I am smack in the middle.
I’m tasked with both sheltering a boy and equipping him to protect himself. And most days, the news ignites my angst.
One recent Midlands story prompted a chat with our middle schooler. Since our conversations are always pretty straight up and blunt, it didn’t take long. I told him about the search for a woman dressed as a nurse trying to lure middle school boys to her car. “That’s about as crazy as clowns and all that,” he said.
I agreed, but I couldn’t let agreement stand on its own. I had to finish the crazy. I had to tell him why I thought that clowns and nurses asking for help were trying to entice children and adolescents. I made an assumption and went with it. Because really, even if I was wrong in these instances, this was information that my son needed to know.
“I think they might be involved in sex trafficking,” I said.
He’s eleven years old. I wasn’t sure he’d have the gumption to ask what that was so I just went ahead and told him. “That’s when people are kidnapped and used as slaves. The kidnappers make money off letting people do sexual things to the people they take. And they don’t just kidnap girls.” At this point, my young man began reassuring me with all the reasons that he himself was safe – I don’t play outside, I don’t look like a middle schooler, I don’t…
We were in car line, about eight cars back. He was leaving me soon. So I called him by name. Because I was about to say something important and quite personal. “But you are a kind soul who is always ready to help when someone has a question. Just don’t go off helping any strangers today, OK!”
And I felt great when he opened that car door and left me that morning. I had no worries about him. None whatsoever.
There’s always another story…
But another story sent me reeling. That was the story of a young high school man who was harassed and abused since middle school by someone he knew. You don’t even need to know which specific story that I’m referring to – it’s likely someone’s story that you know. Statistics support that. And I was jolted back to the reality that I must empower my son to recognize something more than simply clowns and people pretending to need help.
I sobbed while reading that news article. It was a weekend and we were all at home, so I called out to my husband. He held me and listened to my grief over what was described. He also listened to my fears. That afternoon, we took our middle school son, as previously planned, and dropped him off at the library to play chess with a high schooler. I knew this was the way relationships start. I knew any and every relationship our son makes has the potential for good or harm. There were definitely a few worries bouncing around in my head, but I knew I needed to let him go.
How could I do that? How could I move beyond my fear paralysis and let him go out into the world?
Because we talk. I mean really talk. And I commit to continuing conversations with him even when it becomes uncomfortable.
Are you right there with me? Do you need a place to share your fears? Want to talk to your friends about how they feel and what they are sharing with their children? Do you need help starting these kinds of conversations with your child? I invite you to partner with STSM and host a Kitchen Conversation. I did and I’m ready to do it again. These local professionals will come to you and guide you and your friends in a one-hour conversation on several topics geared to your child’s age, from preschooler to high schooler. And you can do it over coffee right in your own home. I didn’t even clean the house.
That’s right. “I didn’t even clean the house.” Don’t wait, mamas. This is important. Whatever your stage of mothering, you, too, are in the middle of sheltering and empowering. Let’s not fuel the angst. Let’s figure out together how to fight the fears.