As far as "how we met" stories go, I once thought my husband's and mine was a little embarrassing. But these days meeting on the Internet and ending up married with kid(s) is increasingly common. As much as 23 percent of folks in a recent Pew poll said they married or entered into a long-term relationship with someone they met via online dating.
I'm no longer nervous about telling people I met my husband online. I am, however, growing increasingly nervous about telling my daughter how I met her father!
Online dating worked for me. I met my best friend and eventual life partner. I recommend it to pretty much anyone.
Wait. Scratch that. I recommend it to consenting adults who are well aware of the risks of opening oneself up online and are able to protect themselves.
More From The Stir: 5 Online Manners Kids Need to Learn Before Age 15
My 8-year-old is neither of those. Just letting her on the Internet to play games and search for photos of pandas is scary because of the world we live in.
A friend recently related a story of checking up on her 11-year-old who she believed to be chatting with a boy from school on the Internet. My friend heard the boy asking her 11-year-old daughter "send me a pic."
Needless to say, the mom put an end to chatting with that particular boy and sat her daughter down for yet another Internet safety lecture. Note that I said another -- she'd already talked to her daughter about what not to do online. But her daughter, who is bright and funny and a lovely kid all around, is still just a kid. Kids don't always listen or "get" why their parents are so stressed.
This is part of what worries me about telling my daughter that I met her daddy on the Internet.
There are good people out there on the Internet; hundreds of thousands of them. I certainly don't want her to be afraid of going on the Internet or one day -- when she's old enough to branch beyond playing games with her cousins or friends from school -- interacting with strangers. But I also don't want her thinking that every guy out there will be a sweetheart like her Daddy. I don't want her to walk into every situation expecting it to be like her parents'.
The fact is, my husband and I made mistakes along the way. We were careful but probably not AS careful as we could have been. We were both lucky that the other was not an axe murderer.
I think about how lucky we were every time I talk to my daughter about going online; each time I reiterate that she should not share her real name or tell anyone where she is from, warn her to come straight to me if anyone starts asking for her personal information.
How do I tell my daughter that I did exactly what I'm telling her not to do? That I once told a strange boy my name and gave him my phone number? That he used to send me physical letters because he had my home address?
Sure, I will tell her that I was much older than she is now. My husband and I were both teenagers when we met. But I know how kids listen. They tend to take in certain bits of a story, but they don't always understand nuance. They tend to chafe at the inference that they're too young for anything.
My only choice is to be honest, keep up the Internet safety lectures and monitoring, and hope that my kid gets it.
But I'm not bringing it up until she asks!
How did you meet your spouse? What have you told your kids about it?
Image by Jeanne Sager