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Violet, my only daughter, is 7 now, getting ready to head off to second grade here in a few weeks.
And you want to know something I'm secretly proud of?
She still doesn't have any kind of social media game going on yet. She would if she could, I figure, but her mom and I have kept that stuff at bay. Hell, she doesn't even understand what Twitter is.
Or ThrowawayYourLifeByLookingAt YourPhoneEveryFiveSeconds.
I guess it's not that big of an accomplishment on the parenting tip though, huh? I mean, do any 7-year-olds have Facebook or Instagram accounts? They don't, right? Tell me they don't. I need to know that the world is still at least a teeny tiny bit sane.
Either way, these are beautiful years for her mom and me. Even though we're divorced and live in separate homes and all, we're still both basking in this rarified, fading glory that is raising three young kids in the 21st century who, for all intent and purposes, have no real idea about/interest in social media yet.
As far as the internet goes, they know about YouTube.
And they know about Netflix.
And they know about PBS Kids Games.
And they know we can Google pictures of Godzilla and Mothra at the drop of a monster dime.
But beyond that, they don't know jack sh*t about all this technology standing out in the yard at night, staring up at their bedroom windows.
It's wonderful. It really is. But like I said, I know this era is quickly dissipating right before my eyes. I know what's coming and it won't be long now. Violet will come home one day and look me square in the face and start bugging me for her own email address. It's the way of the world. Then what?
I might give her my email address instead, tell her it's all hers.
"All the kids are doing it, baby," I'll swear to her. "Everyone is using their dad's name in their email address. It's irony, yo."
See how long that sticks, you know?
Okay, okay, I'm messing around. I can't do that and I know it. Fact is, email is a must nowadays. I don't really know at what age that kicks in, to be exact, but I know that by the time you're probably, what, eleven, you either have your own email address or you're a straight up dork in the eyes of your peers.
It makes me wonder how I'm going to handle it too. There are parts of me that know damn right well that I will want to snoop her email. I'm her daddy, for God's sake. I want to protect her from the madness, from the inhumane humanity pouring out of the modern sky.
But that's a tricky one, isn't it? It's not the same as looking for a baggie of weed under the mattress, right? It isn't comparable to going through her pants pockets when I'm doing the laundry or sniffing her shirts some day to see if I can catch the whiff of cigs or Jack Daniels or gunpowder or whatever the hell insane stuff us parents think we're going to reveal to ourselves when we take upon ourselves to go all CIA.
I don't want to be the snooper, you know? I want to raise her up so that I can trust her. And more importantly, so that she can trust me. That's a very fragile bond. It takes so much care and communication to develop that sort of relationship with your own child. And once you pop the bubble by doing something like breaking into her email, well, you can't ever go back, I'm sure.
Some kids might understand why you did it. Some kids might forgive you or maybe even be glad to know that you care so much.
But let's be real. A hell of a lot of other kids will tell you what you want to hear and then go deeper underground with their sneaky sneaky ways.
That could be real trouble then. It's one thing not to know what's in your daughter's email. It's another thing to have a daughter who doesn't give a damn if you're reading her email because she hasn't trusted you at all since she found out your read it that one time and now she has a whole clandestine network of emails and smoke signals and gang signs that she uses to communicate with people who you would head butt on sight if you ever knew she was talking to them on-line. Which you never will know. Until it's too late. Because you snooped, dude.
I'm in over my head here. I really am. And I feel that way a lot lately. My daughter. Those two words are enough to take my heart and lift it up to the sun and warm my entire battle-worn soul with fresh energy and light and hope and all of it.
But I'm so messed up in the head when it comes to my own instincts sometimes. I need to be a spy and I don't wanna be a spy. I need to build trust in a world where trust can get a young lady killed.
I need to do the right thing.
I need to leave my daughter's email alone when she finally has it.