Kids Are Smarter Than We're Comfortable With

The house we lived in was small, drafty, and a bit run down but there were some things about it that made it fun. I loved when a hard rain would come and beat on the tin roof all night long. The next morning you could find me playing Huck Finn on my dad’s old surfboard in the flooded basement. One of the best parts of the house was that it only had two bedrooms which meant that all three kids shared a room. I suppose my older brother and sister would put this in the “Cons” column but as the youngest, I thought it was great.

My Brother and I slept on one side of the room in a set of bright red metallic bunk beds that creaked and squeaked with the slightest movement. My sister was on the other side of the room in a white trundle bed that, come morning would be made neatly and covered with stuffed animals. The only other furniture I can remember is a long wooden dresser that we all shared and an old laminate bookshelf full of great options! We had Golden books, Sesame Street books, Dr. Seuss books, and even some big books about cars and planes. It was a buffet of boyhood wonder and it served me well as a child. Turns out, it was also full of surprises.

One of my favorite things to do was to pull the books off the shelves and re-color the pictures inside. No one in my family really appreciated my artistic renderings of blacked out teeth on the Cat in the Hat or a set of space man antenna on Big Bird but it was honestly some of my best work.

One morning I pulled down Dad’s old yearbook with crayons in hand, ready to give face lifts to all of his old friends, and I discovered something that stopped me dead in my tracks. As I broke the seal of this archaic history book, a single magazine page fell out of the middle and into my lap. My little eyes, wide as saucers, were gazing upon a naked woman. There she was, baring all, unencumbered by a single thread and I was frozen. I can’t recall exactly what I felt in that moment but I imagine that it was somewhere in realm of fear, confusion, and dangerous excitement. Whatever I felt was short lived though because when you share a room with two people who liked to get you in trouble, privacy is hard to come by.

I don’t know exactly how much time passed because I was stuck in some twilight zone but before long my brother discovered me and bolted to tell Mom. I’m not sure I even reacted to being caught with this forbidden fruit. I just sat there, eyes locked on the wonderment before me. My mom rushed in at the beckoning of my older brother who likely thought he had found a way to get the bunk bed to himself.

My mom snatched the picture from my hand and made it very apparent that she was unhappy with the presence of this “other woman” in our house. I remember seeing her talk to Dad when he got home from work about what I had found. I remember my siblings giggling together. I remember all the books being taken off the shelf and thumbed through.

You know what I don’t remember? I don’t remember anyone sitting down with me and helping me understand what had just happened. I don’t remember anyone explaining what this was and why it was such a big deal. I was still at the age where my parents were spelling things in front of me, so I suppose they thought I was unaware of what just happened, but I assure you...i was well aware. You know, just because we can’t color in the lines yet doesn’t mean we’re clueless. Kids aren’t idiots. They know when somethings up.

I don’t have kids yet, so I’m sure I’m overstepping that “Don’t Tell Me How to Parent” line but maybe you can hear it from a kid a little easier. I surely will miss opportunities to create context and bring understanding to my kids, but I hope, when it matters most I will make the right call. I hope that instead of pretending nothing happened and leaving them to figure it out on their own, I will find the courage to guide them.

But hey, I turned out okay right!? I mean I have my own blog!  ;-)