Question of the Day: “When did we lose our innocence?”

Innocence is a topic I teach with literature all of the time. It is built into novels since it is definitely a platform authors love to tackle. Generally, a good piece of fiction will highlight a character’s innocence or naivete, create a situation that destroys it, and then examine how this character picks up the pieces. The reader, much like the protagonist, is crushed and captivated by the actions he or she must take to transform. Remaining stagnant is never an option. If it were, we would not be drawn into great works of fiction.

We all relate with a character who sees the world through rose-colored glasses (for lack of a better cliche) and remember with nostalgia our own unawareness. But do we remember how, when and why we lost it?

My sons are growing older. This is causing their pants to shorten and their appetite to increase, but it is also causing a certain amount of emotional changes.

Yesterday, I asked my oldest, who is turning 13 in August, to go out to the garage and get the cooler so I could fill it with snacks for the pool. Five minutes later he had yet to return, despite my completing the tasks of filling the water bottles, cleaning the apples, and bagging the snacks. I walked out into the garage and he was on his phone. The speaker blaring with his cousin’s voice.

“I just really can’t give a fuck right now,” my 13 year old nephew’s voice belts through his iphone. Cole turned, looked at me and smiled.

“He’s really mad at his friend,” he whispers to me. He seems slightly embarrassed and seems to expect that I am going to be cool about this present situation.

“Yeah,” I answer. “I can hear that.”

“Mother fucker thinks he can just say whatever he wants…” my nephew continues and Cole hands me the cooler.

“Sorry, Momma,” he says sheepishly.

“Cash, keep the f-word to a minimum,” I say loudly.

“My mom says to stop using the f-word,” Cole repeats into the speaker part of his phone.

“Sorry, Aunt Kelly,” he says back. I shake my head, open our fridge in the garage, and then trudge back into the kitchen. I am stunned and questioning my own reaction as well as when this all started to happen.

It is not as if I am against cursing or feel as if this is the worst thing in the world, but when did they get to the age where it was so cavalier to curse and be heard by adults and barely pause? I know they curse. Words are words, but where is even a fake pretense of embarrassment and apologies?

When Cole walked back into the house, he still maintained the same sheepish smile. He rubbed my shoulder.

“Sorry, Mom,” he repeated. He seemed to feel bad for my sudden awareness as opposed to any behavior he and his cousin engaged in.

“Cole,” I started.

“I know, I know,” he repeated. “You just don’t want to hear me using that language.”

“It’s just…look, I know you are going to hear cursing. I know you use it. I just…I just,” again he looked at me with pity.

“I understand, Mom. It’s okay,” he said again. “I don’t use it in school or in front of my friend’s parents.” He recited the words and the agreement from memory. I looked at my oldest as he stood two inches taller than me in the kitchen. Our “new” talks about girls and dating and cursing. We talk about acceptable technology use and what to do if someone sends him naked pictures on any of the various social media he is privy to. We now discuss his kissing his “girlfriend” and what it means to be physically intimate with a partner. The responsibility that comes with the various levels of involvement in his romantic relationships, and the importance of his being aware of his partner’s feelings and consent. Through it all, I am ready to cry over my loss of innocence. Yes, he is losing his, but his loss is exciting and new. He doesn’t even realize what is being left behind, and he may not realize it for years. Each step closer to adulthood and independence for him is a badge of honor, but my lose of innocence that my baby is starting down a path to this level of adulthood is difficult to bear. I don’t even think I grieved this much when I lost my own virginity, but the loss of my fixed idea of my child is tough.

There is no easy way through it as so many fictional stories have shown. Innocence always comes with a price tag. It costs money, a feeling of safety, a life. My loss of innocence is a bit cheaper, and I know it needs to go. I will be ill-equipped to deal with Cole’s trials and tribulations through this next part of the journey if I stay wrapped in the false security of my own innocence. It is a far better thing to move quickly through these initial stages of loss and accept the inevitable. Only then can I do and say the things he will need to rise above the challenges that face him, and I am willing to do this because I love my son more than I love my fear of change and the causality of my credulity.

Love and Light