02 November 2011

Mister In BeTween

My heart felt full as I looked down at the sleeping baby in my arms.
This little boy held the promise of the future, and we were going to be awesome parents.

I had a plan. Surround him with great friends from a young age. Family friends with shared values. Friends who would grow up together, rich in memories.
Then when puberty hit, hard times, rejection, bullies... he would have a hedge of protection around him, a buffer zone of security in a community of trusted and like-minded people who loved him, no matter what was happening out in the big wide world.

It was a great plan.
I still believe in it.
But the problem is that nothing ever stays the same. Change is the only constant.
The friends I imagined would always be there to share our lives and provide safe positive friendships for my son are now elsewhere in the world.
And for all our great intentions, we are heading into the Tween years on unsteady ground.

My boy had a rough start to the year. He was doubting himself and struggling in many ways.
Some reliable friendships at school had been challenged by newcomers.
Meanwhile at church things were changing too. Older boys he had been close to were moving on to the next stage. He was left behind. Too young to move on but feeling too old to stay behind, with eight and nine year old boys thin on the ground.
Dash found himself too often on the outside, in between.

As parents our hearts have broken for him at times, wishing that we could have protected him from the world for a little longer. Praying for wisdom to know how to help, what to do.

This is what it comes down to. They grow up, the world sneaks in, stealing their innocence too soon.
I had a plan. Another one. It was an awesome plan.
We were going to do what PaisleyJade's family does, get Daddy to take the boy for a father-son bonding weekend of fun and adventure. Use the excellent Parents Inc CD, "The Big Weekend". Introduce the facts of life in a way that teaches him to respect himself and others.

But into the mix has come the challenge of Playground Whispers.
We can't be with our kids every minute of the day, they have to make their way in the world.
As our influence wanes, the influence of schoolmates increases.
They hear things. They learn things too soon, half-truths and silliness.
All I can say is thank goodness for little sisters with big blabbermouths.
And in-built mummy-radar that picks up the sound of a dodgey giggle, the tail-end of a sly conversation.

"What was that? What are you talking about there?"
Mumble Mumble.
"Sexing? Where did you get that word from? Who has been talking about sexing?"
Slowly and painfully you drag the truth out of him.
A classmate with teenage siblings who likes to share what he knows.
"Oh and what exactly does that word mean?"
Horrified, you are still curious to know how far the damage goes.
"Sexing is when you fit your privates together." That's a direct quote.
Oh dear. He has just learnt the facts of life from an immature eight-year-old.

Apparently, this eight-year-old also bragged to his pals that he "does it with his girlfriend."
If it wasn't so annoying, it would be hilarious.
As if an eight-year-old is physically capable of such a thing!
And Sexing? Ha! Doesn't Mr Knows-it-all realise it's not even a word?

We still plan to do the Big Weekend, but some damage control was needed right away.
A stern conversation: "Sexing" is not a silly game for kids to giggle about, dammit! Its something precious and private, for people who are mature enough to know their own value, and the value of others.

This is why we need that community, that village surrounding our children with people who share our values, so that if other kids are off experimenting with drugs and sex, our kids have a better alternative on offer. A place where they can have fun and be accepted for themselves, without participating in risky behaviour.

So here we are with Mister In BeTween.
Praying for wisdom. Swallowing down our nauseous fear and doubts about whether we have done enough as parents.
Scoping out every visitor to church in the hopes they might have boys of a similar age that we could build almost-lifelong friendships with.
Trying not to waste time wishing our friends hadn't moved to Wanganui, Sydney, Manukau.
Or that PaisleyJade lived closer.

Figuring out a way to get the Very Excellent Plan back on track.

Creating community as a buffer zone of security with trusted friends who will love our boy no matter what is happening out in the Big Wide World.

Do you have Tweens? What has been your experience so far? And at what point have you explained the facts of life in detail?

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Miriam said...

Oh man this must be so tough for you. I hope that the Big Weekend gets sorted soon and that you are divinely provided with some new families that have similar values and similar aged children. I guess it might help to think that this 'bad' experience was caught early and hadn't gone any further than a silly conversation. Lots of love x

Cat said...

