I overheard Ana and Emma having a conversation about one of their favorite shows the other day.
“They’re stepbrothers,” Ana said to Emma. “His dad died, and his mom remarried.”
“Yeah,” Emma said. “And the guy she married had a baby. But his girlfriend died, so he was all alone.”
“It was his wife, Emma,” Ana corrected her. “Because they couldn’t have a baby together unless they were married.”
And a little warning sounded in my head. Should I correct this, or let it be? At eight years old, she thinks she knows a lot, but there’s a whole lot of innocence in her still.
This conversation and the implications of it, that she is still so young and vulnerable, comes back to me when she tells me a week later that she thinks she needs her own computer.
She has friends who have their own computers. She has friends who are all over the Internet. She has friends who have Facebook accounts, friends who are always on YouTube, friends who can search for anything they want.
She swears that she knows about Internet safety. She promises that she won’t go online to any sites other than kid-friendly sites. She tells me that she’s responsible enough to have this freedom.
And I believe her. I think she’s responsible enough to take care of a computer. I think she’s trustworthy enough to stick to the kid sites. I think she’ll be wise.
But I know, more than all of that, that she doesn’t know half of the danger that’s out there. She’s so innocent and young that she doesn’t even know what pornography is or why it’s harmful. She doesn’t know what a child predator is and is so trustworthy that she would believe anything some weirdo online told her. She has no idea how much worse girl fighting and third grade drama can get online and that it’s foolishness. Complete foolishness.
She’s too young for me to list all the reasons why she doesn’t need her own computer. Because in giving her the reasons, I feel like I’m going to destroy some of her innocence, simply because I’ll have to explain how big, bad, and awful the world really is.
But she still wants an answer, and I don’t think “because I said so” (my default answer until now) respects who she’s becoming and the legitimate questions she’s asking. And at the heart of her questions is not the issue of owning a computer… it’s about whether or not she’s worth trusting, whether or not she’s responsible, and whether or not I think she’s the kind of young lady that she tries so hard to be.
How do I explain to her that it’s not her? That a refusal to let the world wrap its arms around her when she’s still too young to know what she should turn away from is not an indictment of her character but rather discernment on my part? How do I let her be in the world but not of it when she’s eight years old and still such a little girl in a society that already expects her to be a much, much bigger girl?
What do you do? Really searching for some wisdom here…