Monday, May 28, 2012

The fire siren

I used to be all about reading the mom blogs. Many rang true. Many sounded the same. Many were just whining. Many were smart.

Maybe it is just because I am crazy busy anymore (I can't even keep my own blog up), but I haven't "followed" the blogs in a while because so many seem to have gone off the deep end or become too commercial. And maybe after reading this post, you will think that of mine.

Despite the fact that I haven’t stayed current with the mom blogs, every once in a while a Facebook friend will post a link and I will click and read. But what drives me up the wall lately about so many of the blogs that get posted are the black and white nature of them. No shades of grey. And frankly they can be a bit vicious sounding.
Because us parents need one more thing to worry about. Yes, I need one more person out there writing some pedantic article about how I am DESTROYING my children! Just pile on the guilt. Is this what we as parents should be doing to each other?
My mental list (ok, actually it came from my phone, where I have been making a list preparing for this post for a few months… but more on that later.)
A few months ago there was a post about how boys are “objectifying girls” by teasing them. Oh my goodness, if you are the parent of a boy, you need to take control of this! Your son is objectifying my daughter.
Umm, how about that little boys don’t know any other way in the world to interact with a little girl? Despite us as parents imparting our decades of wisdom… How about that this centuries old behavior (yes, I know old behavior doesn’t make it right) may imply that this is human nature? My dad spent his kindergarten year teasing and pulling a little girl’s braids. That little girl became my mom.
And girls? They feed it right back. You think your daughter is innocent? HA! I have heard the same crying from my son – “Sarah” is teasing me and bugging me and she won’t leave me alone at recess. And gasp – I have uttered the same words back at him, “probably because she likes you!” Because really, will a little girl (or boy) waste their time on someone they don’t like? Not usually. I know, I was once a little girl (my kids find that hard to believe). And the light bulb went on with my son.
Or what about the post that said we should not tell our daughters they are beautiful? No, because we need to value them as intelligent beings!
Come on, this isn’t 1940. We have come a long way. Sure, we still have a long way to come. But I tell my daughter she is beautiful every single day or her life and most of the time, multiple times a day. And if she hasn’t heard it enough? She asks me, “mommy, will you tell me I am beautiful?” And then mommy guilt swoops in because I was remiss.
And maybe I am oversensitive to this because growing up I don’t remember being told I was beautiful. I am sure I probably was, but it isn't standing out. I do remember one time I was upset because all the boys said one girl in the class was cute and no one said I was cute. My dad, well intentioned, replied to me, "You aren't cute, your beautiful." Of course at age 8, all I really heard was "you aren't cute"... and my feelings were further hurt by my dad's good intentions.

After that I strived and strived to be cute/pretty/beautiful all the while hearing what a gorgeous little girl my sister was and how smart I was. I freaking knew I was smart. Nobody had to tell me THAT!

What needed to be reinforced within me was that I was beautiful.
Next on this list? This one popped up a few weeks ago - how we are all ruining our children’s lives because of our smart phone addictions. Before you assume that I am sitting there playing games on my phone instead of giving my kids attention consider this…
  • My phone enables me to work from home 2 hours a day. I pick up my daughter from preschool at 3pm, meet my son's bus at 3:35pm and they are home with me. And my phone. I take work calls while at home, at gymnastics lessons and while sitting at the park. I return quick e-mails during these times as well. Am I 100% there with my kids? Nope, but I am most of the way there and they aren't sitting in an after school program. (Not that there is ANYTHING wrong with that, if I didn't have incredible flexibility with my work, my kids would be there too.) My kids are NOT suffering because I am not staring at their adorable little cherubic faces 100% of the time. My kids instead see that I am needed and relied on by others in my daily work, and that people come to me because I am a resource to my coworkers. And dang it, they are proud of me!
  • I fix dinner. My kids are running around doing kid stuff during this time. I have my phone in one hand. It buzzes. It may be a work e-mail coming through... or it could be that my seven year old darted in and played his move on I pause. Slide my phone on, evaluate my move options (probably not enough since my son has recently taken to stomping me at chess), make my move and hit submit. And my son? Loves it. So maybe an alternative would be to have a chess board out on a table… and for some that works. But when you have a little sister, two cats and a dog? Let’s just say that online chess games that may take 3-4 days to finish fit our lives better.
  • As a mom that works from home a portion of my week and from my description above, you can guess that I work to get my 40 hours a week in sometimes. So I wake up, first thing I do is grab my phone and start responding to my east coast clients. My clients? They love it. They don't have to wait until nearly noon their time to get a response from me. So yes, my phone IS in my hand first thing in the morning.
  • Not to mention, have you checked out everything you can do on these aps lately? I can file my flexible reimbursement, check the bank account and transfer funds between accounts, check my travel schedules, figure out what the weather is supposed to be like at 5:30pm for t-ball, make a grocery list and sync it to my husband's phone (even adding last minute items) for him to grab on the way home, make a playlist JUST for my daughter for our morning commutes, track my period, send a quick message to a friend I have who battles depression knowing it might make him feel a bit better to get a nice "thinking about you" message (where I would never have time to write out a card and send it and even phone calls are hard), dictate verbally a message to my sister in law to see if she can watch the cats this weekend, get a note from my coworker telling me he is running late for our meeting (like usual), hear about my neice's new bike, read a few pages my Kindle book, put a Dora video on for my daughter while we wait at the doctor's office, make a list of things we need to pack for the upcoming vacation, comparison shop on Amazon, and check my personal e-mail at work so that I don't have to use my work computer to do this.
My phone = a sliver of organization in my life.


One of my best friends recently posted on Facebook a link about how kids need to be isolated from from the social media that seeks to destroy them. Yes, you get it, I am paraphrasing. But as I read the post, it seemed aimed at making us parents who are proud of our kids, paranoid. We are DESTROYING them!

We approach the internet with an open mind in our house.  We believe that our kids need to be taught about it. Parents need to be careful and mindful. But the reality of life is that we are entering an era where I believe (and I may be proven wrong) kids who don’t understand how to use the internet, social media and other emerging technologies will be at a distinct disadvantage. The ability to quickly pick up technology is an advantage to adults in the workplace, why are we viewing this as a detriment in our children?

I remember when I was a kid and my mom would send our annual school picture by snail mail to our distant family that I never knew, never met and wouldn't know if I walked down the street next to them. It was a struggle for her as a busy mom, just to get these out. I wish I would have known those people. I wish that I had the opportunity to know those kids in my extended family whose families don’t use the internet (I will call out my cousin here who has a 3 year old and an infant... heed my beggings to join Facebook and update me on my adorable second cousins!).

The internet and social network has offered us the possibility of connecting and letting our children who are so often forced to grow up so far away from family and other people that care about them to be part of their lives. I wasn’t blessed with loads of family nearby for a good portion of my preteen and teen years and my children have it even worse – their extended family isn’t even within driving distance. But my kids know that I can snap a photo on my phone and it can be out there to be shared with the people we love and care for within minutes. Sure, I could send it by e-mail and I do for some people. But it is easier to post it to Facebook where grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles and cousins can see at their convenience.

But what about the strangers? What about the ever changing privacy laws? Is private, really private?

Honestly, I don't know. I don't have anyone on my Friends list that I don't know well enough to sit down and reminisce over a cup of coffee. I am friends with a few high school girlfriends' husbands who I haven't "really" met, but I trust my girls! I just don't believe that the general public is that bad. I also do NOT cross certain lines and at any point if my kids requested not to post anything, I would honor it. But as it stands now I get more requests from my son to post certain sayings, jokes and pictures on the internet than I am willing to do...

One of our goals for the summer? When he was 1 year old I registered his name as a domain. Our goal is to get that up and running as a website.

I, in no way believe that my kids will look back and struggle with the fact that I was so proud of their beaming faces that I shared it with my friends. I have connected with a lot of friends from high school with kids the similar ages and it is so fun to see their kids grow and the faces I knew decades ago reappear in their offspring. I hope that my kids will have distant contacts with their extended family who will share memories with them when I am someday gone.


So there it is, my four pet peeve hot internet topics from the past few months.
At work I recently took a class aimed to help us all in communications, particularly difficult conversations, the ones where you have to confront someone. First rule is to not assume. All of the above posts that boiled my blood – that aimed to make me feel guilty for my parenting – have one thing in common. They assume. Sure we all know that if you assume you make an ass of you and me. Still we do it. Give a person the benefit of the doubt. The example from class - that person speeding down the road? Yes, they shouldn’t be doing it, but maybe they are on their way to their child at the hospital. Apply this in your writing. Apply this in your daily life. Have confidence that what you write is of quality enough that you don't need to blow the fire siren to get someone's attention.
Don’t assume that you are the only one who has thought about consequences. Remember we are all doing our best. Remember that we will all make mistakes. Remember that kids are resilient. We aren't ruining them, we aren't destroying them, we are all doing our best.

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