know these words? Why does your 11-year-old think these words are acceptable? Why does your 11-year-old talk about sex like it is so matter-of-fact? When I hear an 11-year-old drop an F-bomb and carry on like it was a hiccup, I can’t help but wonder…what does your dinner conversation sound like? This is the child that I want to keep my child away from, but in a small rural district there is no where to hide.

I am the first to admit my parenting flaws, and I’ll be the first to tell you that my children aren’t perfect either. However, my children are definitely held accountable for their words and their actions. There are rules and consequences in this house…posted on the refrigerator and signed by everyone in this house. I am a strict parent, because I want my children to be independent problem solving responsible and compassionate adults.

I know middle school is a time for kids to push limits, express themselves, explore who they are and test the waters, but the words, content and knowledge that some kids his age have already have baffles me. I don’t think this is totally new for this generation. I remember older kids asking us younger kids awful questions…do you know what (blank) means, or using a slang word and asking us what it meant. I was the oldest child, but my mom did a great job of keeping us protected and innocent for as long as possible.

In our district, 5th grade has the puberty talk and later middle school has “the talk”, but I feel like as the parent I need to have my own talk. Maybe I should be the person talking to my kids about swear words and slang?? Maybe if I talk to my middle son, he won’t be so shocked by middle school language. Would that be awkward? Ugh! I can’t express enough how much I hate middle school, but I fear this experience more for my middle child than my other two. In this house, child number one knows the rules and will very rarely break a rule. Child number two may break a rule, but only because he wasn’t aware that there was a rule. Child number three knows the rules and will break them because he doesn’t believe they apply to him.

Oh summer! Could you please just stretch out a little longer than you have ever stretched before? A very apprehensive mom would greatly appreciate it!

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