I have sons, three of them. My oldest is 13 and he is our trailblazer. Whether he wants to be or not, he is the guinea pig for everything from sleep training techniques to social networking, and every teeny tiny thing in between. He is a good kid. And rarely complains about his birth order. As the oldest myself, I know it can suck, but he takes it in stride.
Recently he asked if he could have a Reddit account. I was hesitant. I don’t allow TikTok, or Snapchat, or Facebook for my kids. They’re young and just don’t need to be messing with that kind of stuff. We talked about what he would be using Reddit for, and he said Minecraft forums and memes. It seemed innocent enough, so my husband and I said OK. This was after laying down ground rules, including no commenting or private messaging. He agreed, so we trusted him.
I am a special kind of naive; I know that. Sadly, I always have been. But when I looked at my son, who to me is just a baby, I thought, “Of course he’s going to be truthful. He’d never betray my trust.” And he didn’t. That is, until he did.
He made a fatal error. He was discussing something with his dad about Lego and mentioned a forum that he was reading and the username. My husband looked it up later that evening and casually started reading. He quickly noticed our son’s username in the comments. It was benign, but still against the rules. He clicked on his profile and what he found was shocking.
I don’t know if my son knew it, I didn’t, but you can see a Redditor’s activity if you click on their name. And WOW was he an active Redditor. He was commenting like crazy — dozens of times a day, all over the place. That’s not the only thing that bothered me. It was the language he was using. There is no other explanation other than profane. The same kid who sleeps with a special blanket from when he was a baby was asking someone if he had, “Seen the jizz master?” It honestly made me sick to my stomach.
Where in the hell was he learning language like that? Certainly not from his father or me. Yes, we say fuck in nearly every sentence, but I don’t think my lips have ever uttered the word “jizz”. My husband and I were both appalled and knew that we had to address it immediately. When we called our son down, he had no idea why he was in trouble.
And then, we dropped the bomb. His face went white. He was busted and there was no way to talk himself out of it. He hung his head and apologized. The lecture started about lying, the language, the loss of trust and respect, the pure evil that exists online and what he was opening himself up to. He apologetically surrendered his phone and went to bed.
I was terrified to look at his search history. Thank God, there was nothing there of note. It was mostly Minecraft and memes, the exact things he had told us he was going to be using Reddit for. Then I got into his texts. I braced myself for more profanity, and there it was. He and his friends exchanging barbs about penises and grades. Yes, it’s normal teenage stuff. I get it. It’s been a few years, but I was a teenager. I had male friends and brothers, but I wasn’t ready for my son to be in that world.
His phone is gone, indefinitely. He can check texts and calls in the evening and has about 15 minutes of supervised text time. His friends know he’s in trouble and that his parents are assholes, so there isn’t much back and forth anyway. Trust me, this sucks just as much for me as it does for him.
I am not trying to thwart him. I understand that adolescents experiment and they test boundaries and they challenge. Sure, it was a long time ago, but I am not so out of touch with reality that I don’t remember some of these feelings and desires myself. Being a kid pushing the limits is one thing. I can handle that. I am not OK with the lying. That is where he can get himself into trouble. I am not OK with projecting a persona that could put him into a precarious situation that he is not ready for.
But, maybe I am the one who is not ready. I am the one who still thinks of him as a little baby who can’t possibly be using foul language trying to impress people. He is growing up, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t still under my guidance and supervision. I want him to blossom and I want him to experience new things. I don’t want him to try and be something that he is not. Because deep down, that isn’t who he is. He really is the kid playing Minecraft with his brother and sleeping with his baby blanket. He is still a child, with a child’s mind.
Perhaps I trusted too much and this is entirely my fault. Maybe I am the one who put him into a situation that he isn’t prepared for because I didn’t do enough research. Or, maybe there is no blame to be had and this is a learning experience for all of us. That is what I am taking it as. Moving forward, I will be more cautious. And I hope he will be more honest.
Because when you lose my trust, you lose everything.