When do you mask, when do you share?

Deciding when my kids are old enough to know something is never easy for me.  Determining what they’re able to handle, or what I should keep them innocent about, is a tricky line.  I don’t want to burden them unnecessarily, but I don’t want to create elaborate illusions either.  When my eldest was carping on not being included in a discussion yesterday, I sarcastically responded that when he wished to take care of the bills, he was more than welcome to join the conversation!  Not my finest moment, but truthful. 

When things are tough, I’m stressed.  Sometimes I hide it blithely, but more often than not I’m a bit cranky, not very fun to be around, and my worry gets passed on to them.   Remember Life is Beautiful?  Sooo not what I imagine I would have done, though who really knows how we react when the circumstances are exceptional?!  I tell my kids the general tone of things, so they have some idea why mom is a little more touchy than normal.  I also do my best to keep life normal (whatever that may be!) so that they’re not worried that things will come crashing down around their ears.  They’re so resilient and adaptable it’s amazing.

Aside from economic issues, though, the decisions on what they’re old enough to handle is a trickier one I think.  When can they watch movies with more adult themes?  When do they get the sex talk: before they learn it from friends and media, or after?  My husband chose the “before” with my eldest, as he was likely going to be awake to watch me give birth to his younger sibling, in an effort to preempt the questions and make it utterly natural.  I wasn’t too happy honestly, we hadn’t talked about it and I thought 4 was too young.  The effects that I’m aware of are mostly healthy, but it’s been troublesome when interacting with other kids who aren’t as informed.  Information becomes currency at some age, and the earlier they realize that, the chances increase that they won’t know how to handle it well. 

It seems the really hard converations are always touched off by something natural.  I shouldn’t really fret about my oldest learning more about his namesake, who happened to be a dear friend that lost a stupid game of russian roulette right before we were married.  He knows who Big Doug is, has seen his picture, and I know someday he’ll just ask how he died.  I hope my husband is the one that gets the question though, not me!  There’s that little chill that goes over me when I know that some aspect of their innocence is about to take a hit.  You feel the loss of something, watch it pool in their eyes, and can almost see their souls get a little wiser and a little more more fragile but strong. 

We can’t protect their innocence forever, nor would I want to, but watching them earn their scars and shoulder their knowledge is shiver-worthy, amazing, and achingly precious, because I know their masks are forming too.  Oh the dance of delight in knowing and being known, and how freaking hard it is to do!