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Our children only have one chance at their innocence. One chance to be young and silly. One chance at a carefree childhood.

And who are the people who makes sure this happens? Who are the ones who promise to do whatever they can to protect this right of our kiddos?

Mothers. Because we are the keepers of our children’s innocence.

This hit me like a ton of bricks the other day. I think it has been building up inside of me, secretly and slowly adding up without my full realization until the other day.

But then it sucker punched me.

My 4-year-old daughter started singing a song out of the blue. “Put your hands on my body and string that down for me…” She didn’t get the lyrics quite right, which I was semi-happy about (it’s not ‘string’, it’s ‘strip’), but she did get the ‘hands on my body’ part right and I was mortified.

I am always preaching the exact opposite to her—do not let anyone put their ‘hands on your body.’ She’s 4! But here she was, singing this song that made me want to cry hearing it from her versus Liam Payne.

It was just she and I in the kitchen, but I was beyond embarrassed.

So I asked her, “Honey, where did you hear that song?” I knew it was from our drives in the car, hearing it on the radio—but I hoped she wouldn’t say that. I hoped I could place blame elsewhere. So I didn’t have to feel so guilty. And ashamed. And mad at myself.

But lo and behold she said, “From you, Mommy. In the car.” I panicked and tried to convince her that the song said, “Put your hands on my beads and string them up for me…” because she just got beads from her aunt and uncle for her birthday and I thought she’d buy it and think the song was about making a bracelet, but no such luck...

I felt like I failed her, right then and there. That any ounce of work I’ve put into building up a confident, strong, empowered little girl was totally diminished by her repeating these lyrics that I exposed to her.

She stopped singing it and moved onto something else rather quickly. Later in the evening she was happily singing ‘Wheels on the Bus’ and pretending she was a puppy—back to cute little kid things—and I was able to put the racy-song-incident out of my head for a little while.

But then it came back to me and instead of getting mad at myself again, I promised to do better. I will do my absolute best to not make this mistake again.

I vow, right here, right now that I am going to protect each of my children’s innocence at any cost. Because they only get one chance to be little kids. And they’re worth it. They’re so worth it.

Before I know it, they will have plenty of opportunities to “grow up.” They’ll be exposed to social media and peer pressure and outside influences. They’ll be sneaking TV shows I ask them not to watch or emulating pop stars and wanting to wear inappropriate outfits. They are going to hit the stage of wanting to look older, be older—faster than I could ever comprehend, I’m sure. And that scares me.

But they’re not there yet. We have time.

So I’m going to be vigilant. I deleted YouTube off my phone a while ago so that when my phone gets hijacked by one of my kids, they can’t look up random videos and see something they shouldn’t.

I don’t watch my TV shows in front of them. And I monitor closely what they watch at all times. Any family members who would be responsible for my children when I’m not around know the kind of TV my kids are allowed to watch and they’re on the same page as well.

No more adult songs on the radio on car drives. I honestly mostly mindlessly turn the radio on when we drive and I wish I had paid more attention to this, but I can’t waste too much time worrying about the past. I have to focus on the present and the future. So, we’ll be listening to a whole lot more kids music or podcasts from now on—and I can live with that.

I am going to continue to prioritize fun, wholesome activities for us to do—building with blocks, crafts, puzzles, playing outside, visiting the farm, going to the library, spending time with grandparents and family. Encouraging imagination and creativity.

I am going to cuddle my kids, kiss and hug my kids, sing with my kids, have dance parties with my kids, make silly faces with my kids, fall asleep next to my kids when they need me to—for as long as I can.

Because every day I feel like they look older. They’re growing out of their clothes at lightning speed and they’re losing more and more of their toddler rolls every second. Those rolls are actually completely gone on my 4-year-old—she has little-to-no physical sign of toddlerhood anymore. Just typing that breaks my heart.

Every so often my kids show me that they are, in fact, maturing and their brains are developing and they’re acting older, too. I want my babies to grow up into amazing people—that’s the goal of raising children—but I don’t want them to have to do the growing up any faster than necessary.

Because you don’t get to go back and re-do your childhood. So it’s up to me to make sure there’s no need for a do-over anyway.

So for now, my baby—

I hope you play with trains and dinosaurs to your heart’s content.

I hope you choose to wear your own wacky and wonderful outfits that you pick out. And not care what anyone thinks.

I hope you sing (appropriate songs) without abandon.

I hope you choose to dance like no one’s watching. And never pass up the chance to groove to your favorite tune.

I hope you make the silliest faces when we’re having a staring contest.

I hope you giggle when I put on a funny voice during story time.

I hope you want to play pretend puppy and frog and lion and elephant for as long as you want.

I hope you never stop asking me for cuddles or to hold your hand or to hug you when you’re scared.

I hope you fully embrace every bit of the magic that is your beautiful childhood.

And I hope I continue to rise to the challenge of making sure I set you up for success.

Because I also only get one shot at this, too. I can’t go back and get a do-over. I am raising young children right now. And I’m ready to guard their innocence like it’s my job.

Because, actually, it is.

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