That may not be the best policy, parenting-wise, but for the most part, I try to remain honestly open-minded. ;-) What's best for one person may not be best for another; what's best at one time may not be the best choice later on.
When Ryley was begging for social media a few months ago, our answer was a firm no. There was just too much she could be exposed to, we reasoned. She didn't need any more negative influences in her life. I even wrote a lengthy blog post about this.
But as her 13th birthday drew nearer, I began to soften my stance. I think I began to understand that social media is ultimately inevitable. It's not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. In fact, even if our current forms of social media do phase out over time, there will always be something trying to pollute her mind. The world is changing rapidly, and as much as I want to hold on to her innocent childhood and the wholesome way we've tried to raise her, I had to come to terms with the fact that she will live in this world forever, and it's time to start teaching her how to keep her light -- how to counteract the darkness when those influences seems overwhelming.
So we allowed it. And in the last two weeks, we've had to address a LOT of stuff -- things as simple as what kind of posts are appropriate to find amusing (silently) but shouldn't be "liked" or "shared." We've talked about not allowing one's name to become associated with anything dark or inappropriate. This has meant adding restrictions so she can control what her friends post to her timeline and watching what posts she's been tagged in. It requires work on our part, and we don't catch everything. But this new realm has opened up a ton of conversations that we hadn't had previously, and they're presenting opportunities for maturity and growth. Someday she'll successfully navigate the world with grace and without compromise, and that all starts right now. With our guidance. ;-)
I have to say that being Ryley's mother has truly changed my life. Of course, there are the obvious ways that being a parent changes anybody. But Ryley has truly changed me with her deep, contagious compassion.
It all started seven years ago when our tiny kindergartener prayed every night that God would give her a puppy. I hated dogs -- hated animals being indoors at all. I could not even fathom having an animal run loose in our home. But my heart softened over time, and I finally agreed to let Ryley have a puppy. When I look back on it in retrospect, I truly see how God performed a miracle on my heart. I could not have changed on my own.
Our sweet Juliet has become such a precious part of our family, with a personality that reflects Ryley's spunk and playfulness. They are the best of friends, and I have become much more tolerant of her running loose in the house (with well-placed baby gates!). ;-)
Fast-forward about five years, and Ryley suddenly developed an affinity for pet bunnies.
"Ha!" was my initial response. "Absolutely not." Like, seriously. I was pretty set that we would never have a bunny.
But gradually I have seen Ryley's undying compassion....the way she stops by the pet store to drool over the animals every time she and her friends go to the mall...the way she raved about her teacher's pet bunny all last year...the way she came home from the summer camp at the animal shelter in such a good mood after cuddling with bunnies, puppies, and kitties all day.
"Who could really be in a bad mood after cuddling with baby animals all day?" Ryan reasoned. And I saw his point.
I started to realize that a pet bunny may not be the worst thing in the world. A hassle? Yes. Messy? Yep. My favorite thing? No. But would I trade my daughter's sweet, caring heart for anything in the world? Absolutely not.
So off she and her daddy went to the animal shelter, with the intention of spending her birthday money on rescuing a rabbit. But after spending more than an hour with a certain rabbit up for adoption, she just wasn't feeling it. We knew it had to be the right one, and I encouraged her to pray to be matched with the right fit.
A week later, Ryley and Ryan brought home the sweetest mini-lop bunny we've ever seen! She is a DREAM, as pet bunnies go. She is 7 years old (the same age as Juliet!), has been raised in a home with children and dogs, is pretty friendly and tame, and has been primarily handled by a 13-year-old. The only reason the family gave her up was because of an allergy one of the children had. I feel like the fact that she is litter-trained alone is God's personal gift to me for understanding my little girl's heart and allowing her this precious animal. :-)
Much to my surprise, I have been genuinely excited about the addition of Addie to our family! And I would much rather have Ryley spend her birthday money on a sweet little pet bunny than waste it all on emo merchandise at Hot Topic. :-) She has so much love to give. Either we could let her lavish that love on a bunny, or we could watch her try to aimlessly funnel the abundant love in her heart down other less-lucrative avenues.
And that's how our family got a bunny.
That's how I changed my mind.
That's how my daughter changed me.
And that's what it feels like to cave. ;-)