02 November 2011
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?"
"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?