I'm on the offensive.
It all started a few weeks ago at Laser Quest. I went on a "Mommy/Son Date" with my eight-year-old to play laser tag. We got into that holding room and the teenage employee told us to put on our equipment and get prepared. I helped my son into his laser vest (which was almost as big as he is) and looked around the room. He was the smallest one in there. Codes names programmed--he was Air Jordan; I was Katniss--we lined up, amid a gaggle of teenagers and several adults, and the doors opened up into the dark, foggy battle ground that would be ours for the next half hour or so.
Somewhere around the doors opening and the first shot being fired, it stopped being a game for me. I went full-on Kill Bill on anyone who came near my boy. Suddenly, in that dark, noisy maze of predators, I was laser-focused on keeping my child safe. At one point, I used my right arm to push him against a wall and jump in front of him to stave off an onslaught of bullets, while I, mid-air, mowed down a group of teens with the laser gun in my left hand. I was stealthy, determined and, frankly, a little crazy. I may have done an army-crawl up a ramp to the second level. I think I made a grown man cry. Before long, other players started to recognize me, coming around corners (where I was locked, cocked and waiting for them) and sigh, exasperated, "Oh, man!" when they realized what hit them. They ran away from The Momma.
As it turns out I finished in the top ten and Air Jordan was well-protected. If only every situation were that cut and dried.
Fast forward two weeks: here I am feeling the need to protect that sweet little guy, and I find myself vulnerable without my heavy armor and laser gun. There is trouble in his second-grade world. Trouble. With a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for "Please, other more worldly-wise children, stop talking to my baby about sex!" (Really, that's what it stands for. Music Man Meredith Wilson first approved these lyrics but the outcry among River City residents was astonishing, so he had to tone it down. Hey, sader but wiser is not for everyone.)
I suppose a child can no longer have an innocent crush on a school friend without some other, slightly older, wiser kid moving it into inappropriate territory. Apparently, my son's buddy has quite the 4-1-1 when it comes to s-e-x and felt it necessary to say so in the car-rider line the other day. (Please note my use of "car-rider line." I formerly referred to it as the after-school "pick-up line," but fear that will spawn a whole new discussion among second-grade gigolos.) I'm not even going to share the details. They don't matter. What matters is that, in our culture, just getting to be eight-years-old is not as easy as it should be. And it's not just confined to an after-school tutorial from unsupervised reprobates.
At any given time, I can flip on the radio to a local pop station and hear songs called "Stupid Hoe," "Turn Me On," and "Young and Wild and Free," wherein Wiz Khalifa and friends tout their love of pot-smoking and excess drinking with a big, "So what?" And who among us hasn't tapped a toe (or more?) to the totally appropriately-acronymed pop sensation LMFAO's "Sexy And I Know It?" Nothing cuter than my small boy child singing of "passion in his pants" and he has no idea what that even means. LMFAO, wildly popular among folks who, on their own, cannot even afford to buy their music, has summer plans to tour with Ke$ha. At least she has good oral hygiene. You need only play Wii's Just Dance 2 with a five-year-old who will croon how Nashville-born Ke$ha is careful to "brush her teeth with a bottle of Jack" before she leaves her home for the day.
Don't get me wrong. I love to shake what my momma gave me as much as the next guy. Put me in a room with David Guetta or Pitbull and I'll tell you the truth: hips don't lie. But I'm 40. I get to participate in pop culture when and how I want to. I just wish we adults would agree to keep the kiddo content G-rated for a good, long time. I wish my son's buddy wasn't allowed to watch or listen to anything he wants. But in real life, I don't get to use a big, fat laser gun to just zap away anything that threatens my children or their safety. I have to rely on intentional parenting, faith, good support and a sense of humor.
So, after a good long cry and a two-mile run, I've decided that Kelly Clarkson, in her current number one song on the Billboard Hot 100, says it best: What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.