My 7-year old son's R-rated road trip

Last Thursday, the fifth graders at my son’s elementary school were on the receiving end of the health and human development presentation otherwise known as the sex talk. I suppose the school was hoping that by giving the talk right before a 10 day long spring break any and all questions would be directed at the parents and not at any of the teachers. I breathed a sigh of relief that we were 3 years away from dealing with that.

Then we headed out on a road trip this weekend and I started to think that maybe I should have held my breath.

Since we’re from the East coast, the only family we have within driving distance is my husband’s cousin who lives in Cincinnati. When she invited us to spend the weekend there for Easter, of course we were going. We packed up the electronic devices, Easter candy and baskets, put them into the family truckster and headed out on the highway.

The highway though was the problem.

About 20 minutes into our trip out on I-80 it seemed like every billboard we passed had something to do with sex. It wasn’t just Chicagoland either. All the way through Indiana we encountered the same messages. I guess nothing welcomes you to America’s heartland like $10 lap dances and the widest selection of clothing and toys at the erotic superstore, just off the next exit.

This should have been stamped on the billboards we passed

This should have been stamped on the billboards we passed

For reasons I don’t completely understand, in most areas billboards aren’t really regulated except for size and lighting so pretty much anything goes as far as content is concerned although from time to time there are protests. The billboards we saw on our trips in the East were generally rated PG. Fast food, ambulance chasers, that sort of thing. Not here.

The gentlemen’s clubs weren’t the only offenders. Around Indianapolis we started getting barraged with the pro-life ads, “Abortion is murder, ” read one while another showed an ultrasound picture of a fetus and told us that “Abortion kills a beating heart.”

Now the 3-year old slept for a good portion of our trip so my main concern was my 7-year old who is a very good reader. How the hell was I going to field questions from him?

Speaking of hell, one billboard reminded us, “Hell is real.” Ugh!

Fortunately on the trip down he was majorly engrossed in his book. The way back though was a different story. Since the kid devours books with greater voracity than his pizza, I wasn’t surprised when he told me at the start of the return trip he had finished his book. I asked him to bring two books but that didn’t happen. I hoped he wouldn’t satisfy his urge to read by looking out the window up to the R-rated billboards.

So mentally I started prepping answers to questions like, “Mommy, what’s a lap dance?” or “What’s an abortion?”

Then I got angry because I shouldn’t be in the position to answer questions a 7-year old might have on strip clubs or abortion. He’s simply not ready to handle the material. There’s a reason the sex talk is given in fifth grade, not second.

As it turned out, I didn’t have to worry. I forgot the needs of second graders are quite simple. He was looking out the window, but not up at the billboards. He just wanted to check out the wind farms along I-65 and count how many turbines there were and how many were stopped, out of operation. Thank you Benton County and Fowler Ridge.

I could breathe that sigh of relief after all. For now.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to shield my children from how the world works. I am not that mom who fast-forwards through the beginning of “Finding Nemo” during the barracuda attack scene because I think it’s too scary. I certainly don’t change the channel or hit mute during the 10 Viagra or Cialis ads we see during every sports game on TV. I would never consider altering our route our even worse, saying no to travel because of some R-rated billboards.

But I know that day will come when I will get those questions. I also know that I will be ready to answer them because parents grow as parents just as children grow as children.

Bring on fifth grade. Just as long as it’s in three years.

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Tags: MBA Son, parenting

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