You can read a lot about the dangers of exposing your kids to the Internet. Everyone from the mommy blogger to the childless blogger, and even the mainstream media, has weighed in on the blogging phenomenon known as Child Exploitation. And while I won’t pretend to have anything fresh or new to say on the subject, I’d like to tell you my story.
I think most mothers will tell you that they have an overriding goal for childrearing. It’s a self imposed standard used to measure your success or failure as a parent. You can identify this goal with statements like “I just want them to be healthy”, “No matter what, I want them to be happy”, “I want my kids to know what it means to give back”. It is these “I just want them to…” mottoes that govern nearly every decision we make for our kids.
Since before my first child was born, my personal parenting mantra has been “I want them to know that they are loved. By lots and lots of people.”
I believe that everything good – from a healthy self esteem to an appreciation for others – comes from a strong foundation of love. One that is bigger and broader than I can provide alone. And selfishly, I always wanted to know that if anything ever happened to me, my kids would at least know that there were still lots of people in the world who loved them.
That was easy when I lived in Parkersburg, Iowa.
We lived within 15 minutes of grandparents, uncles and cousins. They were surrounded by friends who loved like family. On any given holiday, they were overwhelmed with a sea of arms waiting to overwhelm them with hugs and a horde of kids ready to run wild beside them. You had only to look at the house stuffed to the breaking point for birthday parties to see that I was excelling at Providing A Happy Childhood 101.
And then we moved 1400 miles away from everything. And everyone.
I was terrified. The fears I had for myself and my life paled in comparison to the guilt I wrestled with over what I had done to my children.
I had taken them from their grandparents. I had ripped them from the security of their family. Despite all my talk about family and community and the importance of people who loved us, I took my kids from the Village that was happily helping me raise them.
And then the strangest thing happened.
We received our first house warming presents, not from neighbors or family, but via UPS ground delivery. Before we had time to put paint on the walls, AmyD sent each of the kids something special for their new rooms. Glittery pink accents for Emma, and Spiderman memorabilia for Devin – because she knew each of them as little people.
A few months later, Amy sent another box to the new house. This time it was stuffed with dresses and much needed winter clothes for Emma, who was ecstatic to learn that her friend Maggie (Amy’s daughter) had sent her presents. At only 2 and 3 years old, Maggie and Emma had already been giggling and pointing at each other over a web cam connection.
Then we hit our first holiday away from home.
Experts will tell you, the first is always the hardest. But I don’t think the experts anticipate that you will have a blogging buddy reach out to you and welcome you into their home. The experts don’t know about Deanna Banana and Lee, and how they laugh easily and immediately take on your children as if they’ve loved them since birth. Apparently the experts have never seen two families, both far from Home, gathered around one table and truly, truly grateful to be in exactly that place.
The media is right – it’s absolutely unbelievable what kids can get from the people on the Internet.
A surrogate uncle who loves them so fiercely that he has to be reminded at times that I do kind of know what I’m doing here thank you. A cute little babysitter who plays board games with them for hours and always promises that “they were good, really.” A woman who squeals when they lick her and teaches them how to make a McMansion Fort. A Kawol who promises he’ll be back, despite being woken up with the sun. And an entire family that made Emma forget that she was afraid of the water, and reminded Devin that there were kids Just Like Him out there.
Some people will tell you that what we do here with these blogs is strange.
They’ll tell you we’re an antisocial bunch, sitting behind our computer screens talking to a bunch of strangers. They may say that it’s dysfunctional or dangerous to share your lives, your families, and God forbid your children with a bunch of crazy Internet people.
But me and my family?
We’ll tell you… thank you.
Thank you for helping me raise children who will never sit in a corner at a party because they’re convinced they have enough friends.
Thank you for allowing me to show them that the world is absolutely full of good people.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you, for being part of our Village.