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Publisher’s Letter: Never say never

Ashley Sexton Gordon. Photo by Jeannie Frey Rhodes.

Nothing changes you like parenthood. A better way to say it is: Nothing rips out your soul, stuffs it in a lunchbox next to a processed-meat-and-mayo sandwich then pulls it out at recess to mock it quite like parenthood does. Oh, but wait, I’m parenting tweens and teens right now and sarcasm and sloth should be expected. Baby parenting can be precious (I’ve seen your pictures!). Teen parenting can be brutal (You haven’t seen all of mine!).

But don’t fear, idealistic parents of a newborn, the wee babe in your arms might fare the storms of childhood easier than the rest of ours. Just one word from the been-there-done-that club: Never say never. As in “I will never allow my child to eat anything but organic baby food.” Or “I will never let my child drink out of sippy cups.” Bite your tongue.

“You know that breast feeding is the best gift you can give your child,” a well-intentioned mother told me. Of course, the path to hell is paved with good intentions. Because I was adopting and not birthing my first child, this mom was explaining a contraption that would convince my non-lactating body that it wanted to produce milk. No. Just no. I know breast milk is best, but I can assure you that when my freshman makes a B instead of an A on a test, it isn’t because he suckled Nutramigen out of Dr. Brown’s bottles as an infant.

That’s why, when I finally made it out of the infant and toddler years—and I had survived the guilt of moms who sewed their kids’ Halloween costumes—I only saw blue skies ahead. Little did I know that those blue skies were images projected from my son’s X-Box Live screen.

Who would allow their teen to play video games with complete strangers? There are freaks out there. FREAKS. Never.

OK, I must have caved. Or permission was never requested and therefore never granted. But somewhere along the helter-skelter parenting track I’ve assumed while corralling four children, I realized that my son was playing X-Box games with a boy named Biagio who lives in Florida.

I can’t make this stuff up.

Meanwhile, we booked a family trip to Disney World and Universal Studios over the Mardi Gras break. A few weeks before I boarded the dog and loaded the Suburban, I was informed that Biagio, his father and brothers were driving in from Naples to stay at Universal and meet us. My son was thrilled.

“You know Biagio could be a complete 48-year-old creeper, right?” one of my friends asked over lunch the week before. “Someone he met on X-Box is coming to meet you? That’s crazy.”

The simple answer, of course, is yes. I know. And although I didn’t actually induce lactation through a machine, I do actually love my son and I care about his wellbeing. So I did ample research. Biagio turned out to be a 15-year-old boy who also has a penchant for classical piano. His father is a dentist, his mother is an attorney. His other brothers are charming musicians (and video gamers) as well. We met up with the crew and spent a day riding stomach-churning roller coasters and eating carnival fare with them. A good time was had by all.

Would I have ever dreamed of a day when my son’s modern-day pen pal was actually procured by playing fabricated war battles with a virtual community? No. I was idealistic too. But sometimes even the worst possible scenario turns out to be a surprise blessing in disguise. Keep your eyes out for danger, parents of tots, but adjust to the scene. And so you are not mocked by the been-there-done-that club: Never say never.