Smelly Socks: An open letter to my sons: Stay innocent

Adam and Charlie at the Sears Tower.

Dear Adam and Charlie (as well as countless other little boys and girls),

Please don't grow up so fast. You're almost 7 and 4, and you'll never be what I call "the perfect age" again.

That phase of life where you're not yet old enough to know what certain swear words mean but may be old enough to spell them and know you can't use them.

Young enough to know that a kiss and not necessarily a Band-Aid will make a boo-boo feel much better. Old enough to know that you can walk ahead on your own, but that I'm still watching as you walk in front of me (and that I still see you turn around occasionally to see if I'm still there).

As you grow, you'll have plenty of time for bad music, mindless TV and video games, girlfriends and (unfortunately) swear words. But right now, I want you to use your wide open imaginations to build Lego cities, crash Matchbox cars, color and paint and play soccer and baseball in the backyard. I want you to use your love of nature to construct the tree house you really want, learn how to climb a tree, build snow forts and catch fireflies.

Go outside - play army until dusk with the boys next door, play cops and robbers with each other and just run barefooted through the grass. Don't waste your time with electronics now. While you may have iPads in school and your friends have pseudo cellphones, they are just a tempting waste of time, and you don't need them.

These are merely gadgets you will probably end up using for the rest of your life, and you may one day be weary of having them around. Look around you and appreciate what you do have now - toys, the outdoors and friends willing to play outside till dusk until you all get sweaty and red-faced.

You're on the edge of innocence, and I don't want you to take the leap off just yet.

Some time ago, I saw one of those e-cards on my Facebook page that said "I fear for a world where kids are never spanked and you get trophies just for participating."

Well, the part about the spanking is subjective (although you both know that you've been privy to the palm of my hand), and I know people have their own definite feelings about discipline, but, to me, the part about the trophy rings true.

I believe that you need to learn how to lose. You have to grow up knowing you won't get your way all the time, as you and your brother don't now.

People won't feel sorry for you and won't give you a pat on the back some day just for participating. If someone does a better job than you, that just means you have to be better next time.

Learning how to deal with not always being the winner will make you better adults and better men. And it will give you an appreciation for that moment when you do actually win - and don't make everything a competition.

Competition is healthy, but as you grow and experience life, you will see that it is a competition and will continue to be for the rest of your lives.

Above all, stay innocent for as long as you can and for as long as I can keep you that way.

Love, Mama.

Anita lives in Chicagoland with her husband, two boys and two dogs one of which is a girl. Email Johanna Bloom or Anita Spisak at smellysocks@vicad.com.