Friday, May 26, 2017


Last night, on my way back home from a scientific meeting, I received my first ever coherent email from my nearly-five-year-old daughter, written all by herself from her own email account as she was getting ready for sleep. Just three short sentences, complete with misspellings and in her own inimitable style, but it was the defining moment of my night, and struck me much harder than I expected.

I have saved her email in a permanent location. The content is unimportant: what matters to me is the vista of communication it opens up. I am overjoyed and frightened as my little one begins to dip her toe into the great river of human knowledge and communication. From this moment, she begins to tie herself into the much larger world beyond our home and family, her friends and her school. Now I can start to write to her directly when I travel, to send her the pictures I take and stories I write for her while I am away.

And it's also time to start talking about information safety and privacy. Knowledge, consent, boundaries. Notice, for instance, that I have not actually shared the content of her email, because I feel those are not my words to share. Just like with other big issues, like sex and relationships, my belief is that these conversations need to start happening, at the age-appropriate level, long before they are likely to start becoming critical.

I am excited and scared, and it is wonderful and terrifying. Just like so many other parts of parenting.

From the email Harriet was responding to: her stuffed animal representative on the trip and me, all sweaty from a long terminal-to-terminal running to catch a plane.

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