From my lawn chair outside the fence along the first-base line, I can easily make out the form of my son in center field. Although he is some 75 yards away, I recognize his stance, the way he moves, the angle of his shoulders.

Line up Nick with 100 other boys at just about any distance and I can pick him out in a split-second simply because he is my boy.

By the next inning, he has gained a new spot on the field. The coach has called on Nick to take his place on the pitcher’s mound. He accepts the responsibility, and in an instant is transformed from a gangly 13-year-old boy into a young man full of purpose and determination. His stance is firm. His expression, serious. My heart swells with pride and anxiety as he is keenly aware that all eyes are on him.

I am his mom, but I cannot help Nick now. From the sidelines, my cheer of encouragement becomes indistinguishable as it merges with the voices of others rising through the dusty evening breeze. Nick does not see me. He does not hear me. He is alone on the mound with only his internal compass, recollection of lessons learned through hard practice, and the direction of his coach to guide him.

It won’t be long before Nick leaves our home to face the world. In just a few short years he will go places where he can’t always see or hear me. I know my time to fine-tune his internal compass and teach him lessons of life are limited. But my husband and I are committed to using every minute of his childhood that God has given us to do just that.

All too often, I come across parents who have given up the responsibility of serving as their children’s guides. They shrug their shoulders, roll their eyes and say, “Well, they are going to be exposed to stuff I don’t like, but that’s the world.” This defeatist attitude is often masked as having an “open mind” – as if there is some virtue to exposing children to a culture immersed in sexual images, self-indulgence and disrespect for authority. I’m often accused of “sheltering” my children … of being “protective.”

Sheltering? Protective? You bet I am!

I’m the Mamma.

It’s my job to protect my children. It’s my duty to shelter them from the negative images and ideas that could so easily thwart my efforts to build in them character that is honorable, loving and dependable.

Children are malleable and trusting – their brains are not unlike empty canvasses awaiting the brushstrokes of their environment. They absorb any image that is placed in front of them. It’s my privilege to ensure that their minds are filled with truth so that as they grow older they can easily recognize and discern the good from the bad.

In our household, this means we are intimately involved in the details of our children’s lives. We learn to recognize their hopes and fears. We strive to live the Christian life of love in which we believe. We spend a lot of time together as a family, talking and laughing and loving.

Building character also means that before our children can watch a movie, my husband or I first watch it to see if it is appropriate viewing. It means their television time is limited to the stations and programs we feel are beneficial, and that they don’t listen to music that is filled with hate and verbal pornography. We guard their access to the Internet, constantly monitoring the sites they visit and with whom they “chat” online.

Ours is a constant vigil of love. In this modern culture driven by the many wonders of technology, children are vulnerable like never before. It baffles me that some parents who would never permit anyone to engage in raw sex on their family room couch will invite the behavior to enter their homes and their children’s minds through one click of the remote control.

We also help our children carefully choose their friends and the other homes in which they will spend time. We strive to make our own home a safe, fun place where their friends are welcome. On any given weekend, our home is filled with pizza boxes, hungry (and sometimes stinky) teen-age boys, sleeping bags and a wide variety of sports equipment.

One day soon, Nick will take his place on the pitcher’s mound in the game of life. My job is to make sure that my boy is ready. My goal is to send him to the mound with a reliable internal compass, sound lessons learned from years of practice, and the words of his God to guide him.

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