As a teenager, my parents didn’t give me much advice. They told me what to do plenty of times, but it was rare for them to let me deal with problems alone. My mother was a guiding force in a stern way, which is why I remember the one phrase she did share with me when I repeated something I had heard in class.
“Be careful whom you let inside your head.”
I’ve been thinking about that (inside my head) a lot lately. When abstinence speech controversies at area high schools began to swirl, I began to stew. Our children have enough emotionally draining material to sift through in this stage of life. It’s my opinion that we don’t need one more mouth, on either side, becoming unhinged at the jaw.
I can still see my mother sitting at the kitchen table in a cloud of Viceroy smoke. In her metaphorical way, she was trying to tell me to be selective when it comes to people and politics; people and philosophy; and people and perspectives. She was warning me to think carefully about whom and what I allow to influence my behaviors and beliefs. Values she fought hard to form.
In email exchanges with friends and fellow parents, I edited my mother’s quote to reflect how I feel about the sex education debate.
“Be careful whom you let inside your house.”
When someone, anyone, tells my daughter that her mother will hate her if she’s promiscuous, then he or she has invaded my house.
When someone, anyone, threatens to derail my daughter’s scholastic opportunities and goals, then he or she has invaded my house.
When someone, anyone, informs my daughter that she’s a sinner for x, y, or z, then he or she has invaded my house.
When someone, anyone, hands out birth control on the sidewalk or in a parking lot — even if my daughter waves it off or accepts it without comment – then he or she has invaded my house.
And he or she isn’t welcome here. This is my domain as a mother, and I’m fiercely protective of it. There are a select few topics that I believe have no part in our children’s public education because it’s an invasion of the house. I’m not screaming in support of one side or the other of any debate. You won’t find my views in this blog, aside from my frustration with the lack of discretion in this world. Restraint is a lost art. Modesty is something we don’t witness anymore. Not in our behaviors and not in our communication.
Should we have uncomfortable conversations with our children? Absolutely. Are there parents who let their kids figure out these delicate yet serious issues on their own? Of course. Should someone step in to help those young men and women who feel they can’t “go home” for guidance or support? Yes. But there’s a limit to everything. There should be an internal boundary that reminds outsiders of how far they can go with other people’s kids.
It should come as no surprise that I am every bit as stern as my own mother. At times, I hated her for it. Sitting here today, I wish I could thank her. She guarded our house. She taught me to be careful with whom I let inside my head…and ultimately, inside my heart.
So with this call for modesty and discretion, I also ask for a return to the principles of basic etiquette. We need to memorize the rules of gracious behavior and practice them religiously. No one should ever pay a visit to someone’s home without calling ahead. Not only may it be inconvenient, but it’s downright rude.