Sometimes I worry that I am a little too forthcoming as a parent. I swear in front of my children, I let them listen to all kinds of music, and am fairly lenient with what they watch, at least to an extent. My daughter often comments on how she realizes how little I sheltered her and her brother as children. She doesn’t say this unkindly, just matter of factly, and she’s comfortable with it and I think even appreciates it to an extent. She’s 20 now and has come in contact with enough other people to know that it is not the same in every home. Between my basically blunt personality and my profession as a Child Protection Worker when she was young, there wasn’t always a lot left to the imagination…

However, like most mothers I then question if I let them see, hear, and know too much.

My question was answered last night with the following exchange:

Rhett, my 9 year old, came bursting into the house with his friend from across the street. They were both rosy cheeked from the cool evening and breathless because of what they had just witnessed, and to listen to them tell it, survived.

Rhett: “Mom, there was a 14 year old SMOKING at the park!”

Me: “Oh, was there?”

Rhett: “Yes. She was 14! She looked 14!”

His friend confirmed this and added that it was okay though because he has his phone with him. In case you are having trouble following along, they were prepared to “call the cops” should the need arise. You never know what a smoking 14 year old will do after all! It took every ounce of maturity and restraint within my being not to laugh at these two very earnest and very concerned boys. I by no means condone teenager smoking but at the same time I have lived enough years and smoked enough cigarettes of my own as a (stupid) teenager to know that there were perhaps overreacting just a little.

I also felt vindicated! My Eminem rapping, sometimes sarcastic, and all too knowing (at times) 9 year old truly believes he witnessed something very very bad. He did, in a sense, of course, but the fact that he was so bothered by same let me know that there is still some very real innocence left in that little boy’s body and that makes my heart happy!

I was further rewarded when I got to hear him re-tell the tale to his brother, who is 13. His brother was extremely unmoved by this news leaving Rhett to repeat: “She was 14! Fourteen!” Finally his big brother, with a note of disdain replied with: “It’s (city where we live).” Just like that. Like that alone explains this young girl’s decision to fill her lungs with all matter of bad things and he said it with a weariness that belies his years. Living here will drive in the best of children to seek the refuge of nicotine, or so he seems to think.

So while we may need to explore our teenager’s feelings of resignation towards his home town, I am feeling reassured that while I may not be Mrs. Cleaver, I am also not Peg Bundy incarnate. I shall carry on with my ways and rest easy, for the time being at least, that my youngest child will not take up smoking anytime soon!


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