We are Parenting PIONEERS

“We” would be those of us who were the very first average citizens to log on to the new thing called aol.com back in the late 1990s on our clunky PCs. “We” are largely in our late 40s and early 50s with teenagers or young adult children. “We” are those who were the first parents EVER in world-history to hand our children their first flip phones.We are the pioneers parenting the electronic world. And, people, this has been no easy task.

When we were kids, our parents could lift up the receiver in another room to tell us to get off the phone because grandma was supposed to call. Now, teenagers are often alone, metal square in hand, laptop on the bed, tv screen above the bed, Xbox in the corner and wireless blue tooth speaker on the nightstand with no parental involvement at all. Social media and cell phones alone are two titanic, behemoth elements of parenting that make those of us middle-aged parents the PIONEERS of the world. We were and are expected to teach and manage these issues on top of our traditional parenting and vocational responsibilities.The 1970s-1980s kids we were (not all but most):

We couldn’t wait to get outside every day

Kids of parents who were not at our beck and call

Kids of parents who made us save money for our purchases

The 2000s kids we’re raising (not all but most):

Enjoy being indoors in front of a screen

Have parents at their beck and call…sports, activities, projects

Have parents who pay for their cell phones every monthI’ve previously posted a couple articles about these issues: How Long Can a Mom Monitor Kids’ Media? Is 17 years too long? :), and Teenage Privacy…Is it OK to spy on your teens’ texts? Internet history? Surf their social media? Yep!. There have been humorous moments managing these issues with my kids over the years (as you’ll read in those articles), but It Has Been Exhausting Being The Pioneer. The level of expectations has risen and we’ve fallen right into it.

We are not only pioneers of electronics but pioneers of “talks” that our parents never dreamed of having with us. After-school conversations regarding gender confusion and standing up for your faith yet being respectful of others are draining. All previous parenting generations throughout history had no such thoughts, let alone were forced to engage in ongoing dialogue of explanation and navigation. Add some social media management, and we just want to go take a nap. It all feels so overwhelming, many parents throw in the towel and just say, “it is what it is”.

Never in world-history have there been so many pressures upon parents. There have never been higher rates of teenage depression, street-drug use, pharmaceutical use, health issues related to teenage inactivity and one of the culprits of all of these: never in history has there been such an excessive, profound, uncontainable problem of teenagers comparing themselves with random internet photography. Whether Snapchat, Instagram, internet images of the Hollywood elites or the girl next door, these images are seldom real.Even when you inform kids that the actresses in movies and television have a 6-week prep ahead of body conditioning prior to every single award show and red-carpet event, followed by another week-long last minute prep including hours of hair, spray tanning and makeup, they still want, wish and crave to be the image. Battling this is a whole other article perhaps another time.

The next time you find yourself exhausted or sad or overwhelmed by the work required in raising a moral, responsible, thinking child, remind yourself that you’re not alone. It’s worth the effort to monitor, to question, to require verbal conversation and limit electronics.

There are millions of us out there who are walking the walk alongside you, being very unpopular at home when needed, running the race in faith and keeping our eye on the end result, not seeking the temporary ease of intentional ignorance.  Be strong, fellow pioneers! Someday your kids will be better off because of your involvement. 

 

 

Unlike Most People, I’m Glad It’s Monday

It’s seven weeks into the semester and I’m profoundly feeling the effects of the empty-nest. The weekends are the worst, especially Sunday evenings. Some Moms get through this easier than others, but I’m struggling.

Saturdays were always slow mornings, since we went to church on Sundays. Breakfast, hanging out in PJs and then usually a soccer game in the crisp, fall air surrounded by the changing leaves. We would stop at the local cider mill afterward, picking up donuts and cider slushies. I stopped in on my own recently and wow, it just wasn’t fun.Sundays, I go to church alone. Sometimes I run a few errands and write a bit. I always cooked on Sundays and that heightens the sadness.

No, I don’t miss being in the kitchen for two hours chopping, preparing, cleaning and cooking…I do miss the end result of everyone around the table, eating and talking and bonding. I miss hanging out in the living room on Sunday nights deciding on a movie everyone would like. My older daughter made popcorn. I would yell at my son to put away his phone and just watch the movie :).

It sounds simple, but the little things like sports games, church, meals, their friends coming over and just the constant activity brought our home to life. It feels strangely lifeless.

Make no mistake, with all of that activity came frayed nerves and craziness that wore me out. My son annoyed me. My older daughter sometimes prioritized friends over family. Funny how when they are at college, I tend to forget these things. A little peace and quiet should be welcome.

My work is isolated. I have a home office and in the last year (ironic timing with the baby leaving for college), I decided to teach exclusively in our online program. It pays more and I live in the country. I don’t miss the drive into the city campus, but now I have even less communication with other humans. So, I’m looking for a different job. Not to mention, higher education is nothing like it once was and I’m eager to move forward.

Last month, I started volunteering more, began a couple projects I’m really enjoying and made sure to book some girlfriend outings on the calendar. Still, I’m a Mama. It’s not only how I largely defined myself but I actually enjoyed it. They still need me but it’s sooooooo not the same.

