I glanced through the front storm door to check on my three-year-old son as he played on our driveway with a six-year-old neighbor boy.
I did a double take. I was captivated and a little bit shocked. I found myself standing next to the door, watching intently and willing my ears to pick up on their conversation through the thin glass.
Was that really a topless woman in my driveway? And was our neighbor boy really teaching my young son what all of her, ahem, parts were called? (And we’re not talking about the most respectful, scientifically accurate terms here.)
I couldn’t believe it, but there she was, outlined in yellow and blue chalk–a well-endowed topless woman looking my confused three-year-old in the face.
Once I surmised the situation, I quickly stepped outside.
Upon hearing the door open and my step onto the front porch, the neighbor boy quickly drew a tic-tac-toe board across our friendly chalk lady’s chest. This cover up being a little revealing, he started coloring over her, but didn’t quite succeed in concealing the evidence before my shadow loomed over him.
Amidst blaming some other neighbor boys for teaching him the colorful words he had used and claiming that he didn’t really know what any of it meant, that little neighbor boy and I had a nice discussion about why we don’t draw pictures like that, how we need to be respectful of other people’s bodies, and why we keep our bodies covered–even the bodies of chalk ladies.
I’m pretty sure my three-year-old is still confused by the whole experience, but I don’t expect that particular neighbor boy will be drawing any more racy pictures on our driveway anytime soon.
My children’s friends are in and around our home a lot. And, yes, I often find myself looking through windows, listening from the top of the basement stairs, and strategically putting laundry away as they play in their bedrooms.
Thank goodness I do all of these things, or I might never have seen topless chalk lady getting friendly with my three-year-old!
But is this okay? When does checking up on my children cross the line to an invasion of privacy? Does a three-year-old even get privacy? What about a ten-year-old? A sixteen-year-old? Is it ever okay to “spy” on our children?
“Parents’ respect and affection are expressed by the care and attention they devote to bringing up their young children and providing for their physical and spiritual needs. As the children grow up, the same respect and devotion lead parents to educate them in the right use of their reason and freedom.” Catechism of the Catholic Church 2228
“Reason and freedom.” We are called to help our children use those privileges wisely. But first we must know how they are using them. We must be able to trust that they are developing skills to point those privileges in the direction of God’s will before we can step back and hand them the reins in that department.
Do we not often check on our young children when they are playing in another room of the house or outside, just to make sure they are not unintentionally putting themselves in danger of physical harm? So, too, must we witness their interactions with their friends, their conversations, and their activities, so that we can more effectively guide their souls away from the clutches of the devil.
I’ve come to the conclusion that this awareness does not come from spying in the sneaking around, observing them without knowing sense. Rather, I simply want my children to know that I am around. That I will, indeed, be involved in their lives. That when they get home from school, or bring a friend over, Mom and/or Dad will be there–ready to hear about their day and meet their new friend. That we will be attending their school events, their sporting events, and their music concerts. That we will be talking to other parents about their social activities. And when they show us they can use their reason and freedom responsibly, we will give them the space they need to do so.
“When they become adults, children have the right and duty to choose their profession and state of life. They should assume their new responsibilities within a trusting relationship with their parents, willingly asking and receiving their advice and counsel.” CCC 2230
My goal is to be my children’s parent–not their friend. To be their advisor–not their confidante. To be someone who is truly looking out for their best interests–not just someone who will tell them what they want to hear.
So, my dear children, I will be milling about the house while you socialize with your friends. From time to time, I will be looking over your shoulder as you surf the web, and I will expect to meet and get to know any potential suitors.
I will only give you the amount of responsibility and freedom I feel you can handle, so as not to lead you into temptation. Allow me to help you form your conscience during these tender years, and I will give you the freedom to make your own choices when the time is right. Because the freedom to make choices while ensnared by iniquity or ignorance isn’t really freedom at all.
I hope that any time your conscience pricks you, or you find yourself in a situation that just doesn’t “feel right”, you will remember that mom who took on the topless chalk lady for you and trust that I will have advice to soothe your soul and calm your fears; that I will be the one who can help you find your way back to where you belong–under the watchful guidance and protection of the hand of God.
Copyright 2014, Charisse Tierney