That's not the kind of conversation you really hope to have on a Wednesday morning before school.
"Ok," I said, trying to not let my mind fly in 37 different directions. "Just tell me."
"Well, I'm just worried about how you'll react. I don't want you to be mad."
Having now reached at least 24 different mind-bending directions, I said, "Annie, I'm sure I'm not going to be mad. Is it something bad?"
"No, it's not bad. And it makes me happy. But you can be judgmental."
Red alert! Red alert! Mind approaching explosion status and stomach trenched firmly in my shoes.
"What?! Tell me," I'm saying trying to remain calm and doing a decent job of it, if I say so myself.
"Well, first, I'm not a lesbian and I'm not pregnant."
So that knocked out two of my most prominent thoughts, one of which would have been way worse than the other.
"Ok...so what is it?"
"I'm in a relationship. With a boy."
Me, sitting on the couch smiling at the cuteness of all this...and she was so nervous.
"And he lives in Arkansas."
Truthfully, I didn't exactly see it coming, but I wasn't entirely surprised. She's mentioned this boy before. Luke. That's his name.
"You're not mad?"
And I'm not mad. On one hand, a daughter with a boyfriend who lives 9 hours away is much easier to deal with than a daughter with a boyfriend who lives 20 minutes away. There are no real worries about broken curfews or canoodling while the parents aren't home. But there were a few concerns I raised.
"Are you sure he's real? And he is who he says he is?"
She explained that yes, they met on Tumblr over two years ago and began leaving each other messages, re-blogging each other's posts. She was "introduced" to his Tumblr by the friend of a friend. Over time, they exchanged cell phone numbers, texting each other and eventually FaceTiming.
"You're not sexting, are you?" Hey, a mom has to ask these questions -- and then do some investigating to verify the answers. "NO! Mom!"
I believed her and went on to the next concern. "There will be no secret meetings, no telling me that you're spending the weekend with Kallen and then running off to meet this boy somewhere. If it gets to the point where you two want to meet in person, then we will talk about that with his mom and dad and work something out."
"And I'll need his Tumblr address and I'll be looking up his Facebook account as well. If that's how you met him, that's how I'm gonna get to know him."
"Well, you can't really judge a person by what they post on Tumblr," which was my invitation to launch into the "people will judge you by how you conduct yourself -- online included -- and you should not post anything that you would be uncomfortable with your priest or your grandmother seeing."
A day later, after I'd already come home from work and put on my pajamas (and after I checked out this Luke person on Facebook), she came to me, phone in hand, and asked if I could meet him right then. I hesitated; I was wearing pajamas for gosh sake. But she gave me the "please, Mom" and I could tell it was important to her. So I said yes.
Then, before I could say "online dating," he was on the screen in front of me. I asked about his grades (decent), what instrument he plays in the band (saxophone), his family (he's the youngest of 5 kids). It was a brief conversation, but long enough for Annie to be completely embarrassed by what she termed my interrogation.
And my conclusion? He seems like a nice enough kid. Based on our FaceTime conversation, the Facebook stalking I did and what Annie has told me about him, Luke seems pretty ok. (Though now it occurs to me I didn't do a Google search of his name to see what skeletons fall out.)
Am I freaked out that my kid has a relationship that began on one side of a computer screen? Not really. I have plenty of people in my life I consider to be friends who I only know because we happened to be on the same web page at the same time. In fact, there is a group of women I got to know before Annie was born. We all hung out on the Parent Soup Jan/Feb/Mar '97 board on AOL. We still keep in touch on a daily to weekly basis via a Facebook group. I've met a few in person, the others I know only through the magic of the internet. But I consider each one of them a friend.
So the fact that my daughter has a "boy from afar," as I've taken to calling him, doesn't worry me, at least not at this very early stage. It will require me to step up some of my monitoring habits and maybe someday I'll feel the need to meet the parents via FaceTime as well. The times, they are a'changing.
If they ever want to meet in person, I did warn Annie of one very certain thing. That when it comes time for this young man to meet Mike, he will without a doubt thrust forth his hand and say in a pseudo-deep voice, "LUUUUUKE. I am Annie's father."
Because you know, some things never change.