We are by our patch of daylilies, next to the barn. And the boys are playing with sticks, while my husband and I watch. It is a perfect moment. One of those moments when I feel like maybe, just maybe, I can stop worrying if I’m a good enough parent.

My son says, “Look! The stick is a laser and I’m killing villains!”

“Look! The stick is a ship in outer space and I’m flying!”

“Look! The stick is a pole and I’m dancing!”


I say that. I say, “What?” And he says it again. And he moves his hips in a perfectly pole-dancing way.

“Where did you learn that?”

“On YouTube.”

I don’t make a big deal about it because I know by now that if I have a shit fit then pole dancing will be the single most interesting thing in the world to my kids for months on end. I pretend it means nothing. I applaud when the stick is a tightrope.

Then I check out the viewing history on YouTube. The last forty videos are women pole dancing. The search string he used to get there was “sexy grls.”

I make a note to tell him how to spell girl. Then I start investigating how to ban certain search strings from YouTube. I learn that the term for censoring the Internet to protect kids is “filtering” and everything I read makes it sound pretty bad. If I believe in teaching my kids via self-directed learning, then I need to teach them how to avoid stuff that is bad for them or a waste of their time.

I procrastinated putting censorship software on our computer. And, around that time, the kids discovered how to use my Amazon account. So I canceled one-click ordering, after it cost me about $300. And I showed them how to put items in the shopping cart to buy later.

I worried, at first, that even though we are living on a farm where the kids are rarely exposed to consumerism,  I’m ruining that by showing them how to use Amazon as entertainment.

But I found that almost immediately Amazon replaced YouTube in my son’s hierarchy of fascinating web sites. The search history on YouTube reflects my kids researching things like, “how does slushy magic work” because they don’t want to spend their Amazon money on a dud.

And, you know what I saw the other day? My son was buying my niece a birthday present on Amazon, and he typed in “girls watch.”

“Nice spelling,” I told him.