Our five year old has a real passion for reading. Since I can remember she’s loved being read to. In the last few months she has spent countless hours learning to read. She sounds everything out and will often wow us with her, “Mom and Dad, that says ________.” What? You can just read? We are always a little shocked.
We can’t shelter our kids from the world, no matter how hard we try.
I’ve been reading Charlotte’s Web to my girls and one day, as I started reading, she was quick to let me know that she already knew what would happen. She had read it during her nap. This idea brought with it an enormous dose of reality when I realized what her ability to read meant. We were driving down the road and it hit me. She could read the “I heart BOOBIES” bumper sticker in front of us! I turned to Kyle and said, “Wow, once your kids learn to read, no matter how much you try, you cannot shelter them!” This immediately jump started my mind racing in a million different directions. It will only be a matter of time before she starts seeing and reading things, often inappropriate things, and asking questions. It will only be a matter of time before she starts school and comes home with all kinds of weird ideas, phrases other kids have said, and behaviors she has picked up. And what will our response as parents be?
These questions plagued my mind. I’ve mulled over them. I’ve feared the world. I’ve struggled with the desire as her mom to keep her mind protected and innocent. But the Lord has been faithful in giving me wisdom and direction. We can’t shelter our kids from the world, no matter how hard we try. I could take every precaution possible, and still they would be exposed to unfavorable things merely because we live in a sinful, fallen place and the car in front of us has the evidence written on its bumper. But we can build their foundation in Christ at home, so when they face the world, they turn and walk with Jesus instead.
They will get an answer somewhere; I’d rather it come from our mouths than someone at school…
We have an “ask anything” policy at our house. We frequently tell the girls they can ask us about anything. Even if they think it is “bad,” they can still ask and we will tell them. We have started this at such a young age because we want our kids to feel safe talking to us about whatever arises so as they get older and the questions get more intense, embarrassing, or unpredictable, they hopefully won’t hesitate to come to us first, knowing we will give them a truthful answer with a resolution that points them to Jesus. This started when our oldest was a couple years old and asked how babies get out of a mom’s belly. Instead of making up a cute story filled with a bunch of fluff, I told her the truth. I didn’t go into much detail, but I told her what she needed to know as an inquisitive two and a half year old. I believe the answers to these questions lay the framework for how we will address our kids’ bigger, more complicated questions. They will get an answer somewhere; I’d rather it come from our mouths than someone at school who’s learned it from the kid next to him and that kid learned it from watching Entertainment Tonight.
I WANT MY KIDS TO COME HOME AND ASK ME HARD QUESTIONS SO I CAN POINT THEM TO THE TRUTH. DOES IT MAKE ME NERVOUS? ABSOLUTELY!
As the Lord would have it, in my time of reflection on this idea of the impossibility of sheltering my kids, our pastor spoke a convicting message about loving the people in the city where we live. He referenced Jeremiah 29:4-7:
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Babylon was an extremely corrupt place to live, yet God commands the people to live there, take root there, have children there and “seek the welfare of the city,” for it is there that they would find their welfare. I believe this is still true today. I want my kids to be in the world, to sit next to the kids in school who have different thoughts and opinions, different values and morals, different religions and beliefs, and choose to love those kids with a fervor that can only come from Jesus. I want my kids to come home and ask me hard questions so I can point them to the truth. Does it make me nervous? Absolutely! I want to protect my babies. But I believe teaching them truth through experiences that arise each day will better protect them because it will teach them of God’s goodness, his grace, his love and compassion for people and will give them a foundation that can’t be shaken. If I shelter them their whole lives, coddle them, and keep them from experiencing the world, one day, when they move out on their own, go to college, and are not next to Mommy and Daddy anymore, they may not know how to handle the lies they are told. They may fall prey to the attraction of the very things I kept them from talking about their whole life and they may not be prepared to stand up for what they believe in because they may not know.
WE SEND HER INTO THE WORLD KNOWING THE LORD IS WITH HER, PROTECTING HER, AND WE ARE EXCITED.
In a couple of weeks we are sending our first off to kindergarten. I don’t know what bad words she’ll hear, what ugly behaviors she will come home imitating, or what questions she will bring to us, but we send her prayerfully, asking God to guard her heart and her mind, and we’ll continue to help her build her foundation in Jesus. We send her into the world knowing the Lord is with her, protecting her, and we are excited. We are excited to watch the faith we have been instilling in her the last five years begin to flourish through her small five year old self. We are excited to teach her how to love and obey Jesus in a place outside of her home. We are excited to watch as she reflects Jesus in her school, as she struggles through right and wrong, and as she begins to learn what it means to be “in the world and not of it.”
GUEST AUTHOR | Lindsey Stillman
Lindsey is an amazing wife and mother of three. She spends her days investing in and raising her kids, strengthening her friendships, and pursuing her husband (mostly by way of bacon). You can find her spending her free time sewing, making candles, playing Candy Crush, or running. She loves ice cream, ginger beer, and Jesus.