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  • Writer's pictureSherri McCarthy

Let Them Be Little

I was talking with a friend recently about my outlook pertaining to summer schedules (and our lack thereof). I was expressing my belief that their brains need time to get bored and inventive. I also don’t try to over-educate them out of fear—to be the first to tell them about world events or harsh realities before they hear it from someone else. I believe as long as I have created an environment where questions are welcomed and there are no off-limits topics, they’ll be fine.

That is not to say I leave everything up to everyone else to teach my kids. Of course not. But I don’t believe every moment must be scheduled and there is a set time/age when a conversation about specific things should take place. Every child and every family is different. I would never presume to know what is right for your kids. However, for me and our boys, I want them to have the gift of boredom.

My boys get incredibly creative when we have removed the electronic devices and haven’t scheduled every minute of their daily time. In fact, as I type this on a Saturday morning, they are having a meeting of some imaginary group of heroes with superpowers. There is a theme song, an agenda, and specific stuffed animals have key positions in the club/group. I cannot provide more details because there are no adults allowed and what I know is only from eavesdropping. Suffice it to say, it is quite creative and from the laughter I can hear, fun. They are acting like…kids.

My friend commented on a quote she once heard, “Let them be little” and it struck a chord in my soul. YES! That is IT! Exactly where I feel I’m headed. There is SO much harsh reality in the world that I tend to want to make our home a soft place to land. A place where they can rest, recover, find peace, experience acceptance, discover truth, learn, get questions answered frankly, and grow at their own pace. Is it a little Pollyanna of me to want this? Yep. Probably so. But I don’t care. Our home is what we make it and I CHOOSE to have it be a refuge for their souls.

I am unquestionably protective of my boys. Maybe even overprotective. And I could be totally wrong about this whole raising kids thing, but I’m willing to risk it. I’d rather be wrong on this end than on the other side, teaching them about things that are simply too heavy for their souls to carry. They know this. There are times when my answer to a question is “you are too young to know that right now.” They accept that answer…for now. It is my choice as a mother to teach them what I feel they’re ready for and mitigate the damage when they learn something I feel is too advanced for them.

The challenge for me is that the story I’m writing about being raised in a dysfunctional, alcoholic home is full of things they are too young to know. The harsh realities of my childhood are my truth—they are part of me and as much as it would be great to rewrite my own history, that would be dishonest, and I refuse to live my life dishonestly. So, I offer little bits of information spread out over time.

We have talked about addiction, about how it is unplanned and can take you by surprise. We have discussed the best choice is to decide what you want long before encountering drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol. Do you want to smoke when you grow up? If the answer is no, then stand by your decision and understand you have no need of ever even trying a cigarette since it’s not part of your future. The same holds true for the other things. Decide and stick with your plan. If you fall, mom and dad are here to help pick you back up. It’s a part of a much longer conversation I plan to carry on with them through their lives.

One day, my boys will read my story and understand the way we raised them is vastly different than anything I ever knew growing up. And I’m sure there are things we’re missing teaching them. But if I give them nothing else, I want to be able to say I gave them the gift of being little while they were little. The layered shield of protection is being peeled back one at a time, and I know I cannot always be the buffer between ugly world events, or news stories that hammer your soul. But for now, with the one small bit of power I have, I can Let Them be Little. And that is exactly what I’m trying to do.

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