Friday, March 6, 2009

So, It Finally Happened

Deciding when and how to bring the facts of life to your children's attention is always a delicate issue. If it's too delicate for you, then you can skip this entry. If not, read on.

Don't be mislead by the title of the entry. It's been a couple of years since Brahm and Oliver found out the mechanics of human reproduction. That's not what we're talking about here. Having those conversations was not as confounding as how to bring up the subject of pornography with them. It's tricky because you know they are going to see it sooner or later - there's nothing you can do about that - so the question is how to prepare them for when that happens. Just how do you do that without describing exactly what it is they are supposed to be avoiding? After consulting some parents who've been in the business longer than I have, I decided on a simple approach.

"Guys, if you ever see pictures of naked people, look away and come tell me and Dad about it."

Look, it's not airtight but it's a good place to start. Yes, we had some false-starts while perusing art history books or watching public television but overall it seems to be a pretty sound rule of thumb.

Last week when we had parent-teacher conference, the principal discreetly took Brooks aside to tell him that Brahm and a friend had come across a catalog of adult toys in the school yard. He didn't know how explicit it was or if Brahm had seen much of the contents but apparently Brahm took it to the yard duty and she relayed what had happened to the principal. He just thought we would probably want to know.

In the car on the way home Brooks opens up the dialog with, "Hey, the principal told me you did a really great thing on the playground last week by bringing that magazine to the teacher on duty."

I love this about Brooks. He's so subtle and nonchalant about a topic that could have other parents really nervous or worried. I also notice that he makes it a positive thing by praising Brahm on his actions, making that the focus of his statement. I was surprised that Brahm opened right up and told us all about it in a matter-of-fact way, like he could have been describing class lecture on war heroes or something. I find his attitude interesting and conclude that kids don't really have the overlay of taboo and social implications about the issue unless it's been given to the by their caregivers. In other words, if in the beginning Brooks and I had approached the boys with a fearful attitude about the subject and had overreacted in regards to the affects porn can have, Brahm might have interpreted the incident with more of a negative filter and perhaps it would have impacted him more in a harmful way. As it was, he didn't seem to give it much thought beyond what we talked about in the car.

Or so it seemed. There's a lot of different directions exposure to pornography can take a child. I'm well aware of all the statistics out there and being a mom of boys, this is a subject I worry about, of course. It's just that I've just decided that fear is not one of the parenting tools I want to use beyond its natural usefulness when we talk about things of this nature.

At least that's what I'd like you to think about me. The truth is I worry and fret about a long list of things in regards to my boys and I know it comes out in my communication to them. "Don't go outside the fence without telling me first!", "No, you can't go to the park by yourself.", "Are you clicked?" ,"Don't ever answer the door by yourself, OK?", etc.

Overall I'd like to think that I balance the fear with all the reasons why it's fabulous to be alive. One of the hidden treasures of parenting is that it's almost always an impetus for self-improvement: the more I feel at peace with the world, the more they will, too.