When I became a mother, I was excited to teach my babies about life! They were like sponges. They just soaked up whatever I taught them. Talk about gorgeous.
I am an extraverted Catholic mom of eight. I had a lot to say to a lot of little people. Here’s the fantastic part: my kids totally embraced all that I taught them about God.
When my oldest child, Eric, was about seven, he was taking swimming lessons and the instructor said something like, “Now, don’t do this particular thing, because then you’d die and that’s bad.”
I watched as my son’s hand rose into the air. The instructor called on him and he said, “Well, actually, if you die, then you go meet Jesus and that’s good. So dying is good.”
I stood up. I dropped the mic. My job was done here. That is how I felt. All was right in my world.
Now, as Eric started hitting his prepubescent years, I knew I would have to start teaching him about his sexuality. But I also figured that talking too much about things like pornography would ruin his innocence. So I gave him the basic sex talk. Period. End of story. Another check off the list.
As Eric matured, I tried not to think too much about his emerging sexuality. This is painful to admit, but I handled it by avoiding it. I didn’t ask questions. I didn’t want to know the answers.
Well, I was confronted with the truth of it all when I walked in on my beloved son, at the age of 16, looking at porn. I’ll save you the details. It was not pretty.
I was confronted with a massive challenge.
- Was viewing porn a “rite of passage,” something that every kid had to figure out?
- What was my role as mother? What was my husband’s role as father?
- How could we parent more effectively?
- This was not the most comfortable of topics. How could we bridge the gap?
As I grappled with all of these new questions, I realized that I longed for a world of peace and harmony; I wanted to wave a magic wand and live in a world without the Internet. Surely our family of ten could sell our house, pack our bags, and be dropped off on some deserted tropical island. We could live Blue Lagoon style. I could homeschool. My husband could teach the kids how to live off of the land. We would be protected from all evil.
Another part of me, the logical part, knew that there was a problem to be solved. I could pretend it didn’t exist or I could be part of the solution.
After running from the better version for a little while, I made my decision. I became part of the solution.
Understanding What’s Really Going On
I knew I had to learn more about this underground world, at least from a parental point of view. Why was my moral kid so attracted to it? If I was going to help my kid fight this, then I had to do some research. I went to the library and checked out piles of books. I asked good questions to people way smarter than me. I read blogs. I went to presentations.
I realized, perhaps for the first time, just how devastatingly wrong pornography is. My eyes were opened to how porn objectified and humiliated God’s sons and daughters on both sides of the screen.
- I could easily see the attractiveness of pornography. It hit the core of something deep within.
- I could easily see that pornography was the devil’s masterpiece. In our culture, sex is seen as sacred. So good people protect it. They don’t talk about it. This allows the porn industry all sorts of leverage.
Those points became themes as I engaged with my child. Eric listened. He did not instantly change his behaviors, but he was open to the conversation.
We learned about and then installed Covenant Eyes on all of our devices. We kept talking. He kept struggling.
One day Eric was home from college and we were in the kitchen. After we talked for a bit, he looked at me and asked the question, “Am I a good person?”
He knew his intentions to quit porn were good. Yet he kept turning back to it.
His self-doubt fueled me. Porn had stolen much of my son’s childhood. I was not going to stand by and watch it wreck every shred of his self-worth. I became even more intentional in my research. What was the driver to this curse?
When Things Started to Change
Interestingly, I discovered the answers when I truly began to understand the brain and addiction. Porn was highly addictive. My son was addicted to pornography. It was as simple and as complicated as that. As such, it was not something that could be prayed away or willed away. I am a firm believer that once you name a problem, it is half solved.
So the next time Eric came home from college, we had a chat. He took the news well and he could see that, yes, he was addicted. And, here’s the exciting part: the science of addiction made sense to him. He learned that he wasn’t some sex fiend. He was a normal person, attracted to a highly addicting, super-natural stimulus. That knowledge was the beginning of the end for him. He was able to take the steps necessary to get out of his addiction.
See Mama Bear doing cartwheels.
The best part of this journey is how it has radically changed our entire family. I realized that if I really wanted to protect my children from porn, then I would have to use the right tools. (Avoidance is not one of them.)
- We now safeguard every electronic device from accidental or intentional porn use.
- We work hard to create an environment of emotional safety, where the children can talk freely with us on the topics of love, lust, sex and pornography, without being judged or shamed.
I am a work in progress; so are my children, but what a wondrous journey. The surprise of my life has been how God has used that one bad, horrible, terrible, no good, very bad mommy moment and turned it into beauty.
Lori Doerneman • I have found that most parents will use filters on their family’s devices, but the struggle comes when they try to talk to their kids about pornography. To help parents engage in the conversation with their children (ages 0-14), my son, Eric, and I created The Parenting Dare. In this online course, we share everything we have learned. We also give presentations to parents on this topic. It has been a joy to work with my incredibly charismatic, wondrously alive son.