This year I talked my daughter, Riley, into having a birthday party in an effort to help her manage her social anxiety. I wanted to show her that being the center of attention doesn’t have to be traumatic in a safe, low pressure environment…and also to make up for the fact that the only other party I threw for her sucked.
Okay, I need you all to look past my fragile ego and narcissism and focus on my desire to be a good mother here. Thank you.
Anyway, this party was much better than the last one. Our theme was Awkward Social Situations in a Chinese Setting, and I think we pulled it off. I’ll admit that the whole theme didn’t fully gel until the middle of the party when one of my daughter’s eight year old friends asked me for my full name and if I had a Facebook account. But then it all fell into place.
This particular friend is a sweet girl, petite like my daughter with an innocent face…exactly the kind of person who turns out to be a sociopathic stalker in a Lifetime movie. And because that’s the way my brain works, an image of this girl boiling our rabbit on the stove a la Fatal Attraction immediately popped into my head, even though we don’t have a rabbit and the girl is really too young to be cooking without an adult’s supervision.
Since it would be inhospitable to answer “None of your damn business!” to a guest in my home and also highly unlikely that I would be granted a restraining order against a third grader with dimples, I opted for the only reasonable alternative, feigning hearing loss, a language barrier and incontinence.
At that point the other girls were trying to draw and quarter each other in the living room so I figured that she would forget her need for my personal information. Eight year old stalkers have notoriously short attention spans as they are easily distracted by Littlest Pet Shop toys and Justin Bieber. As soon as she was safely in her parent’s car I put it out of my mind.
However, four days later at a school function the same girl approached me and complained that I hadn’t answered her friend request. Having not checked my Facebook page in a couple of days, the complaint caught me off guard. I hadn’t had a chance to carefully craft a casual but responsible response to such a request using my best understanding parent voice.
Instead I said, “You sent me a Facebook request? I haven’t gotten it,” as if I had a friends list full of minors. Then I ran home and checked my account.
Sure enough, there was a friend request from an eight year old waiting for me which triggered a horrifying string of imagined situations: me hosting keg parties for grade schoolers, getting a stripper for my son’s sixth birthday party, taking prepubescent girls on secret runs for birth control. It’s a slippery slope. One day you accept a friend request from an eight year old and the next day you’re on trial for having inappropriate relations with your Middle School student.
I told myself that I was overreacting. I don’t even have a teaching credential.
To which I responded: Of course I’m overreacting. THAT’S WHAT I DO! You cannot expect me to receive a friend request like this and not descend into a downward spiral of parental panic anymore than you can expect me to sprout wings and fly. It’s in my nature.
But to be fair to my psyche, because it’s the only one I’ve got, an eight year old girl friending adults on social media who her parents don’t really know is dangerous. It might be antiquated thinking but I’m not a big fan of kids this age on social media to begin with. I’d like to go back to the days when kids played on the street without having to worry that some pedophile they met in a chat room was going to abduct them or that the suggestive pictures they took on their smart phone and then forwarded to the boy they had a crush on were being circulated across the internet. Thank God there were no smart phones in the 80s or there would be suggestive pictures of me all over cyber space.
And even more importantly, where would I spill intimate details about my children and their tiny stalker-like friends or look at inappropriate memes and risqué comments if my Facebook news feed was invaded by young impressionable eyes? Seriously, you can’t expect me to be responsible all of the time and you really can’t expect that of my friends, some of whom are at least as crazy as I am.
So it looks like I’m going to have to have an awkward conversation with somebody’s mother while trying to avoid suggesting that their child is a stalker and/or that they are a bad parent. Am I the only one that doesn’t see this going well?