"You're like a momma bear with her cubs."
The person who said this to me (right in the middle of the worst year of my life) was, I think, attempting to admonish me.
But all I could say in reply was, "Well, yes. Yes, I am like a momma bear with her cubs. That is my job."
I have four children. I love them fiercely. If you try to hurt one of them, you will run off with claw marks down your back.
(I can't figure out a way to feel bad about that. Although I must admit that I haven't tried real hard, either.)
That was one of the hardest things for me about the whole pornography mess in our family: how it impacted our children.
Maybe you're a fairly perfect parent. If so, you can spend the next few minutes reading a post you don't need. Or go back to the football game. Whatever.
But maybe you're a human being. And you've screwed up. Or you're married to a human being who has screwed up. And you're worried about how your baby bears are going to survive the mess.
Let me tell you some things about our experience. I hope they'll give you hope.
When we returned to Dallas in April 2003, it was our 5th international move in 3 years. It was also our kids' third school situation--and third country--in one school year. They had been home schooled in the Solomon Islands, attended a small mission school in Papua New Guinea, and then went into huge public schools in suburban Dallas county in April.
They were at four different ages and four different stages of life and the multiple moves and family upheaval impacted each of them differently.
To say that it was an emotional disaster zone is not an exaggeration. And there was not much we could do about it, except cry through it with them. And wait for the healing. There was a lot of pain and I think some of the healing is still happening.
But Andy made a really good choice, back in 2003, that I think has made healing and redemption possible.
He told our kids the truth. He told the older two at the time, and then waited to tell the younger two when they got a bit older.
I will admit that I was opposed. I thought it would just hurt them more, at a time when it seemed to me that they'd had way more than enough.
But he felt strongly that he should tell them.
And he was right. Genius, in fact.
It was difficult. Painful. But absolutely the best thing he could have done.
Telling the kids means that we're not hiding things from them.
They know what's going on. They don't have to make up stuff to explain the emotions in the house.
And that's what kids do when they don't have the facts. They create a story that explains the emotions. And usually that story involves self-blame, because every child believes that the world revolves around them.
Our kids are free to be angry with us, but they don't have to blame themselves.
Telling the kids means that they aren't responsible to fix the family.
This is an adult problem, the adults are taking responsibility, and the adults are doing what needs to be done to fix it.
When the adults aren't honest and when the adults aren't taking responsibility, the kids will do their best to fix their family.
Some will turn to perfectionism. They'll try hard to make their parents feel better by being perfect or funny or beautiful or care-taking. Others will become the black sheep. They'll try hard to fix the family by creating problems that bring everyone together to work on solutions.
Our kids can be mad at us, but they don't have to fix the family.
Telling the kids means that we admit that we are human and imperfect.
It would be nice if we were perfect, and they never had to deal with this. Because at some level, kids want their parents to be perfect. So when we give them hurtful evidence of our imperfection, it's painful for them.
But the perfect ship has sailed.
So we tell the truth and we deal.
Telling the kids means that when they're struggling, they know it's OK to tell the truth and ask for help.
Our kids are having to learn how to cope with the internet in a healthy way, and it's tough! Accidental exposure to pornography is almost a given at some point. (Unless you're Amish. And if you're reading this post, you aren't.) Because our kids know what Andy's dealt with, they can come to him and say, "Dad, you need to block this one website, cuz it's giving me grief."
Most of all, what I've learned is this: when we are not perfect, God can still take care of our kids.
I Corinthians 12:9 says this: "My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness." (New Living Translation)
God's power works best in our weakness. His grace is all we need. Even for the baby bears.