Torture is being The Tapeworm Mom and losing control.
Torture is having your child beg for something and have panic well up inside you as you say no and usher her back into her soundproof, lifeproof bubble.
Torture is wanting to be a cool, understanding mom and also wanting to protect your child from as much hurt as you can.
Torture is, in a word, in this house, Instagram.
Or, as I call it when I talk to my husband, “fucking Instagram.”
She pleaded. She made promises. She said “everyone has it” and everyone ended up being two people. She bargained and negotiated and asked if she could look at it on a friend’s phone and played the “don’t you trust me?” card.
And I said no and “you have to be 13 by law” and told her how horrible social media is for tweens and explained that she will end up a cutter if she has an Instagram account. (Not really. But I came close.)
She won, because she has an Instagram user name (because even I know that an unequivocal, immovable NO! Because I said so! isn’t exactly stellar parenting).
I won, because I set it up and it’s my email address and I get all the notifications and she knows I check it like I’m looking for lice.
So yes, I see the 11-year-olds in bikinis striking post-Hannah Montana Miley Cyrus, tongue-hanging-out poses. And I see the bad language and the insults and the urban legends. And I see that Caroline is, so far, keeping her promise to us – she’s posting pictures of sunsets. And the new puppy. And the guinea pig inexplicably riding a skateboard.
Because yesterday I saw my daughter’s face in a square on the elimination game. Which is played all over Instagram, every day.
Someone posts a grid of their friends' faces and asks, “Who should be eliminated?”
Based on looks? Maybe. Personality? Popularity? Yup.
Based on kindness? Intelligence? Loyalty, honesty? I highly doubt it.
I’m not so far out of touch that I don’t understand the draw. I can’t tell you I wouldn’t have played that game when I was twelve, if “car phones” weren’t still cemented underneath the ashtray in the station wagon and “Love Boat” wasn’t as raunchy as my Saturday nights got.
But I’m enough of a mom to know that the population of 11 and 12 year old girls who can handle being the first one voted off the looks/popularity island is pretty damn small.
Caroline was surprised when she saw her face on that grid. Her response, though, was, “I don’t really care what people think. It’s just a game.”
Sure, Caroline. “Hey, you, sixth grader? Out of six/eight/ten people, you’re the ugliest.”
I’m a grown woman and that might make me cry.
We (we being Whit because I was in DEFCON 5 mode and was googling “convents instead of middle school”) explained our concerns. Explained how other kids might feel about being pressured to play, about being eliminated or not, about engaging in that voting process.
Did we get through? I don’t know. I have no idea if she checks to see whether or not she was eliminated. I do know that she took all her selfies off Instagram and left up the puppy pictures. But it’s just a matter of time; she’s a normal kid and she’s going to get sucked into all the shit that is now part of growing up.
She’s got a tough road ahead. Growing up isn’t easy these days.
Neither is being a parent these days.
In some ways, it’s torture.