David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | [email protected]

During the day, Penelope knits a burial shroud for her father-in-law. As soon as the garment is finished, she will be forced to accept a marriage proposal from one of the unpleasant suitors who have been hanging around, drinking her husband’s wine, ogling her, and generally treating the place like a nightclub.

Penelope has no interest in any of the suitors who have been trashing her home. The suitors are a motley collection, eyeing her estate, her nobility, and her body. She believes–correctly as it turns out–that her husband is alive, although she has not seen or heard from him in almost 20 years. Not even a post card. The Pony Express is 2400 years away after all. Cell service is terrible in the Aegean and Odysseus has been all over hell and gone on his way back from the Trojan War.

What to do? The 19th amendment is even further in the future than those mail carriers hurrying from St Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. Women are denied the right to own property, to vote, to stay single. Penelope can not say, “I don’t want to marry any of you lot.” As a single mom, she has no options. As soon as the shroud is finished, so is she.

So she stays up at night undoing the needlework she had done during the day. The suitors aren’t that bright to begin with so they don’t notice. This business–of sewing during the day and taking out the stitches at night–goes on for years.

Do you ever feel like the good work you do as a parent is undone the moment your kids walk out your door? You make nutritious meals; McDreck is available on every corner. You severely limit screen time for young ones; violent video games are the norm when your kids visit the neighbors. You believe in ages and stages; your second grade daughter is invited to go to a birthday party in a limousine.

Prescription medications are locked away in your home; medicine cabinets and their contents are available in bathroom closets down the street. Violent Internet pornography is blocked on your computers; not so elsewhere. You feel like you have to make the time you spend with your kids “count” because whatever good values you can impart can be shredded once your teens leave your home. Remember the river of slime from Ghostbusters? Keeping your kids safe from bad decisions is a full-time job in 2016. And you already have a job.

This is not a silly 19th century dialog about whether or not it’s okay to be physically intimate before marriage. Nobody ever died from having sex the week before saying, “I do.” Morality is not under discussion here. Death is.

From “Princess Bride:” “Fool!” cried the hunchback. “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia,’ but only slightly less well known is this: ‘Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.'”

Lieutenant James Bacon of the Fairfax County Child Exploitation Unit is on the front lines. On NPR the other day, he cogently argued as follows: You wouldn’t let an adolescent drive a car without extensive lessons. You wouldn’t let your child play in a river until you were confident in her ability to swim. Why are you giving your adolescent children access to a deadly device without proper preparation and instruction?

Before you say, “Here’s David the Luddite warning us about letting our children go outside because they might get bitten by a shark while being struck by lightning, consider Nicole Lovell abducted and killed by older teens whom she met on line.

Phones don’t kill people? Phones are just communication devices? Well, Nicole’s phone certainly didn’t help keep her safe. She chatted with older kids over Kik. She snuck out of her house at midnight. Now she’s dead.

Lieutenant Bacon recommends an effective measure to help ensure safety. You can ask your phone carrier to mirror your child’s phone to your own. That way, every communication is available for parents to consider. “Come over to do homework”? Sure. “Meet at the mall for pizza”? I guess so. “Sneak out and connect with strangers”? Not so much.

Here’s an explanation from Lieutenant Bacon from an article inThe Washington Post by Petula Dvorak: “Every text, every picture they send, Mom and Dad can see on their device.” He went on to talk about his own family: “My kids hate it when I do that. Too bad.”

Penelope stayed up all night undoing the shroud she had worked on during the day. She knew what was right, that her husband would return, that she didn’t have to marry any of the intimidating idiots. The threat to your kids is from “suitors” of a different kind. To eliminate one of the greatest dangers to your kids, you don’t even have to lose any sleep. One call to a techie at the phone company to have your child’s phone mirrored to your phone is all it takes. Surely loving parents 2500 years after Odysseus came home can help to ensure that their kids are safe.



4 thoughts on “Sew What?

  1. John Calia

    Excellent essay. I often wonder how parents can keep track without becoming obtrusive. There is an excellent movie available for streaming. It shows the dangers of living La Vida Online in several situations. In each (fictional) case, a crisis comes to pass, changing the attitudes of the families affected. It’s called Men, Women and Children. Here’s a link:

  2. Mike T

    My daughters know their lives are hacked–phones and online–mainly by me. Soon after the initial shock & awe, they were grateful I cared. They know I trust them and further trust their good judgment–but I won’t risk their safety to an online opportunist. I sit on the boards of cyber security companies so I use half dozen tools too long to list. But one good starter kit for every parent is http://www.webwatcher.com. You can thank David later.

  3. Jean | DelightfulRepast.com

    David, I’m quite certain my older sister, who was not a strict or overprotective mother, would’ve done this. Her children were raised before every infant had his own cell phone and computer, but she made it clear to her son and daughter that she could pick up the extension on any of their phone calls (house phone/landline), read any of their mail (snail mail), go through their rooms, etc., at any time.

  4. Gladys Granda Rodriguez

    Nicely written and a great idea, didn’t know it could be done..I will certainly pass it on. Thanks.

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