Facebook Hazardous to Parent’s Health

I figured when my kids were grown that I would be a much calmer, less manic, gentler, non-anxious woman.

Out of sight, out of mind and all that. Plus, I thought they might possibly become more self-sustaining, wise and educated — perhaps even mature

I took every opportunity to cram copious amounts of wisdom into them by the time they approached their early 20’s. My job was somewhat — at least the challenging, hands-on part — accomplished.

Then along came Facebook.

My life as a mother of adult children has forever been altered by becoming a ‘Friend’ on their Facebook accounts. I am now privy to feelings, declarations, posted photos of activities, friends’ comments, and various assorted and sundry revelations that I probably should not know about.

When my sons (who are band junkies) post lyrics to current songs that are seemingly indicative of their mental state, my heart pounces out of my chest.

Who writes this stuff anyway? Life must be ponderous and paranoia-laden for young adults these days. These postings elicit immediate texts, voicemails  and concerned email messages from their mother, much to their chagrin.

Recently my youngest son posted on his status: “Only after disaster can we be resurrected.”

WHAT?!

I am immediately concerned that my son is contemplating a recent disaster, or anticipating one. What if he is creating one? I leap to fearful conclusions and set in motion a flurry of motherly contact to find out what is going on in his head.

After 142 attempts, he finally answers his phone:

“Son? Hi honey, how are you?”

Yawn. Sigh. “Mmmph. Just got up. Stayed up late.” Yawn.

“Oh. Is everything okay?” My voice rises a notch.

“Yeah. Why?”

“Well, I saw your status on Facebook – what is up with that anyway?” Heart rate elevates.

“MOM! Have you been reading my posts again? I am gonna block you, I swear!”

Mom, slightly miffed. “I am your mother. If something is wrong, I want to know. Why did you post that depressing thought? Are you depressed? Have you been in trouble? Had an accident?”

Pause to take a breath.

“Song lyric, Mom. They are always song lyrics. You don’t understand. That lyric is from a rap band.”

“A RAP BAND?” My silent disapproval lingers in the air a few seconds, and then I tell myself to back off, that he was fine and that was what mattered.

He heaves a long-suffering, resigned sigh. “Mom, I really like rap, and I just thought those lyrics were pretty cool.”

This conversation was one of the better ones, and ended well.

I shouldn’t Facebook and freak out. Better to wait a few hours after I read one of their more acute and angst-ridden postings before I allow motherly anxiety full sway.

This would give me time to pray for patience and wisdom, which would perhaps lend itself to more self-controlled, peaceable communication. They each threaten to block me, depending on pressure exerted by my escalating emotions at the time.

I am wiser now, and less apt to accost them with hysterics. I do not want them to block me.

I remember tip-toeing into their bedrooms in their adolescent years and sneaking a peak at their private stash of information. I unabashedly snooped at every opportunity, being the vigilant and over-protective parent that I am. Was. Whatever.

I have decided to adopt a new approach. I will pretend to have little interest in their Facebook activities, and drop hints that I am becoming bored with this site. I can visualize all four of them taking deep, collective sighs of relief.

I will continue, however, to slyly and regularly read their Facebook postings, digest the information, and internalize it for future utilization at the appropriate time.

But this is the thing. I am hands-on and pro-actively mothering much longer than necessary and it is wearing me out.

Facebook might want to incorporate parental “Friending” controls that would whitewash post-age-18 Facebook comments with replacement phrases like “I intend to finish college” and “I aced that exam” and “Cigarettes? Alcohol? Never touch the stuff.”

Sometimes — especially when Facebook and my stress level are involved — ignorance is bliss.

Article first published in “The Lighter Side,” Capital Journal, Pierre, SD, December 2009

Purple Laptop Good for the Soul

Empty-nesting, long-distance mothering is somewhat like ripping my heart out of my chest and expecting it to continue beating. Some things just don’t work as well when they are separated.

I am pondering this as I sit at my new, tiny laptop, which I adore, because it fits in my purse, I can take it anywhere, and it requires absolutely nothing from me emotionally. Plus, it is purple

My phone rings, and I note my oldest child’s number. My mind braces in anticipation of situations that are completely out of my control, and quite possibly my emotional radius. Combine this with menopausally-induced hormonal tantrums that erupt with little warning, and things can get dicey. I flip open the phone cautiously.

“Mom! We made it! We are in Sicily!”

This is great news, and I take a deep breath, which I have been holding in ever since this family of three boarded a transatlantic flight to their new home on a military base in Sicily. An hour later my cell jangles, different child:

“Mom! I’m locked out of my car! I know you told me 155 times to have a duplicate key made, but I didn’t, and, well, what do I do? Oh, and by the way, the motor is running, and my purse is in the car!”

My heart rate does back flips, because as every mother knows, we never distance ourselves from the adrenaline rush that occurs when one of our kids has a problem. But I live 2,000 miles away, and she is an adult, and I am hoping she has a better back-up plan than me.

Same day, different child:

“Mom! Uhh…(these are the worst — when they have trouble spitting it out – not a good sign) I am, umm, thinking of not going to college next semester. Things are going really good at the restaurant and they are promoting me! I think I’ll just work full-time.”

