Parenting

The Mommy Updates

Don’t you sometimes feel a little sorry for small children whose lives are being relentlessly documented on social media? I totally do. The way I see it, the oversharing occurs on two different levels:  one, way too often; and two, way too much private information.

I mean, small children are totes adorbs. No question. I understand the temptation to share. But, you know what? Little Nathan looks pretty much the same as he did yesterday. Or two days ago. Or last week. I have this friend with twin babies, and the babies frequently tend to adopt mirror poses; i.e. they are both sleeping on the same side with their arms spread out in the same way and clutching a stuffed animal in the same kind of grip with the same hand. Absolutely cute, the first five times I saw it. Now, I just can’t make myself join the one hundred and seven other people who have “liked” the post. It’s still cute, but it’s hard to really appreciate them as often as the frequency of posting demands.  My response is more like, “Yep. There go the babies again.” They’ve turned into another spot on the wallpaper, which is too bad because they really are cuties.

Also, and I say this as the doting mother of two, isn’t there anything else these people want to share on social media? Too well I remember the feeling of being sucked down into the vortex of parenting the preschool set. At that time, I really relished the opportunities I had to discuss topics that weren’t about addressing basic needs and civilizing the little darlings in my care. Social patter on That Certain Social Media Site really isn’t that challenging. Can’t some people find something to say instead of something to show?

Well, no. No, they can’t. Because TCSMS has turned into one endless scroll down pic after pic after pic. Show and tell. And evidently little kids are perennially popular exhibits. At least to the people who are showing and telling about them; namely, their parents. For the rest of us, maybe not so much.

For me, definitely not so much. I think I’m making that pretty clear.

On to the second, and to me, more troubling problem: way too much information. Yes, most children are learning the same major life skill between two and three years of age. Do we have to write it down? Do we have to talk about how it’s going? Or, in far too many cases, how it’s NOT going?

Ew. Yuck. Just stop it with these kind of updates on social media, parents. For one thing, this is not about YOU, it is about your CHILD and his or her readiness to acquire a new skill. Also, it’s pretty disgusting for those of us who don’t care. I will never get a medal for this, I know, but I  had nothing to say on this topic even when it was a high subject of interest on a very personal level at my house.  Because I can recognize that certain topics are off limits for polite conversation.  They’re called boundaries, guys. Let’s recognize them. Also also, how do you think your kids will feel when they’re old enough to realize exactly what you’ve been sharing about them on social media? Okay, yeah, maybe they’ll never find out. I imagine that by the time a person is old enough to have a social media presence, he has better things to do than go years back into his mom’s status updates from the year when he was two. But still. It could happen. Or, what is more likely to happen, a person’s sibling could go back and find photos and status updates and use them for merciless internet taunting. Fun times.

So, mommies, it’s time to get a grip. Just because you can share it doesn’t mean that you should.

In fact, if it’s not a proud moment for your child, it shouldn’t be up there. Because any more than that is boring to your friends and unkind to your child.

Think. Think, think, think before you post. I realize that’s a lot to ask in the context of social media.

But I think it’s worth a try.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

All She Ever Does is Read

Did anyone ever say this about you when you were growing up? Lots of people, both adults and other children, said it about me, and let me tell you, this was never, ever uttered in anything like a supportive or admiring tone. The subtext always seemed to be “because she has no friends. What a loser.”

Well, ha-ha, boring other people, I led a richer inner life than you, a truth which you failed to appreciate at the time and probably still wouldn’t understand.

Now that I’m an adult and a parent myself, I simply can’t fathom any adult with any maturity or perspective or compassion commenting in this way and in this tone about a child, let alone within her hearing.  One of my favorite parenting moments ever was when my friend Kay hosted a party, and Kay saw that my highly-introverted daughter needed a little bit of quiet space, and she said, “Let’s find her a book to read.”

No harsh judgment. No hint of any sentiment that my daughter had to go play with the other kids even though she’d been doing that for the past two hours and badly needed a break. My friend Kay thought it was perfectly fine that a child would spend some time at a large party, sitting in a quiet corner with a book.

I love the place and time where I live, where it’s okay for a quiet child who has done her social duty for a while to read during a party. Love it.

I’m bringing this up because the topic of screen time seems to have become quite a discussion among parents, both online and in the real world. How much time should children spend on the internet? How much time online is too much? What kind of limits should there be? Should the limits depend on how old the child is?

I don’t limit my children’s time on the internet. When they were in elementary school, we had the five o’clock rule, which was that they had to wait until five o’clock for any screen time, whether that was television or computer time or whatever.

Now that my daughter is thirteen and my son is eleven, they can do whatever they want. Every time I consider setting limits, or forcing them to spend their free time doing something else, I hear those voices in my head, those voices who let me know in no uncertain terms that my favorite activity wasn’t good enough for the people around me, and that my choices during my free time were not acceptable choices.

Do I wish my children would read more? Of course I do. But my own mother wished I would play outside more. She wished I would join in with other children more. She made me join the Girl Scouts and the high school choir, when I would rather have been home with a book.

It won’t surprise you to hear that we have books all over the place at our house. They are waiting to be discovered. But I want my children to discover them on their own, not because I’m making them do it.

I guess I’m not willing to subscribe to the idea that spending a lot of time on the internet is harmful for young teens, just because I didn’t do that myself and I don’t want to do it now. My son is learning something through video gaming, and my daughter is learning something by being a fangirl and following video bloggers. They aren’t the same things I learned, but the world is a different place now. They spend a lot of time in school or doing homework, and at their age I want their free time to be their own.

And I also know that sometimes I reached my saturation point and I put down my book and went and climbed a tree or something. I’ve seen both my children walk away from screen time when they have had enough. They are learning to self-regulate, and that’s a good thing.

Pursuing a passion, whether it’s books or fangirl culture or Minecraft. That’s what it’s all about.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy