Tall Thought 40: Sunday / by Jennifer Wisniewski


“The end of innocence.”

If I were going to describe my parenting skills, I’d compare them to maneuvers of a D.E.A. agent. I go through my days with obsessive thoughts of what I need to accomplish and then, suddenly, out of nowhere – I remember I have a daughter. I’ll bust into her room, looking for contraband. I go through drawers, look under her bed, read through her papers and, of course, look through her phone. I mostly find a plethora of unicorn and heart emoji’s, pictures of Shawn Mendez, and chats with acronyms like “idk” in response to questions about school assignments.

I believe in intuition. Beyond that, I believe in an even higher vibration— a mother’s intuition.

This kicked in before Stella left for school on Monday, when I asked her to leave her phone behind. She handed it over without a fuss. As I was about to head out the door, I picked up her phone and nonchalantly perused her text messages. One stood out. Amidst casual exchanges with a girlfriend of hers, a boy joined in the conversation and bluntly asked Stella if she was gay. When Stella responded with “no”, he replied and asked if she’d want to suck his d***. Stella responded with “no, that’s gross – you’re a rapist.”

I read it over repeatedly. I was unable to believe my eyes. I always knew this day would come – but I didn’t think she’d be so young. I dropped my appointments immediately, called her school and asked to speak to the principal. I cited it as an emergency of inappropriate proportions and something that I couldn’t say out loud to her on the phone.

When I walked in the school, the office staff was wide-eyed. They whisked me in, informing me the principal was waiting for me. With our formalities out of the way, I handed her the phone and patiently awaited her reaction. When she got to the “punch line”, she dropped the phone like it’d burnt her hands, looked up at me with distraught and said: “Whelp, Stella did the right thing.” She took a picture of the evidence and attempted to reassure me that “they” would handle it from here.

I have endless conversations with Stella, reminding her of her power – and the importance of keeping herself safe and how to react to disrespect. The truth is, no matter how hard any parent tries – we’ll never be omnipresent. We will never know what’s really going on with their phones, regardless of how many parental controls we put in place.

The only true influence I can have as a parent is the ability to ingrain in her that she has the potential to stand up for herself. To properly prepare her for all the unwanted advances that will come her way. Until then, Stella seems unfazed by the first of many sexually harassing encounters in her lifetime – and she handled it like an old pro.

I am heartbroken that this is Stella’s reality, at her age. I’ve also realized my naivety, as she and all her peers have access to the very same material as adults do – no matter how inappropriate the content. I am currently looking into home schooling or a convent for her future education, but in the meantime I'll just blame the internet.