*gulp* that 8 year olds should even know about things at this age - NO NO NO - my pure innocent darling is 6 - it looks like I'll be calling on you for wisdom in 2 years time -

PaisleyJade said...

Oh I feel your pain! Some of our kids have wonderful friends that I am sure will see them through, and then some don't really. I feel like you - looking eagerly for a good friend for them. Maybe I should move to Auckland!! ;)

You guys are wonderful parents, and no matter what life throws our way, we can only do the best we know how, and pray!

p.s. still giggle when I hear 'sexing'.

A Life Less Complicated said...

We visited my brother a few weeks ago. He has a 7 year old stepson who Elijah absolutely loves but a few days after we came home Elijah came downstairs with a very puzzled face "Mum, xxxx said to me 'do you want to have sex in the fanny?' " He obviously knew what xxxx had said wasn't right and he has no idea what either sex or fanny is but the next time we visit there will be an adult present while the two are together. My poor boys ears! I must have been so sheltered as a child

Sarah Lee said...

Such a brilliantly written post. My 8 year old heard that exact word and its meaning at 7! Wishing you all the very best for the future. You are a strong, caring, thoughtful family. Your son is so fortunate to have you guiding him.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness this post spoke to me. My oldest just turned 7 - we're still in the safe zone...for now. You have expressed one of my deepest fears so well. Will we have done a good enough job with our boys to protect them from the ugliness that is waiting right around the corner? My prayer is that when I can't be with them and protect them any more HE will. HE loves them as much as I do. HE will guide their hearts. HE will give us the tools to make it through those tough years.

Barbs said...

My daughter came home from school with a story about sex and thought the child had been making it up. I had to explain that it actually was true (honesty is the best policy and all that) but it isn't something you do until you are a grown up, in love, married etc. She was 8 years old at the time.

Johnny said...

Yeah I caught my 8yr old at the time talking about sexing with her cousin but she thought it meant kissing. I figured I had to set her straight before someone else did. Good thing was when I did she was SO embarressed/horrified at the truth she didn't want to talk about it anymore!

Cat said...

Trust is that which is bigger than us all Simoney
"HE" will not let you down.
Community is important not only for our children but for us...so that you know you are not alone, that you know even though he heard something form a immature 8 year old, innocence is not lost and your place not taken.
Hope the weekend with Dad comes sooner than later...

love and light

Jess said...

No Tweens yet but I know this is something that has played on my mind a lot. I think about how much the world has changed and how much more our children are exposed to. I wish there was some way to wrap them up and hide them from it all. But there isn't. In fact that would be wrong as too much hiding can cause more problems. I must trust in the fact that God has chosen us and our children to live here, in this state of earth. Which also means He is well able to resource us through it. It doesn't mean it isn't darn scary though!

Unknown said...

Be careful with your assumption that 8 year olds can't have sex. They can, and do.

Simoney said...

Ms Kate, please tell me! Boys? 8 yr old BOYS? I can't email you, as I don't have your address so can you please email me?
You have just rocked the foundations of my (naive) world...

Anonymous said...

I'm inclined to agree with Ms Kate - it is true....we also live in an age where 6 year old girls are getting body image issues & 1 in 4 NZ girls have an STD/I by the time they are 12 (read that in the Grant's Parent mag).......crazy!

We only have a 6 year girl so have no advice to offer for a 9 year old boy, but something I have tried to do is to start the birds & bees talk now...age appropriate of course. I saw a thing on Oprah - lady by the name of Lauren someone and have read other things (some Christian, some not) about making sure as parents we are the ones providing the information so that our kids can just debunk the myths.

Hmmmm it's tricky as we are facing an uphill battle in terms of teaching sexual morality in a world that is increasingly promiscuous.

Totally agree re establishing a community. But it is hard. Sex is not something many people feel comfortable talking about.

But you will be fine. You are so clearly an amazing mum and your boy sounds like he is well on is way to growing up and being a man you will all be proud of. :)

dearfutureme... said...

Sexing, yikes! Sounds like you have all the right ideas and that community umbrella is the right place to be. :-)

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