in which my pre-teen asks THE question

The question came unexpectedly, as these questions always do. He’s a pre-teen, so probably I should’ve known it was coming, but of course, I’d wanted to pretend this day would never come. He’s been curious, looking around a little, bit, and I knew he’d noticed, but I’d blinded myself about the depth of his curiosity.

Then, one day, we were in the back of a taxi together, and whammo, there it was.

“Mommy, can I get a facebook page?”

Crap. No. Of course not. You’re not old enough. It’s a hideous time-sucker (which I know from experience, darling, let me tell you).  Plus there are wicked predatory types out there who would love to know where your innocent boyflesh can be found, or who would send you messages about “free offers” and “cool games,” and then all of a sudden I’d be in a Lifetime horror movie where my sweet boy drapes his room in black raincoats and spends all his time in desperate online chat rooms.

But I didn’t say that.

I said yes.

In fact, I set up his account for him, putting on every privacy setting I could find and warning him that I had the password to his account and would be checking it regularly for inappropriate content.  If he were to change his password without telling me, I warned, his computer privileges would be revoked altogether.

Husband said, you love facebook, so isn’t it a tad hypocritical of you not to want him to have an account?  I said, I love my glass of wine at dinner, too, but that doesn’t mean I think Liam should be swilling the sauvignon blanc yet. (Full disclosure: I used to have a wee facebook addiction problem but it’s better now. Now I have twitter. Facebook is just the gateway drug.)

Why did I say yes? I said yes because Liam said some of his “casual acquaintances” at his new school have Facebook and I want to encourage him to make friends there.  Maybe, I think to myself, he can use facebook to connect with these new kids while he maintains connections with friends from New York and the school he attended here last fall.

Of course, my plan could backfire, as parenting plans so often do. Maybe he’ll use facebook to cling ever more fiercely to the past or spend all his time online moaning about his terrible life at the new school—thus pissing off his FB friends who go there too.

In the meantime, I confess that I’ve been checking his page.  My findings? Pre-teens communicate primarily with three-letter capitalized acronyms (LOL OMG), exclamation points used in groups of ten, and emoticons. As near as I can tell there are very few actual words exchanged.  My son’s profile page indicates that his “religious views” are Christian, which is strange because to my knowledge, my son has no religious views. As recently as last Christmas he wasn’t even quite clear on the details of that whole birth-of-Christ thing. I suppose, though, that in this country, where religion is everywhere, he feels the need to define himself in the eyes of god and facebook (are they really separate entities?)

Nowhere on his page do I see any evidence of dating of any sort – not girls, not boys, nothing.

I’m sure he’s curious about dating, but he can’t be that curious yet, can he? I mean, he’s not old enough, and it wouldn’t be at all appropriate, right?  I’m sure I’ve got years before he’s ready to date.

Wait. Where have I heard that before?

update! for reasons that seem eminently appropriate, my post about lurking on my son’s facebook page won the yeahwrite #46 lurker’s favorite prize!  if you don’t know yeahwrite, you should be spending time there every week, either to read the funny, wise writing that gets posted there, and/or to post your own work. it’s a great place to read and be read.

What? You say you’d like to friend my son on FB? NO WAY BABY. But here’s a much better way to make friends: link up with yeah write, or at least, go read the writers on yeah write. They’re much more interesting than my son and most of them even speak in complete sentences, using a minimum of emoticons.  Click on through…then come back to vote for your three favorite writers.