This summer we had one of those life altering challenges with one of our children. One that caught us a little more than off-guard and brought us to our knees. It was one of those experiences you never want to have as a parent, yet I am grateful for all that our family learned in going through it and I am grateful for the graces of God that got us through. I've felt for a while that I needed to share the experiences here. So here goes:
A neighbor child showed our son porn. Our son who is 8. I'm not talking a photo of someone in a bathing suit. Full on porn. I felt like someone threw my newborn baby into a fast moving river without a life jacket.
Kamden did the right thing- he came home and told us right away. He was VERY upset. We talked about it. We prayed together. We sought out wholesome activities to get his mind off of it. We went and talked to the neighbor child's grandparents. We gave our son some ideas of things to do if it crept back into his thoughts.
The neighbor child is 7. He's a good kid. I'm not sure how he came to believe that this behavior was appropriate, but nobody ever would have guessed that he'd be showing such things to my child. His grandparents were apologetic, but casual about the entire thing. They were sure the kids had just seen an icon with a swimsuit model or something on it. They acknowledged that the boys were "too young" for porn and promised to keep an eye on things in the future. I don't think anyone is ever old enough to ruin their life.
A few days later we discovered that Kamden's original offense to what was shown to him had turned into curiosity. It was one of those moments when it's just too quiet and you know without anyone but the Spirit saying that something is wrong somewhere. Then you listen a little harder and you even know WHAT is wrong and right where the trouble is. We discovered our son, in his bedroom with his ipad. He had been googling the word "strip," a word he NEVER would have been typing into google without a few pointers from the neighbor child. Let me tell you, pornography is NOT hard to find, especially if you go looking for it. He had found it. He knew that what he was doing was wrong, but he'd been curious enough to do it anyway. That just goes to tell you how addictive and powerful pornography can be.
I went upstairs to get Dave. I needed him to share this one with me. I felt like my son's life was at stake if we did not get to the bottom of this problem and prevent it from happening again and again. We prayed for help and guidance from the Lord on how to handle this one. Then we took a deep breath and went to Kamden's room to talk it out.
We had conversations with Kamden about the promises he had made at his baptism. We talked about the Holy Ghost and making good choices. One of the things that Kamden said next will stick with me for the rest of my lifetime. He said, "Mom, the Holy Ghost whispers, and Satan is REALLY LOUD!" Boy, he's right.
I felt the Spirit lead us into the next part of the conversation. We'd just started babysitting a baby. I asked Kamden to tell me what some of the things we could do for the baby if he is upset. We made a list of them: feed him a bottle, change his diaper, burp him, put him down for a nap. I asked Kamden what we should do if we had done all of those things and the baby is still crying or still upset. The answer was simple: do them all again! Then we made a list of things that our Father in Heaven has asked us to do. On the list went all the Sunday School answers: read our scriptures, say our prayers, go to church, have family home evening, pay our tithing. Then we made a list of things we should NOT do. Haaah! The first thing Kamden said to put on the don't do list was "look at porn"- giggling. Also on the list were things like tell lies, cheat, steal, be unkind, and (this one made me laugh!) eat in the living room! (Cute boy!)
Now here's the lesson: When you are doing the things that you are SUPPOSED to be doing, it is infinitely easier to avoid the things you are NOT SUPPOSED to be doing. Not only that, but when you are doing the things you are supposed to be doing, it is MUCH EASIER to hear the whispers of the Holy Ghost well above any enticing of Satan. It is the truth. Now back to the part about caring for the baby- our personal worship habits help us care for ourselves the way we care for a baby. When we are done praying and reading our scriptures, especially if we are having a hard time with something, we just do it all again!
We talked more about baptismal covenants and repentance. We helped our son set some goals. We talked about the Sacrament and it's importance. We took away some privileges, including the use of his I-pad. We discussed some of the consequences that could come from what he was doing. We reminded our son that we love him very much and that we want for him to have a good and righteous and happy life. Then we brought him upstairs to be with the rest of the family and to find ways to occupy his mind so that the disgusting images he'd been looking at earlier wouldn't continue to be something he thought about.
We went back to visit with our neighbors. We knew that this time, it had been our own child's bad judgement, but we wanted to let them know what specifically had gone on because we knew our son had learned this from their grandson. This could help them keep him safer, too. They were again apologetic and we all set out to make our homes safer places. We went home and made every electronic device in our home a fortress against anything that is not right and true! Or so we thought...
Throughout the week we went out of our way to talk with Kamden about the problem and see how he was doing with his repentance process. At first we tried to keep it between him, us, and the Lord, but as time went on we discovered that he wanted to talk about it. At family home evening we hit the topic hard. Kamden shared that he wished someone else was having the same problem so that he could help them stop.
