A couple of months ago, I decided to have a conversation with my son about “the internet.” I didn’t want to make it too intense, but he’s seven–almost eight, and he has his own tablet. He also goes to play dates at friend’s houses. So, as much as I want to have complete parental control over all electronics, there is outside influence and his own curiosity to compete with.
As I began my “age-appropriate” conversation with my son, I asked him if he had seen his dad play video games where you talk to other people. I explained that there are various computer programs and video games just like that, where you can communicate with other people. And, while the majority of these people will be kids his own age, I cautioned that, just like in real life, some people aren’t good people. So, even though it might seem like you know the person you’re playing a video game with and typing to online, you actually don’t, and so, if they ask you for your phone number or your address…SCREECH.
It was at that moment when I realized, I don’t think my son knows his address. And, we don’t have a landline, so he definitely doesn’t know any phone numbers. “Donnie, do you know our address?” “No.” “Oh, my goodness, and you don’t know my phone number either, do you?” Internet conversation on hold. Mom needs to back this train up a bit.
So, that is how I (not very gracefully) taught both my children my phone number. My daughter happened to be in the car (age 4), and so, I began reciting it over and over again and having them join in with me. We would play this little phone number game in the car when I remembered and they both got to the point where they knew it by heart.
This past weekend, our family had the good fortune to go skiing in Vermont. It was a beautiful weekend and the first time my daughter could join us on the mountain. She and I split up from my husband and son in the afternoon of the first day so they could do some harder trails. About an hour in, my husband called. He and Donnie had gotten separated. I remained surprisingly calm. I mean, if there’s one place in the world where I don’t fear my kid being abducted, it’s a ski mountain where everyone feels entirely comfortable leaving expensive gear lying about. I also just had the sense that it would work itself out, but I never could have predicted what happened next.
About 2 minutes later, my phone began to ring again so I had my daughter stop. Completely expecting it to be my husband letting me know he had found my son, I was surprised to see a Vermont number (the phone now guesses where the call is coming from). I quickly picked up and was told that my son had been separated from his father, had found a ski lift operator, and had told them my phone number. Even as I type this I am tearing up. He listened and it worked! My direction to find someone official–either a coach, or a police officer, or a finish line worker, if we were to ever get separated and to give them my number, worked. My heart felt so full. He did it.
Not only did my son get a HUGE treat on the way home, he also got a lot of extra hugs, kisses, and was told many times how proud we were of him. I guess now I can hit the play button on that internet conversation again…