My kids all face time me, call and text every day. We also have a family snapchat and family group text. I hear all of this communication is unusual so I’m really grateful. They are cool kids who tell me all about their experiences (good and bad!), and I am truly thankful.

Like starting the first day at a new high school, groups have already been established and I’m wandering from place to place, looking forward to landing in two or three new things that will slowly build this new, peculiar life. Other parents move on and I will too, but it’s a struggle. I also recognize that I must because my kids need to see their Mom happy and secure.

My twins are a few hours away so I was able to see my son a couple weeks ago and we got a hotel room to extend the time we could visit. Quite joyfully, my daughter recently called to say her roommates are leaving this coming weekend and she wants me to come and stay at her apartment just the two of us! She’s making all sorts of plans and I’m stupid-excited. I’ll be cooking on Friday, jumping in the car with the birds on Saturday, stopping at my son’s apartment to drop food and treats to him en route to my daughter’s university an hour past his.

Mondays are welcome mornings for me. After feeling sad on Sunday nights, Mondays feel fresh, like anything is possible, I just need to keep working toward the new goals.

“For everything there is a season…” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Assuming Her Life Must Be Easy, But Really, It’s Not

One of my friends (we’ll call her Hannah) has been slightly overweight all of her adult life. We never discussed it much as she never felt hindered by it, nor expressed desire to change it. Then, unexpectedly one day Hannah admitted to me that she had admired one woman in particular for nearly 20 years who was married to her husband’s colleague. Hannah almost-resentfully stared at the woman’s incredibly fit and slim figure at every work function. Then, at their most recent corporate gathering, Hannah was shocked to see that this same woman had gained some weight due to hormonal changes and major family problems causing her stress.

Hannah learned that this woman who Hannah had built up in her mind as having a very “easy life” – blessed with money and model-like genes – had spent the last 20 years in regimented self-discipline, following a healthy diet and strict work out schedule to avoid the actual genetic makeup of her overweight family. Hannah proceeded in a somber tone, confessing to me that she had spent an embarrassing amount of time judging and envying the woman as having an “easy” life. She confessed quietly, “I guess some women really do work for it.” She wrongly assumed the woman’s strong body and groomed appearance were as natural as the weather. She also wrongly assumed that money ensured happiness in their marriage.

My friend isn’t the only one who made a wrong assumption and believed the “lie of ease”.

If you have read my About Me page, you know I love watching QVC when I have time. Over the summer, I saw this stunning woman selling beauty cream. She was a vendor, not a QVC host. I was mesmerized by her beauty and really tuned in when she mentioned her age. I could not imagine that this woman was around my age when her figure was so slim and her skin so flawless. I stared at the kitchen television wondering what it must be like to have life “so easy”…a dream job, a spectacular face and body…

Then, I saw her again about a month later, pitching her products. In passing, she mentioned how having a regular routine was helping through a health struggle. Now, I was really intrigued about her age, children’s ages and this health issue. So, I googled her. To my deep sadness, I learned that she is battling a serious cancer diagnosis. She simply chooses to still pull herself together, do her hair and go to work, no matter how tired she is.

I was so angry with myself. I literally made a sweeping assumption that a woman who got a terrific job, who does extensive traveling and has the skin of a 25-year old must go home to chandeliers, servants and ease.

A little bit of effort on the outside tends to make onlookers (most but not all) think a woman’s “life must be easy” in all aspects.

Unlike when we were in our 20’s, effort is usually (for most women, not all) required just to reach “decent”. Why? Because by the time most of us are over 40, we’ve been through some stuff. We’re a bit worn out. We’ve cried a lot. We’ve grieved, been passed over, treated less-than and raised teenagers. Hormone changes begin, leaving sagging skin and soft muscles. Even mild effort is required just to feel decent, let alone look presentable.

This “making it look easy” goes beyond our appearance. People who also put in even a small amount of effort housekeeping, raising their kids, or volunteering, receive assumptions that they “have nothing else to do”. “If they can bake the brownies, they must not be that busy.” “Must be nice to have time to run the school fundraiser.” “Who has time to attend every one of Johnny’s games?” They too only have 24-hours in a day, they just decide to give up some Netflix to help out and support others.

I know better. The grass isn’t greener, it’s just different grass. It’s rare that I fall into assumptions any more, but occasionally I do. The truth is, when we admire something in someone else, there is usually considerable mental discipline and/or physical effort they are expending when we are not watching.

Excruciatingly few, if any, humans truly have it “easy”.

Why We Struggle to Respect Others’ Parenting Health Care Decisions-Microchipping is One Reason

Why do we struggle to respect the health care choices other parents make for their children? I think the answer is: because “their decisions” potentially affect our own children.

