As my kids get older, I struggle sometimes to still see them as children. My daughter is my height, she’s wicked funny, and I think I forget sometimes that she’s not my friend. Don’t get me wrong… she is. But she’s my daughter first. He’s my son first. They are friends second.

They will be more my friend as time goes by, but now, they are more my children. And I have to protect them. Sometimes from me.

There is a lot going on in the dissolution of my marriage and there is so much fodder for he said/she said comments. And I must admit, it’s killing me sometimes. A huge part of me wants to tell them all that’s going on behind the scenes, but I just can’t.

In fact, Sara has even asked me if I want or need to confide in her from time to time, or one of them will look at me and say, “You look like you could use a hug…” and I wonder if I’m training them to worry about me, to take care of me, instead of vice versa.

One particularly rough evening, I had just been slammed by what seemed like ten things at once, and I was bursting to vent. I went into Sara’s room and sat on the floor.  She asked what was wrong and I said, “I think we need a code word for when I’m really upset about something but I can’t tell you any details.” 

“Okay,” she said, “what do you want the word to be?” 

Without thinking (obviously), I yelled, “PENGUIN!” 

Sara just looked at me, laughed and then, in typical teenager mode, asked me if I’d leave because she had some stuff to do.

I have answered “penguins” to more “how are you’s?” in the past few weeks than I care to admit. In fact, one time I even answered something like, “Huge, robot-like penguins all over the place.”  Again, she smiled.

I think it’s safe to say that I don’t have this concept down pat yet, especially because there’s a fine line between keeping my kids in the loop and saying something inappropriate. But I’m working on it.

And so I share this with you too, no matter your circumstances. We need to shield our kids for as long as we can… life and our culture and their friends and TV and who-knows-what will try to grow them up before they need to be grown up. Let’s make sure we’re not adding to their burdens.

Go to Jesus, go to a trusted friend, but be careful how much you share with your kids. And, for heaven’s sake, keep your penguins to yourself.

(c) Elisabeth K. Corcoran, 2011

Elisabeth is the author of He Is Just That Into You: Stories of a Faithful God who Pursues, Engages, and Has No Fear of Commitment (WinePress), In Search of Calm: Renewal for a Mother’s Heart (Xulon), and Calm in My Chaos: Encouragement for a Mom’s Weary Soul (Kregel).  Here newest book, One Girl, Third World: One Woman’s Journey into Social Justice is available on Kindle only at Amazon.com.

Visit her blog here or watch Elisabeth and her friends spread hope through Africa with Samaritan’s Purse.