By the time I started hearing about them, she already had her secret passwords and an entire hidden, soundless world of friends and friends of friends and friends of friends of friends, on two continents and in Minnesota, for some reason.Facebook, IM, i Chat, and the rest were uninvited guests in my house.Or has some online catalog found her and is going to charge her for something she didn't order? It's an amateur close-up, and you can see it's been taken in a bathroom--you can see floor tiles, and a what looks like a used towel on the floor, and a partial view of two large-cupped bras hanging from hooks on the back of a closed door. " in their friends' yearbooks instead of "Luv ya, babe! " They have so much Sex Education that they each brought home three condoms right before summer vacation this year. After my baby showed me the condoms, I ran into the woman who is our school nurse and sex educator. --why, since I get emails from school every day about the next bake sale and the year-end gift for the teachers and the many unclaimed items in the lost and found, why, if these things are deemed important enough to stuff my email Inbox with, why did sending my child home with condoms merit not one email message? I thought I was buying her a computer, I didn't know I was buying her a 24-hour party.If a telemarketer had called me and said, "Hello, how are you today, we're selling features for your computer that will enable your child to be in touch at all times with every teenager in New York City-- in every developed nation, in fact--all of whom can contact her at any time.But he offered to install a function on her computer that would tell me what Websites she had been visiting. " She is still smiling, though, so I know that she will forgive me.That seemed like a good idea, and I got the function but I've never used it. In the days that follow, M and his penis are reduced to a funny anecdote in our family, included in the category of penis humor that my girls and their friends have developed over the years (one enduring penis song, the product of a long car ride in Italy: "Wanahini wanahini, Hello, is that your peenee? ") I keep trying to keep what M did down at fad status: just funnin', a latter-day version of goldfish-swallowing or cramming all of your friends into a phone booth.
That even Mormon teenagers, when emailing their pals-- "See u in Temple Square! "--slap their hands over their computer screens when their parents pass by, protesting, "Mother! But these computer recreations--Facebook, You Tube, IM, i Chat, Video Chat, My Space--were already out of the gate, galloping away with my daughter long before I learned what they were; I was too late to make any privacy policies about them even if I'd wanted to.
You will bicker over these features incessantly, and you will worry, given the ferocious concentration she exhibits while she types away, whether these pastimes have in fact 'possessed' her. " I could have been more on top of these ever-changing computer entertainments, but I was still making rules about television-watching and cell-phone use and text messaging. I never know anything about the latest computer attractions. The whole computer-and-teenager thing was way, way out of my league. I asked the young computer guy who comes over to periodically not solve the you-keep-getting-kicked-off-the-Internet-in-certain-rooms-of-my-house problem if I could get parental controls on the computer.
He said the controls were very crude and dumb: for example, they would block anything coming in on the Internet with the word "breast" in it, even if you were trying to research "breast cancer." This did indeed sound dumb, so we didn't get the controls.
But here is an email from someone whose email address has no letters, only numbers, many numbers. The numbers seem at once both so technical, junk mailish, that I think the email couldn't have anything personal in it and therefore it is all right for me to read; and, at the same time, it seems, possibly mercenary, possibly something that is going to cost me money. Will someone from "Newsweek" be calling our house in the near future looking for a quote on Babies Having Babies? My baby who is still young enough to get the child's fare on Amtrak, who likes strawberry milk, and horses, and skipping stones and making brownies? At our school they have sex education every five minutes. confused someone else about technological matters instead of the other way around. Also, I'm so relieved that the possible other, darker scenario isn't true--we are not going to be a statistic in "Newsweek," it seems--that I'm practically giddy. I say, playfully, "Did you get a little something in your email from someone named M? She'd go out there and swing gently back and forth, rocking herself into a kind of reverie.
Has she ordered something from a catalog and this number is somehow her order number? This is not a professional photo, not a porn site photo. They have so much sex education that kids write "Don't get any STDs!!! My older daughter and her friend and I spend the next twenty minutes laughing ourselves silly about M and his member and the possible future conversations we might have with him about it. Her appearance at the front door sends my older daughter and her friend and I into fresh fits of laughter. Ten years later, the new baby came, and we bought a wooden swing set to replace the rusty old metal one. Now, when there is absolutely nothing else to do, she goes out there and swings slowly, the wood making little creaking sounds like a sailboat's mast in the sea.