Constant Vigilance

(This post was originally written in August of 2013. I didn’t have a helpful conclusion, so I never published it. Recently I got the inspiration I needed to make this an uplifting, hopeful post rather than a depressing post for me.)

I am definitely an up and down person.

I go through phases of “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore” sure to be followed by another phase of “Let’s do this people!”  One week I want to quit and the next week I want to tackle the world. Sometimes I wish I were more steady, but then I always grow from the lows, and I make a difference in the highs, so I ride my own roller coaster.

Lately I have been in the “I can’t do this anymore” phase, particularly with parenting.  Maybe it is because the calendar says Day 14 or because my husband has been out of town a lot combined with working 18 hours days to keep up with his booming business or maybe it is just the end of summer.

Whatever the reason, I am weary.

I am weary of the constant vigilance it takes to be a parent.

When they are babies and toddlers, you are constantly on watch to make sure they don’t choke, fall down the stairs, run out in the street, or drown in the bath.  You have your eye on them all the time or at least you are mindful of their whereabouts at all times.  Even at nap times, you wonder if they are still breathing.

I was always relieved when my children learned to navigate stairs or stopped putting everything in their mouths. Life just felt a little safer.

As my kids have grown, that constant low-grade anxiety that I felt as a young mom has transferred to another kind of low-grade anxiety. Now I am not as worried about the physical dangers they face, but am more worried about the spiritual dangers all around and the habits they are forming?

Are they playing too many video games?  What TV shows are they watching?  What are the commercials like?  Is that friend’s house safe?

My son begs me to watch fun trick-shot sports videos on You-Tube. What will the side bar hold?  What video suggestions will pop up? What if he does a search and comes up with something inappropriate?

The pornography statistics for children are staggering.

The molesting statistics are depressing.

According to articles, statistics, stories, and research out there, kids aren’t safe with grandpas, uncles, neighbors, church leaders, or even their own brothers or sisters.

Am I doing enough to protect them but not smother them?  Have I taught them what I should? Would they talk to me if something ever happened?

The power struggles over You Tube, sleepovers, computer time, and TV are getting old.  I am weary.

(Not to mention chores, healthy food choices, homework and piano practice.)

I think God knew we would feel this way and that is why we can find scriptures that say

“Be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work.  And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” (D&C 64:33)

or

“Endure to the end” (D&C 14:7)

But, honestly, those scriptures aren’t much help in the day to day grind of protecting our children. I am still weary.

…. (fast forward a year or so)…..

I still feel the heavy weight of my responsibilities as a parent. But finally some inspiration came to me about how to handle my weariness when I pondered Linda Reeves talk: Protection from Pornography.

The part in her talk that stuck out to me most was “the greatest filter in the world, the only one that will ultimately work, is the personal INTERNAL FILTER that comes from a deep and abiding testimony of our Heavenly Father’s love and our Savior’s atoning sacrifice for each one of us.” (underline and capitalization added)

As I pondered on the idea of an “internal filter” the parenting weight was lifted from shoulders. This concept transferred the constant vigilance from me to my children  — or at least they were now expected to share some of the burden.

I realized my children were responsible for their own choices and decisions. Of course, I would continue to help, guide, teach, expect, monitor, etc, but ultimately the course of their life was up to them to determine.

I decided that my time and energy as a mother will no longer be spent on the negative or defensive parts of constant vigilance. I can’t man the watchtower 24-7. I can’t bear the burden any more.

This doesn’t mean that Crew is going to get a computer in his bedroom now, or that we remove all passwords and filters from our computers, TV, and phone. It doesn’t mean that the kids have free reign on all technological devices or that they can have sleepovers at any old friend’s house. But it does mean that I am passing the reigns over to my children. It is their life. It is their future.

Rather, the majority of MY time and energy is going to be spent on helping them develop their “internal filter”.

I will put my time and thought and effort into Family Home Evening, Family Scripture Study, Family Prayer, Family Council, and Family Dinner — all weapons in this war we fight. I will make sure our schedules are padded so we have sufficient time for family study as well as personal scripture study and personal prayer. I will lead discussions about what is appropriate and what is not and what to do when faced with damaging situations. I will teach how to have and why we want the Spirit in our home, and I will teach them WHY. I will read them good books where morals, character, and truth are taught. I will be honest and candid in all of our talks. And I will carve out time to continue to develop my own internal filter so that my children can see my actions are in alignment with my words and my beliefs.

I’ve already started the discussion with my children and “internal filter” is the buzz word at our house these last few weeks.

For example, we were listening to the radio and a song came on that I was uncomfortable with. I said, “My internal filter is letting me know that this song is inappropriate.” And I switched the station.

Elle followed suit the next day and asked if we could switch the radio station because she was uncomfortable with the current song.

Crew told me there was a guy on the family Instagram feed that used bad language so he deleted him.

Croft reported a picture that she thought was inappropriate. (It was a NFL cheerleader.)

There is even talk of deleting my brother, their uncle, because he swears too much in his posts. Not because I thought it was wrong, but because the kids “internal filter” is working.

There have been some fails, but minor ones. And those fails have been jumping off points for further “internal filter” discussions.

As my children grow older, there is no way I can keep up with every song they listen to, every Instagram picture they see, every app they could put on their phone, every text message they send, every YouTube video they watch, every book they read, or every friend they keep. It is no longer my job to proof and monitor everything before they see, read, hear or feel it. That is impossible.

It is my job to help them develop their “internal filter”. And that feels like a relief.

 

 

 

 

7 Comments
  1. I recently had a similar realization when one of my kids was making bad choices. I realized that he knows what is right and is choosing wrong. We, too, have filters and rules and guidelines and scriptures and family prayer and church and youth activities, etc, etc, etc….. It’s so easy, as the mom, to take our children’s choices personally – To feel like we’ve failed or that somehow it is our fault. But I believe that discouragement is one of the adversary’s greatest tools, for mothers especially. My overwhelming thought was that my son needs to know that my love for him has not changed. I will be there for him and teach and reinforce. But at the end of the day, the choices he makes are his. Let the consequences follow. Like you, I felt a burden was lifted at this realization.

  2. This is wonderful. My children haven’t yet made it to the planet (I’m still waiting for their dad to show up), but I’m an older sister, a friend, and a Gospel Doctrine teacher, and sometimes very similar concerns weigh on my mind, as well. I loved Sister Reeves’s talk because it addressed a difficult topic so hopefully and so differently from how we normally hear it addressed.

    On a tangent, have you heard of AdBlock Plus? It’s a free ad/popup blocker you can install on your internet browser. I’ve been using it for years now and I very, very rarely have to worry about stumbling across inappropriate images/advertisements on the web now. (So rarely, in fact, that I can’t even remember the last time I saw one.) I’m pretty sure it even works with all the major browsers, so I don’t think you even have to change to a different one, plus you can turn it off if for some reason you need to right in your browser window. Here’s the link for anyone interested: https://adblockplus.org. Trust me, it will vastly improve your online experience.

  3. Such a good post – so true 🙂 And a good reminder for us adults as well, to nourish that internal filter and realize how our actions on social media, etc, impact impressionable youth in our lives.

  4. This reminds me of a life changing quote I heard when I was an overprotective young mom.”The purpose of a mother is to make mothering unessessary.” That helped me realize that I wasn’t going to be able to follow my children around all their lives and remind them of the better choice. They need to remind themselves and be willing to take the consequences either way. They are responsible in the end. My job is to love them and teach and then let them fly. Good post.