The other day I was talking to my sister about Joe and how he’s growing up. I told her that he’s now texting his friends from his iPad. Personally, I find the whole thing reasonably amusing. Joe is not exactly the world’s greatest speller and when he texts me I often have a hard time deciphering what he’s trying to say. I imagine the process is even more difficult for a 5th grader who has less experience with the English language and with Joe’s spelling missteps than I do. My sister is more of a worrier than I am, so her mind immediately went worst-case-scenario on me.
“Who does he text?” she inquired.
“A few of his classmates,” I replied.
“Boys or girls?”
“Some of both, I think.”
“What do they talk about?” she wondered.
“I don’t know,” I answered, surprised at the question.
“Well, don’t you read his texts?”
I have to admit this threw me. Honestly, the thought never occurred to me to infringe upon Joe’s privacy. Maybe it’s naive of me, but I simply don’t see my nearly 12 year old son becoming involved in anything nefarious or sordid via text messaging at this point. First off, he’s barely one step off thinking girls have cooties. Secondly, when Joe texts me he sends me little emoticons of elephants (my favorite animal) and chickens (which he labels as “Kauai Super Chicken). Lastly, he’s the most forthright kid on earth. On the few occasions he’s been dishonest, overcome with self-inflicted, internal, gut-wrenching guilt he has confessed before I even suspected he had lied. And why would I have to read his messages when he tells me what he and his friends talk about all the time?
“No. I don’t read his texts. I have no reason to,” I said confidently, certain that my boy was sweet as seventy pounds of pure cane sugar.
“Well, don’t you want to know what’s going on with him?” she chided.
“Ummm….honestly, no. I don’t really need to read about who has a crush on whom and what episode of My Little Pony has them cracking up.”
“Huh,” my sister replied, somewhat judgmentally. “I’d just want to know more about his life, I guess.”
“Well,” I said, “I guess that I want him to know that we trust him and because I have no reason not to I’m going to let him have some privacy.”
The conversation ended there and we moved onto another subject to avoid a potential argument. But after our call I started to wonder if I was being too idealistic in my approach to Joe’s texting. I mean, I suppose he could be having conversations I might not approve of. He is getting older. They did just have “the talk” at school. He’s a shy, sensitive kid, but those are sometimes the ones you have to watch out for the most. After discussing it with hubby, we decided to take a quick look at the last texts Joe sent. The conversation was with a female classmate and it went exactly like this:
Friend: What are you talking about?
Joe: The realm of gondor
Joe: Middle Earth
Joe: Next to the realm of mordor where mt doom is where the ring was forged
Friend: Is this the lord of the rings?
Joe: Yes. It’s ausome (sic)
Upon reading this little tidbit, I wanted to run to my sister and tell her that I was right. I have nothing to worry about with Joe and his text messaging…at least not yet. He is just a sweet, innocent kid who deserves some trust. But I didn’t do that. Truth is I felt dirty and downright shameful for not sticking with my original instinct. I had been right to trust him in this instance and knowing that I’d violated his right to a private conversation with a friend when I had no cause for suspicion made me feel lower than a downward-facing mole on an express elevator to Hell. (And although I would not hesitate to do some snooping on my son if I did ever suspect something was seriously amiss, I have no plans to make a regular habit out of sticking my nose where it does not belong.) I still feel rotten about it. And that’s certainly not anything to call up my sister and brag about.
If there’s a plus side to this whole experience, though, it’s this…given the substance of this conversation between Joe and a female classmate, I doubt he’s going to be having any unseemly conversations with members of the opposite sex for quite some time. Unless Joe happens upon a preteen girl who obsesses more about The Lord of the Rings, sharks, and Marvel superheroes than she does about make up and the cutest member of One Direction, I likely won’t have to check his texts for at least a few more years.