The Tomato in the Room

Hey. Friends. Can we make a little pact with one another?

Can we agree not to be emotionally bullied by scary headlines?

I mean, really. I pulled Facebook up on my phone this morning and had full blown anxiety symptoms within 5 minutes. I cannot be the only one who experiences this. I feel like I’m being visually screamed at – as if I don’t get enough of that from my five children on any given day.

I’m not even going to address the giant tomato in the room (haha Parenthood). But can we chat for a minute about how to really keep our kids safe? Because I’m feeling like a boycott isn’t really going to get the job done.* (Some of you want to throw that giant tomato now, don’t you?)

Here’s a cute baby to distract you!!

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Awww.

I could research statistics and argue party lines and religious ideals, but I’m just going to quickly share my own experience. And hear me out, because I don’t think you’ll disagree with my conclusion…

There are real monsters in this world; horrible people who do unspeakable – unthinkable – things to other human beings. There are people whose minds have been so twisted into darkness that they no longer recognize other people as people. They see them as objects at best and pure narcissistic supply at worst.

And I am not naive to the fact that my kids may be growing up in a culture more sexually aroused than ever before – with easier access to pornography than we had even 18 years ago when I had to ask a friend to buy me a dirty magazine from a gas station so I could pull a prank on my drama friends during opening night of Brighton Beach Memoirs. We have to be vigilant to protect the hearts and minds and bodies of our children. 

But here’s the deal: As one who was sexually abused/misused/objectified and worse, I did not once have an issue with a stranger in a store, parking lot, or playground. I wasn’t lured into a van or photographed through a peep hole. These things happen – horrible, sensational, headline-making stories of tragedy. I am not minimizing these experiences or saying they do not happen. But in my experience, the vast majority of those who suffer sexual abuse/exploitation do so at the hands of someone they know.

If we really want to protect our kids, we need to be talking to them. Frankly and honestly. We need to teach them about personal boundaries and that it’s OK to say “no” – even when it’s not “polite.” We need to foster the types of relationships that assure them their voices will be heard and their feelings will be validated. No matter how small or insignificant it may seem to us at the time. We need to teach our girls about their true value in Christ and teach our boys about what it means to honor all women everywhere. We need to give them loving homes with emotional stability and good examples of loving relationships, and then we need to keep asking them questions about their friends, their friends’ families, their hopes and dreams and fears… If we really want to protect our kids, we need to LISTEN to them. And then pray to God for the wisdom to respond appropriately if something surprising or upsetting comes out of their mouths.

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Yes, there are other practical things like accompanying our kids to the bathroom or avoiding public restrooms altogether if that’s a concern (and yes, it’s inconvenient). We need to be aware of what goes on at sleepovers and late night outings or avoid them completely if we can. There are a hundred practical “seat belt” type preventative measures we can take. That’s wisdom. That’s being on guard.

But I’m telling you. Moms. Dads. Friends. Listen. Sometimes, bad things happen. Even to our children. Even despite our best efforts. We are raising our babies in a horribly broken world.

BUT GOD IS GOOD. And He’s a redeemer. And He is faithful. And He can take the most mixed up, broken, abused and battered hearts and turn them into trophies of His grace. He can do that, I promise.

So can we get back to our pact? Truthfully, on the deepest level, we have nothing to fear. Can we try not to be emotionally swept away by the headlines and continue in the quiet business of raising our kids in wisdom and authority and love? Because I promise you that not only will our kids be better off, but our world will be better off for us having raised emotionally and spiritually healthy children.

33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. 

-John 16:33

*Update:

There has been a lot more legislation since this post, and the tomato in the room has gotten bigger than I could have imagined. So let me clarify/modify this statement… I am not saying not to take actions we feel are consistent with our convictions. I am saying, let’s be super proactive in protecting our kids through our parenting in addition to any other actions we may be taking. Hopefully that makes sense. 🙂 ❤

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