Last night at dinner, Connor explained to me that there are two kinds of hot. “There is hot like fire,” he said with arms moving wildly in attempts to create flames, “and there’s hot like spicy.” Sitting beside him was his older brother, Ethan, who often likes to display the greater knowledge that two and a half years have afforded him. This was no exception as he calmly stated, “There’s actually a third kind of hot.”
I jumped on his statement like it was the last piece of chocolate in the house. “What do you mean, Ethan?” playing dumb in order to get him to expound upon his point. “Nothing,” he tried to backtrack, “I don’t know. Never mind. There isn’t a third kind. I forgot.” But it was too late. We had exchanged eye contact in a way that I knew what he was getting at and he knew I knew with all the regret that producing a dreaded “mom-talk” could muster.
I continued, “I don’t know what you mean, but I know you do, so tell me.” I believe his answer came because of my calm, encouraging tone not because of the interrogation lamp burning inches from his skin. (Just kidding, I did not actually interrogate my child with a burning lamp. If only I had thought of it then…)
“Pretty,” he answered shyly. On one hand, my fears were confirmed about his third definition of hot. On the other hand, I was thankful that he did not say anything worse, like “sexy” or “rockin’ bod” or God-forbid anything to do with twerking.
After delivering his answer, he probably felt he should be off the hook while I kept asking more questions. “Do your friends talk about hot girls at school?!” Stuff like that. Stuff that I naively thought I would be doing 10 years from now.
In some ways, it should not surprise me that my 2nd grader knows all three forms of “hot.” (Now my baby is enlightened, too. Please don’t teach all your kindergarten friends, sweet Connor! Please stay clueless a little longer!) Ethan was singing, “I’m sexy and I know it” in kindergarten. He did have to ask me immediately afterwards what “sexy” was. He lives in the world surrounded by pop culture. Yes, he is young, but he is not oblivious. He is inquisitive and perceptive. He is a normal kid. I resist the urge to shield him from the world and instead opt to walk him through it. Better I be his loudest guide than culture alone that will inevitably bombard him with messages his entire life. Messages telling him how to view and treat women will be plentiful.
We talked about pretty girls. We also talked about what to value in our female friends and how looks are obvious but the least of these. We talked about good hearts, love for God, kindness, and intelligence. We talked about how just like they will value those things in girls that they need to cultivate those things in themselves. They need to have good hearts, love for God, kindness and intelligence and be more concerned about those traits in themselves than in others. They and their female friends should not be mean or bullies or focused only on “hotness.”
Connor told me he had two girlfriends now, but upon further investigation he really meant friends who were girls. (WHEW!) I told them that they would not need to have girlfriends for a long time. When Ethan said, “like when I’m 800?” I let it lie. No need to change that number for now. Connor said that one of his friends that is a girl, NOT girlfriend, had kissed a boy before. Surely it was an innocent little peck, I hoped with all my might. My nausea went away almost as quickly as it surfaced once they enthusiastically declared that they would run away and scream like crazy if any girl ever tried to kiss them. YES! May girls have cooties for at least another decade.
Most importantly, I told Ethan that I wanted him to be able to talk to me about anything and everything. He sometimes suffers through mom-talks with groans and reluctance, but at least he continues to engage in them. Somehow my interrogation ended with laughter and openness that I pray can last a lifetime. If we are not talking about things at dinner on a regular basis (as much as I wish certain topics could remain unspoken), then my boys may simply be a product of society that inundates them at every other turn.
After reading this article on today’s youth and social media in Vanity Fair, I felt a heavy burden for my little sisters out there but also a steep responsibility in raising my sons. The article alone was depressing and shocking. The comments by some more mature, well-adapted teens left hope that my children will be the exception to the rule. However, the stories and statistics on teen culture coupled with ever-present technology were startling. Reading about them made me want to prohibit my boys from ever owning a cell phone or computer in their lifetime. I mentally banished them from opening Instagram, Facebook or Twitter accounts. They will be living in the Ice Age with the prehistoric animals they love so dearly.
But what am I modeling? I have all three social media accounts now. Mike and I are often on our phones and computers. The boys see this. They pick up on the frequency, and it is normal to them. Maybe we need to purchase this funny but true Jimmy Kimmel creation at Walgreens. I am challenged to unplug more around them and to make human connection more natural to them than cyber ones. Thankfully they are still at that precious place now. However when they did not get to use the computer for their PBS Kids videos yesterday Ethan was upset. He got over it. He will have to. The boys will hopefully learn to let people take precedence to profiles online.
As awkward or unpleasant as some of these regular talks may be, I will continue to carry them out to my dying breath. At the same time, I do hope that tonight’s dinner conversation will just be about playing soccer in P.E. or what kind of dinosaur they like best. If hotness comes up, I hope it is just about the weather or food. But if it’s not, I’ll be ready with yet another mom-talk. Bring on the birds and the bees! Just kidding, I think the hotness prequel entitles me to five more years before that happens or better yet when Ethan turns 800.