Our boy has always had a fascination with fire. Every time they have some kind of a fire safety bit at school, he comes home and talks about one part that really bothers him. It's the part where they tell the kids not to try to save other family members, but just to get themselves out. Kamden always talks about how he loves his baby brother Paxton soooo much and that he would rescue him from a fire even if it meant that he himself didn't make it out. I've never really discouraged that line of thinking. I guess I figured the chances of our house burning down were not huge and that it was sweet to hear him talk of his love for his baby brother. But with this talk about wanting someone else to have the same problem, I brought up a different point.
Wouldn't it be better to prevent a fire on our home to begin with??? That's why we don't play with matches and we make good decisions that help to keep our home safe. I explained to Kamden that it would be better if he could help PREVENT others from having problems with pornography. If they never started, they wouldn't need help to stop. This DEFINITELY made sense to him. We went and posted some links to church videos about avoiding pornography on Facebook. Kamden was so proud of himself.
Saturday afternoon Boston and Kenzington and I all went to run some errands. Dave and the boys were at home. Dave was in our room catching up on some grades or something and Holden and Kamden were watching a show in the family room. Kamden logged onto our dinosaur desktop computer and found access to pornography again. Holden saw what he was doing and told Dave. Dave put an end to it. I found out as I returned home later.
Wow. Just nominate me for mother-of-the-year right now! What a crappy parent I am! I hadn't even THOUGHT about the crappy computer sitting there! After all, it was out in the open where everyone could see it and the thing BARELY RAN! Seriously, it takes an HOUR just to boot it up! But none of that mattered. Our boy had done so well for 6 days and now he was starting the repentance process over. My boy's life was flashing before my eyes. I felt so helpless as a parent! And I was angry. I was angry because I felt like so much had been taken away. I felt like my child was drowning and I couldn't do anything about it. For the first time in my life I felt like Satan's power was stronger than good.
For a minute! And then we snapped out of it and did what any good parents would have done- we took the dinosaur dust gathering computer outside and took a baseball bat to it! The entire family got in on it, taking some of the frustrations of all that had been taken away from our boy out on this poor innocent ancient device. I think Kamden enjoyed it the most. And then he went right on repenting.
I learned something about the atonement that week. I learned that it means something different to Kamden than it means to me. I learned that having children means I need it even more than I ever realized before- I'm counting on it to help my family be whole in the eternities! And I learned that I don't get to decide when the repentance process is over for Kamden- only he does. He felt like the Saturday set-back was part of the process for him, a part of the process that underlined that he wanted to be clean and never do it again.
He'd been looking forward to Sunday all week long. He wanted to take the Sacrament. He wanted to be clean. We all wanted that, too. As we sat in Sacrament meeting that Sunday afternoon, the bread and water tasted better than ever before. Kamden, upon taking the water, said, "I'm clean!" Realizing it was testimony week, a minute later her leaned over and said, "I want to bear my testimony, and I know JUST what to say." It was a minute or two into the Bishop's testimony that I realized what he MIGHT say. Oh no! I explained in a hurried whisper that he could share that repentance was important to him without sharing EVERYTHING. I told him that some of the kids in the room didn't know about some of the things that he did and their parents would probably like to keep it that way. He reassured me that he wouldn't say anything too much and that I didn't need to worry. The second the Bishop finished his testimony, my boy bolted to the pulpit.
Well you can't teach your child to listen to the Spirit and then tell him that he can only listen to the Spirit if it doesn't make you feel like an idiot or shrink in your seat during Sacrament meeting! My boy shared a sweet, honest, beautiful testimony that had the attention of EVERYONE in the room. He shared it all. He shared what he learned. He shared how good it was to be clean. He shared that he'd slipped up again the day before. He shared that he'd used a baseball bat to destroy the dinosaur computer. He shared that his parents loved him. He shared that he wanted to be good and do what was right. He shared the Spirit.
While I held my breath through every word out of my son's mouth that day I was also sooooo proud of him. He didn't care what others thought of him. He cared about preventing others from going through what he'd gone through. I know there were adults in the room that re-examined their lives at that very moment. I know there were conversations had in homes in the days and weeks to come. I know that while their were a few gasps, that none of that mattered. My boy and my family were better because of the experience.
It's been a few months. Things that we learned from that experience have helped us through other experiences. Our son has worked really hard to stay clean. He did have another slip-up when my mom left her I-pad laying on our couch, which was a learning experience all over again. He's met with our Bishop and we've done even more to strengthen the walls of our fortress for what is right and good. But Kamden understands the atonement better than many kids his age and he has done really well.
We've worked harder to remember our prayers and our scripture study. We've worked harder to have the Sacrament mean something to each of us EVERY week, even when we haven't done something huge. We've tried, despite Satan's best efforts, to invite and feel the Spirit in our home. Satan still has an influence here, more often than we'd like him to. But we're determined that Satan won't win.
Swim Baby Swim!