In Which Everyone Gets Confused by the Internet

Submitted 7 months ago

Last week I let the girls play around on their tablets, because I support screen time in reasonable doses, and also unreasonable doses if we have to be in the car together for long periods of time. 

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They wanted a new game to play, which is to say I demanded they find a new game to play, which is to say I can only handle so much talk about Minecraft. I told them they could get whatever they wanted, as long as it was free. 

Like any parent befuddled by the awful stuff that happens online, I have their accounts linked to mine, so I get emails if they purchase anything. If I really feel the urge to micromanage, I can monitor their tablet activity (I have never done this. But I could). When my phone buzzed a few minutes later, I saw an email thanking me for my purchase of a game that had cost three dollars and seventeen cents. 

"Hey!" I yelled. "Who just bought something?" I said "bought," but might as well have said "murdered."

"Oh," came a small voice, my younger daughter. "I did it by accident." 

She poked her head around the corner. My nine year-old, who never gets in trouble, never sasses us, and asks me to sing to her before bed. I have to work hard not to baby her. I never thought that would be an issue for me, but I also never thought I'd say things like, "Take that spoon out of your underwear," so here we are.  

"I said only free games."

"I didn't realize I was buying it," she said. 

How to respond to this? I wondered. Consequences confuse me in this digital world with invisible forces. It wasn't like she'd stolen money out of my purse.

"Well..." I said, trying to think quickly, " owe me three dollars and seventeen cents." 

This felt right. Not a hard punishment, but a reminder to be more careful and to take responsibility for things whether you meant to do them or not. Well done, me. 

"Okay," she said. But it was not a nice "okay." It was the kind with an extra syllable on the end, pronounced "o-kay-YUHH," meaning not okay at all, mother, and quit smothering me with your boundaries! So much for no sass. 

"Watch the tone," I said. 

She stomped upstairs, presumably to sulk. But about five minutes later, I heard a metallic clinking sound coming from her bedroom, like change being dropped into a jar. 

Clink. (Pause.) Clink clink. 

"What are you doing in there?" I called. 

She emerged smiling. She proudly handed me this:

Three dollars and seventeen(ish) cents, mostly in dimes and nickels, and somehow a half dollar piece. She gave me a hug. 

Lesson learned. For both of us. 


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