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Too Young for E-Mail?

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Stepbomb: Another difficult thing about divorce is that, more often than not, the ex-spouses don't have a similar approach to parenting. (You already know that's the case with my husband and his ex-wife.) Now my husband's oldest daughter has started asking about getting her own e-mail address, and (not surprisingly) mom and dad aren't in agreement about what to tell her.

girl using computer

Her mom says yes. Her dad says no. I'm staying out of it, as is her stepdad.

That said, my stepdaughter did ask me what I think. We have a good relationship, and she often wants to know what I think about things. But although I have very strong opinions on the subject, I do not feel it's my place to interject them, so I told her that it's up to her mom and dad to figure out. However, I did ask her why she wanted an e-mail address. "Because all my friends have them," was her answer. (This is actually untrue -- I only know of about two girls in her grade who have them.)

We found out a few days ago that mom greenlit the e-mail address when she purchased an iPad Touch for her daughter. Now my husband feels conflicted. On the one hand, he knows he has to trust his ex-wife to monitor things, but on the other hand, isn't this just opening up a can of worms that his daughter isn't really old enough to handle? You have to get on the Internet to get to the e-mail. Will someone be looking over her shoulder every second, making sure she's not distracted by an inappropriate advertisement or news story? And what's the point of giving a sixth grader an e-mail address in the first place? (We didn't even have the Internet until we were in our 20s!)

So my husband (who does regularly try to come to compromises) called his ex-wife, and she gave him the answer she often gives when they disagree: "I'm their mother. I decide." But my question is, why doesn't the father have equal say in what he believes is right for his daughter? And shouldn't mom try to compromise -- i.e., by waiting another year? Should the mother get to decide simply because she's the mother?


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135 comments so far | Post a comment now
Todd August 31, 2010, 3:22 PM

I’m sorry, but I have to chime in on this again, responding to the poster who equates a stepmom’s role with that of grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.
That’s a pretty specious argument. My son’s grandparents (or aunts or uncles) don’t live with him 50 percent of the time, as my wife (his stepmom) does. In my case (I won’t speak for others), my wife is accorded a different status because, well, we share a home as a family. She took a vow to love me as a husband and a father, and to love my son as her stepson. I take pretty strong offense to the notion that every minute spent with a stepparent is “a second stolen from what should have been (and would have been) time with mom or dad.”
Using that logic, I should kick and scream every time my ex has her mom (my son’s grandma) pick him up from school if she can’t get him on her days rather than allow me to have a few extra hours with him. I don’t kick and scream - I think it’s HEALTHY for my son to have exposure to different caregivers who love him. And that includes his stepmom.
It’s outrageous to say that a dad who on occasion allows a stepmom to share parenting duties shows “how much dads are willing to force their wives (new or otherwise) into childrearing positions and pretend it’s all fund and games and no big deal.” Really? Asking my wife to help my son with his homework while I cook him dinner and make his lunch for the next day is foisting my 50 percent off on her? Or, on the nights I help him with his homework, because my wife is cooking at that time, I’m again foisting my 50 percent on her, because I’m not preparing his meal? Get real.
Am I naive enough to think my son won’t one day show the emotional scars from my divorce? Of course not. He very well could. But my divorce is the life circumstance we’re living with. As is the fact that his stepmom loves him, and that is good for him, not bad. I truly, genuinely hope that when my wife remarries, her husband loves my son as much as my wife loves my son, and he is a positive role model, bringing things to the table that I don’t.

YanniNY August 31, 2010, 4:13 PM

Why do remarried parents always think that sharing their parenting duties with a new partner is something the former partner should be thankful for, if not hopping up and down with excitement about?

And somehow, millions of single parents, and parents whose spouses aren’t at home, and parents who don’t have nannies and housekeepers, are able to cook dinner and do homework, not to mention laundry and cleaning at the same time. Their kids get the full impact of their parent’s care, but the kids of divorced parents are expected to be excited and grateful that they get half of that? And the other parent is supposed to, what, give their former spouse a cookie or a trophy or something for doing that?

