Stories about travel, life, writing and parenting my college-age children (who think they don't need any more parenting). Oh! And the occasional amazing photograph (I like to play pro photographer on vacations.)
A few years back I went to a seminar on computer safety for kids. I learned some interesting things about forms of social networking and even unique parenting techniques.
(I sat there flabbergasted during the Q & A session when one mom asked what to do because her child wouldn't tell her his password. Seriously? Um…whose computer is it? Who's paying the electric bill? Just take the blasted plug away, lady!)
Uh sorry, I digress. Ahem. As a result of that seminar I joined Facebook to monitor my daughter (and later my son). Ashleigh was young (naïve?) enough to be excited about being my first "friend." She showed me the ropes, helped me set up my profile page, and let me know it wasn't the end of the world if I "ignored" something.
Despite her phenomenal training, I'm still far from Facebook savvy. But I've been nosing around there for a while now and I've discovered some additional parenting benefits aside from the obvious "making sure they're playing safe" stuff. Benefits like…
1. Reality Check
Being "friends" with your kid gives them a reality check whenever they consider posting something. Sure, we drill it into their heads that whatever they put online is out there for the world to see. Forever. But when they know mom (dad, grandpa, Aunt Lulu….) may read whatever they post, it really drives that point home. And uh, it gives parents a check too, because you never know which one of your kids or their friends may end up reading what YOU wrote.
Although I communicate with my kids every day, I still learn even more about them and what's going on in their lives when I visit their Facebook pages. For example: We had our daughter get a job during the spring of her sophomore year. Once her junior year started, she was taking some advanced classes, volunteering, running with her high school cross country team and juggling the job that required certain hours on specific days of the week. We had no idea how stressed out she'd become until I happened to read her status one day.
When her father and I approached her about it, she broke down. She’d assumed that quitting her job was not an option. Meanwhile, she’d become completely overwhelmed trying to balance it all. We were able to open a dialogue and work out a compromise before the situation got too bad.
3. Romantical Notions
Shhhh, Facebook makes it very convenient to stalk your children's romantic interests. You know, your teens are only truly "going out" with someone if it's Facebook official, right? I look for key things like any personal quotes and type of language used. Are all the posted pics appropriate? Just checkin'.
4. Glory Days
An unexpected Facebook surprise for me was reconnecting with old high school comrades. Okay, so on the surface this isn't exactly a parenting thing. Except that many of my former classmates are in or around the same point in their lives as I am, and we can share/commiserate/support each other in our parenting endeavors.
5. Catch the Wave
Whether you love Facebook, hate it, or are indifferent, social networking is the wave of the future. Facebook (or something like it) will be affecting social interaction for eons to come, so you may as well dive in. Just, um, be sure to set limits to control yourself and your kids or it can become a total time suck. Then you may find yourself working late into the night to meet a deadline because you were goofing around on Facebook for too long. Heh, heh.
"What time do you want to leave for tryouts?" I asked.
"Well, I'd like to be early, so how about 2:35 p.m.?" Josh said.
Josh gathered his soccer ball, Gatorade, cleats and cell phone, shoving them all into his nylon drawstring bag. I sat at the kitchen table, going through the mail, surreptitiously watching him.
"I'm ready," he said standing before me a few minutes later, bag slung over his back.
"So, were you thinking I was driving you?" I said.
Joshua's eyes grew wide. "Um…well, I was thinking maybe I wouldn't start driving myself until tomorrow," he said.
I glanced out the window. The cloud-filled sky was heavy and dark. It was raining steadily. Fat drops left long streaks against the sliding glass door. The light wood of our deck was now stained a dark brown. My gut clenched. I had dragged my feet throughout the entire driver's education situation. He had dragged his feet as well. More often than not my hubby and I would have to force the keys into his hand.
It would have been so much easier to allow him to keep sitting in that passenger seat, me securely behind the wheel. But I knew doing that wouldn't help him grow. He needed to face any fears that were holding him back. So over and over again, we would hand him the keys. Make him drive. Eventually, his skills and confidence grew. Finally, the big day had arrived. That morning we'd driven to the Secretary of State's office. Within 20 minutes he'd held his new driver's license.
Now, it was several hours later, and we stood facing each other. The old insecurity flashed in the rich, brown eyes which held mine.
"I think you need to drive yourself," I said.
He hesitated another instant, then nodded, accepting the keys.
I trailed after him as he walked to the garage. Now it was my turn to feel insecure. "Remember, it's raining, so the roads will be more slippery."
"You'll need to allow more stopping distance."
"And other drivers can get weird in the rain. It's best to just stay away from everybody. Give yourself lots of space."
He garage door lifted and I attempted to quell my own nervousness as wetness spattered the pavement of our driveway.
"Just be super careful, buddy."
He turned around and opened his arms wide for the hug he knew I needed.
"I'll be fine, mom."
I watched as he backed slowly out of the driveway. He raised his hand in farewell. But I still stood there as he drove down the street and out of our neighborhood.
The image of a mother bird with a nest of babies formed in my mind. I wondered if some baby birds were adventurous, needing no encouragement to begin testing their wings. Perhaps the mother bird even had to restrain them a bit, so they wouldn't hurt themselves trying to fly too soon.
Then maybe there are those babies who don't really want to fly, or leave that cozy, comfortable nest. And a big part of her likes that. She is able to keep them warm, safe and dry, held close within her wings.
But she knows it's time.
So instead, she nudges them to the edge of the nest…and gently pushes them off.
Have you ever noticed that words really do have power? I never bought into the whole "sticks and stones" thing, because I believe words truly can hurt you. Words can tear you down. They can crush your spirit. They can cut deep and twist like a knife. But words can also build you up. They can make your heart sing. Cause your spirit to lift and swirl as if riding on the wind.
Words have power.
We move through our days, and even though we know life on earth can't last forever, we tend to live our lives as if it will. "I’ll see you tomorrow. Next week. This afternoon…"
Recently, two people close to me lost their fathers in a similar way. Very sudden. They were there one second and the next they were gone. Slipping from this world to the next in a literal heartbeat. When death happens this way, it's unexpected…and shocking. Similar refrains were repeated over and over as people gathered murmuring, "I just spoke with him yesterday. A few days ago. This morning…"
We're not prepared.
I attended one funeral and listened as family members and friends moved to the pulpit and spoke, telling stories and reminiscing. I was struck by something shared by one daughter in particular. After recounting some thoughts and special stories, she proceeded to confess that despite the overwhelming sorrow she experienced at losing her father, she at least had no regrets in one regard. She revealed the fact that not one day went by without her telling her father she loved him. And he told her the same.
For some of you, this may not seem such a big deal. But for me, it was a moment of epiphany.
Although I tell my children and husband I love them on a daily basis, I began to think about my own parents and siblings. I was raised in a loving, relatively normal family of six. I had no doubt that my parents loved me, my siblings and each other. But growing up we rarely, if ever, actually said the words "I love you" out loud. It's not that we didn't feel it or think it. We just didn't say it.
While speaking on the phone with one of my brothers a few years back, we recognized this fact and began concluding our phone conversations to each other with those three magic words. But I hadn't expanded beyond that.
This has officially changed. I am now much more conscious of my interactions with all the people I love. And it's inspired me to remember to actually say those powerful words a lot more often.