“Mom, I know what the real F-word is.”
As I glanced in the rearview mirror at my first-grader, my heart sank.
“Do you want me to tell you?” he innocently asked.
“Let’s wait until it’s just you and me, buddy.”
I didn’t really want his four-year-old brother to also learn a new word that day.
When a moment alone finally came, an f-bomb floated out of my child’s mouth, clear as a bell. Turns out, he learned the “real f-word” from his seatmate on the school bus, who happened to be a kindergartner.
A few weeks later, he came home having learned the word sex from a fellow first-grader.
A week or two after that, I found myself answering questions about the middle finger.
Are there worse things my son could have been exposed to at the ripe old age of 7? Absolutely.
But these experiences brought sharply into focus a painful truth in parenting — we have so very little control.
Do you remember preparing for your first child?
You may have watched other parents trying to corral their children at the grocery store and muttered under your breath, “My kid will NEVER act that way!”
You may have read sleep books, and breastfeeding books, and discipline books and thought to yourself “As long as I follow all these expert tips, surely things will go smoothly.”
Perhaps you blissfully dreamed about hours spent rocking with your newborn while he peacefully slept in your arms.
Well, maybe you didn’t do any of those things, but I definitely did all of them. I thought I had it all figured out.
Then my precious little bundle arrived, and I realized my best-laid plans had zero chance of survival. It turned out, my kid didn’t care that I had read all the books, or that I had imagined our days together would be spent a certain way. The control I was so desperate for seemed out of reach.
I slowly learned to roll with the punches. I let go of impossible expectations. I gave sympathetic nods to other parents instead of judgmental stares.
Eventually, the time came to send my child out into the world without me. I took baby steps—first to day-care a couple of days a week and then when he was old enough, to pre-school. While these changes were nerve-wracking and hard for my mama heart, it never felt truly scary. I trusted that he would be well taken care of, and he was.
But friends, elementary school has been a whole new ballgame. I find myself continuously fighting against the unease that settles into my heart when I think about how little control I have.
I can’t control what he hears and sees on the bus.
I can’t control how he is treated on the playground or how he chooses to treat other kids.
I can’t control whether he chooses to play attention in class or chooses to stare out the window.
I can’t control whether he is being kind and respectful to his teacher and other adults.
There are so many things out of my control, and that doesn’t sit well with me. But I also know this is just part of the process of him growing up.
I can’t protect him from all of the things.
I can’t protect my own heart from all of the things.
So I’m trying to really hard to change the narrative in my mind.
I’m trying to let go of the fear over what may happen and instead remind myself that no matter what happens, I am strong enough to handle it. And so is he.