REALMOM September 13, 2010, 6:37 AM

@MiniVanMom and Stepbomb. The answer is yes always and forever. Mom does get the final say because she’s the mom. Really, get over it already.

Anonymous September 17, 2010, 9:59 AM

Dads and their involvement keep coming up on this blog. Todd, you sound like you take care of your kid half the time and are a fully involved dad. However, moms are often distrustful of dads who say they’re as involved as the moms. For many couples, the dad may spend time with the kids, but the mom is in charge of the doctor’s appointments, the issues at school, the babysitter, buying the clothes, planning the parties and activities, etc., etc. So when we hear that Stepbomb’s husband coached soccer, we wonder if he also bought the kids clothes and planned their birthday parties before she was around. And although he sounds like a good dad, there are times when he has gotten Stepbomb to do parenting things he can’t like stay home and take care of the kids after school every day, go to a conference with the teachers when he was out of town, and volunteer at school because he is at work. Those are things that I think a mom could legitimately complain about, especially if she feels at all guilty about working or wishes she didn’t have to.

Anonymous September 17, 2010, 10:02 AM

Dads and their involvement keep coming up on this blog. Todd, you sound like you take care of your kid half the time and are a fully involved dad. However, moms are often distrustful of dads who say they’re as involved as the moms. For many couples, the dad may spend time with the kids, but the mom is in charge of the doctor’s appointments, the issues at school, the babysitter, buying the clothes, planning the parties and activities, etc., etc. So when we hear that Stepbomb’s husband coached soccer, we wonder if he also bought the kids clothes and planned their birthday parties before she was around. And although he sounds like a good dad, there are times when he has gotten Stepbomb to do parenting things he can’t like stay home and take care of the kids after school every day, go to a conference with the teachers when he was out of town, and volunteer at school because he is at work. Those are things that I think a mom could legitimately complain about, especially if she feels at all guilty about working or wishes she didn’t have to.

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CarlinsMommy November 17, 2010, 11:16 AM

My husband and I had this conversation. Our bottom line? Keeping our son away from email or the internet will not teach him how to use it safely. It’s our job to guide him through these things, just as it is our job to teach him how to drive.

Amy November 18, 2010, 3:13 AM

Well the one thing I know is that the anger the moms have shown here cannot possibly be good for their children. And putting their children in the middle by cutting out the father might get them on the mother’s side, but really…is that what you’re trying to do? Is that how you want your children to grow up? Thinking dad doesn’t matter? That just sounds like bitterness to me and using your children to get back at your ex-husband for letting you down in whatever ways. But if you’re trying to raise healthy, well-adjusted children, I think this anger is counter productive. My mom and dad were divorced and of course had differences in opinion, but I never in all my young years ever remember either of them saying one bad word about the other and I really appreciate that. They were grown-ups regardless of whether they liked each other and didn’t use us as pawns to heal their own emotional scars. I think you’re only hurting your children with all this anger.

As far as children getting email…I think it’s like anything else…it depends on how much the parents are willing and able to be involved with it and monitor what they’re doing. We had a nightmare with my 12-year old daughter, which would take me a book to write, but was really allowed to happen because my husband’s ex-wife knows zero about the internet and email and let this child on the computer completely unsupervised at any time of day or night and had no clue what she was doing (and she was doing the stuff you always read about in the dangers of the computer…talking with strangers in a sexual way, looking at completely inappropriate content). So to say that just because someone is the ‘mother’ really doesn’t matter a bit compared to how much the person is willing to be involved in their child’s life. Her excuse is that she has to work and is tired…well join the rest of the world. I think if you’re willing to be present in the child’s life and consistently supervise and be involved in what they are doing…then perhaps having access to internet and email is not a bad thing.

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