I wince, switching gears from kid-locked-out-of-car-with-engine-running to kid-quitting-college-and-perhaps-earn-minimum-wage-for-life mode. So far, these conversations have been incredibly debilitating. I give myself a pep talk and turn on inspirational music in an effort to improve my inner dialogue, which is starting to annoy me, and says things like this:

“I knew it. I knew it was a mistake to let that kid move off campus. And locking keys in the car is one thing, but with the MOTOR running? How are these kids going to make it to successful adulthood? Why can’t they seem to make sensible decisions? Everyone else’s kids do. (I know this is a lie, but I am in full self-pity mode, and rational thought is temporarily suspended.) What’s wrong with mine? Must be something wrong with me — yeah, that’s it. I was a lousy mother, a terrible mother. “

By the time my husband gets home, I am stressed and teary-eyed. Fortunately, he is a patient, non-judgmental listener, and my hormonal fit burns itself out quickly due to lack of fuel.

Later that evening, my cell rings again. I sigh and snap it open; noting kid number four’s number on the screen. “What?” By this time, courtesy has flown out the window.

Slight pause. “Mom?”

“Yep.”

“Didn’t sound like you. What’s up?”

Innocuous conversation fills a few seconds and my mother antennae start to quiver, because my kids and I don’t do innocuous. Finally he blurts out, “Mom! My friends spent the night in our spare bedroom last night, and one of them had an accident — she’s at the hospital, she is okay — but how do you clean up blood?”

I stare at the phone. My mom-receptors by this time are fried and I cannot, for the life of me, come up with a cognitive response. My husband is staring at me strangely. “What is it?” he mouths.

I somehow stumble through clean-up procedures, holding my stomach as I listen to him describe the tragic event, and click the phone shut after our good-byes. My emotional well is stone-dry. My gaze sweeps past my husband’s questioning gaze to the table where my perky, cute, efficient, non-needy, purple computer sits patiently.

Wordlessly, I pad over, pick it up and hug it to my chest. I am unable to explain this to my husband.

But the computer understood.

Article first published in the Capital Journal, “The Lighter Side,” Pierre, SD, January, 2010

Unusual Twist in Family Drama

Individual viewpoints seldom reveal the whole story.

Ask any mother.

I find it hilarious to try to sort out truth from fiction when talking with my grown kids, and sometimes don’t even try. This is a victory of sorts, because at this point I do not necessarily have to become deeply involved in kid drama, but can kind of wave my regards from the top of “not my problem anymore” mountain.

The most dramatic and heartfelt viewpoints come from my grown girls, who are 21 and 27.=

From one daughter I hear about new puppies, my six-year-old granddaughter and marital experiences. From the other (who is single) I hear about job adjustments, living arrangements, and multiple boyfriends. Since they have such different lifestyle experiences at this point in their lives, it can be quite daunting when they decide to spend time together.

Daughter No. 1, for instance, sometimes may come across as far superior in wisdom, life experience and insights into dating relationships, having lived an entire six years longer than Daughter No. 2. Besides, Daughter No. 1 is married and has a baby, and we all know this causes immediate maturity.

Daughter No. 2 is strong headed, opinionated and a classic Type A personality, and would rather slit her wrists than listen to prolonged instruction from Daughter No. 1. She tolerates it for a little while, but eventually her impatience runneth over.

Last week I received phone calls approximately 24 hours apart that might have come from different planets.

Daughter No. 1: “Mom? Are you busy?” My ears perk up because this always signals a longer than usual conversation which, as all parents know, translates to a need for money, or a need to vent or both. I put down my book, sigh and give her my complete attention.

She continues, “I just do not know what is up with (Daughter No. 2)! I have been visiting her for a week and she was so excited about me coming and NOW…” her voice trails off as she gathers a fresh head of steam, “…she is just so insensitive!”

I listen to her litany of grievances about her comments, reserving judgment, knowing these girls love each other, but a week in a confined space with a six-year-old, a small dog and limited finances would drive anybody crazy.

I murmur reassurances and hang up the phone, hoping they’d get past it.

The next morning, I see Daughter No. 2’s number appear on my cell phone. I quickly add up the number of hours since talking with Daughter No. 1, and conclude that enough time has elapsed to patch things up, but this probably has not happened or they would be out doing fun things together instead of calling me.

Daughter No. 2: “Mom? Are you busy?” I pour myself a cup of coffee and sit down. “Mom, I cannot believe how sensitive (Daughter No. 1) is being! I didn’t say anything awful, and she acts like I hit her or something! She is always like this. I am SICK of it. What is her deal anyway?”

I listen to her list of grievances, mutter words of appeasement and conciliatory wisdom, and hang up.

I make the sneaky and calculated decision to call them individually, pretending I do not know the other side of the story, and make generic love-and-unity statements wrapped in a Bible verse or two, then sweetly ask about other things to get their minds off wanting to rip each other’s throats out.

As a mature, wise and rather well-rounded survivor of relational conflicts, I feel I have the credentials to do things like this.

I think about how much time it takes to develop a simple little thing called “patience.” Years and years. Decades. At their ages, simply shutting their mouths would be a good start, before words tumble out that scorch their relationship.

I was creating a sage and lofty mom-document along these lines in preparation to private message them on Facebook when my cell jangled. My hands froze in mid-keystroke. It was Daughter No. 1.

Sometimes kid-drama has an unusual twist.

“Mom!” Different tone. One I didn’t quite recognize.

“I’m pregnant!”

My mind raced back to the heated arguments and sensitivity issues. Hormones. The culprit behind the drama had been hormones!

I smiled, deleted the mom-document, and thanked God this proclamation had come from the married one and not the single one.

I laughed my congratulations into the phone.