Several years ago, one of my students gave a presentation arguing against the use of VeriChip, which are microchip implants placed in humans containing their medical information and/or for mere purposes of identification should the person go missing (they have since been referred to for many other uses as well). Her mother had given permission for a physician to insert the chip into her little sibling’s arm. My student proceeded to give an account of the side effects of the chip implant, including major skin issues including the body identifying the object as foreign as it attempted to push it out through the skin.

I was both revolted and riveted. I was unaware of the chip. Little did I know that the FDA had approved microchipping long before her presentation. This student had primary research and had effectively convinced all of us in the room that VeriChips (now being rebranded as “PositiveID) which are RFID (radio frequency identification) was a grotesque invasion of the human body and basic privacy.

Why did I feel the urge to immediately judge my student’s mother? Because, as one news report previously claimed, all children will be microchipped ‘sooner than later’. This could mean my future grandchildren and I’m wholeheartedly in alignment with my student’s argument against.

Thus, the “it affects ME and MINE” answer to my question why we have trouble respecting others’ parenting health decisions.

I didn’t know the student’s mother but once I began to delve into the topic on my own a bit more, I was appalled. But, if she thought it was beneficial for her son (perhaps he had a chronic condition we are unaware of), I must respect that decision. The issue lies in whether or not someone else’s decision will mandate something in my own family.

For example, when my kids were toddlers and we went for pediatrician visits, it was a fine day out. Sometimes, it was even fun. But as the years wore on, medical staff were required to attend endless conferences where they were given nothing but worse-case scenarios for abuse, disease and reckless human behaviors. They were also increasingly required by law to impose or at the least, strongly push multiple new procedures, questioning and optional vaccinations. The results? More mandates even for the normal, healthy, rule-following families. Asking a sheltered 10-year old about graphic sexual possibilities at the hand of a relative or family friend literally causes anxiety and stress on the child.

I do understand the need for some “idiot-proof” rules. I understand that doctors are just too overwhelmed anymore to take the time to get to know their patients and families, especially those physicians who only see you annually. I understand that many are inconvenienced so many can be saved. Whether it’s the tedious TSA security checks thanks to terrorists or deeply disturbing medical questionnaires given to innocent 10-years olds thanks to the depraved, psychotic abusers in this world, we are forced to participate in activities we are not responsible for.

A few weeks ago, I came across news that pregnant Kat Von D had decided not to vaccinate her son once he is born. The only reason that I even recognized her name is because earlier this year I splurge-purchased on the best concealer brush that I have ever used, created by Kat Von D (Lock It). I knew the name Kat Von D from Sephora, but never heard of the show, LA Ink. There was a Twitter flurry of criticism with endless calls to ban use of her cosmetics line. I really didn’t understand why Kat Von D’s decision was anyone’s business but her own.One of the arguments presented amid the insanity on social media was that her child going to Kindergarten may affect the other children in the class, as perhaps KVD’s son would carry something (a germ? a disease?) as a result of not being immunized. But even that argument is weak, as if you are pro-vaccinations (and in full disclosure, all my children were vaccinated) your child is protected. It was rare to see any post where someone actually cared about the well-being of the child, it was really about their opinion.

Chatter about microchipping humans and Kat Von D’s lack of immunizing her child have quieted down. While microchipping humans is rare (and has since moved to hands instead of arms), it is out there: CBS News. Last year, The New York Times also did a piece on companies potentially microchipping their employees: Microchip Implants for Employees?

Whether new parents or those of us with college-aged kids, this parenting business is a marathon. We are fully responsible for choosing wisely for our own, but I am personally trying to get better about accepting others’ decisions. We’re already tired from the daily activity, we don’t need to stress ourselves further by what our neighbor is doing.

If a parent wants to go against the grain every once in a while, whether because they are young and inexperienced or older and worn out, I’m going to try harder to respect their decisions. But, like most Moms, I have a limit for my nest (not yours) and I draw the line at microchips.

Family Silhouette Image: freepik.com

Click on KVD brush image to see product. 

Trying to get the perfect photo of your moody teens? Graduation? Christmas?

My twins who are the oldest of my three kids were entering the really annoying “teen stage” at about 13 years old. They were still very good kids, but one thing in particular became very difficult for about a year: taking family photos with happy faces!

It was November and I wanted to have the three of them in a decent photo for the annual Christmas card. Whenever I was behind the camera that year, trying to get them all to laugh together became a guaranteed upset and complete failure. So, I decided to have the photo taken somewhere else.

I made a few phone calls and found a place that fit my budget and time frame around sports. As I finalized the date, I casually asked, “Can you please arrange for us to have one of your most fun and friendly photographers? Preferably a female?”

Her stuttering response: “Why, ma’am? Are… your… kids… little ones?”

I can hear her shuffling papers through the phone line. “I thought you told me they were teenagers…?” Poor thing, she was confused.

I was embarrassed and felt compelled to explain that “little ones” behavior often accompanies teenage bodies. But, I didn’t waste her time or mine. The truth is, teens will usually (although not always) behave better for strangers (a.k.a. photographer) than family.

The point of the story? When raising teens, shamelessly ask for help when you need it. Yep, even if that includes the photographer at your local JCPenney studio.