Bullies & Cliques: Two interpersonal dynamics that, unfortunately, don’t out-grow adolescence. You know Noah who makes fun of everyone on the playground? Well, he grows up to be Noah in accounting, the guy that constantly tears you down during staff meetings. How about the cool girls in school, the one’s with latest fashions & trends, standing in a crowd, pointing at you…giggling. Well, that’s the same crew that gathers in the office lobby and continues to giggle at you as they pile into the elevator for lunch. Unfortunately, maturity is not a rite of passage experienced by all…nor is self-esteem a requisite for adulthood.
Nothing personifies this today quite like Facebook. As fathers & mothers of young children, we are sandwiched between our parents, who often find the technology to be overwhelming, yet are engaged by their 36 friends and pictures of the grandchildren. On the other side rests those young kids who’ve grown up in a Facebook world. Let’s just say I’m happy FB wasn’t around for my college road trips, European travels, and previously unknown high school parties at my parents’ house.
“Wow, there was a Jim Beam bottle in the mailbox…really? Uh, not sure where that came from Mom, got go to school, see ya!”
(Note to the future Me: Don’t leave my youngest alone on Prom Weekend)
No, our Facebook challenges are more difficult, more cerebral. Today, our generation tends to do 1 of 4 things on Facebook:
1. Play Games. Speaking of which, do you need something to do? I’ve got 3 things that come to mind if you’re looking for some productive use of your time…there names are Henry, Charlie & Max.
2. Re-post somewhat humorous/inspirational pictures that have you feeling like you’ve entered an online version of an Oprah show.
3. Expound on their political views. Freedom of speech has it downsides.
4. Post picture/stories about their kids.
I’ve been, to varying degrees, guilty of all of them…But it’s the fourth that creates issues for parents today. As we scroll through our timeline, it can be difficult to understand that we are seeing the parenting peaks of our friends, not the collection of one super-human, all-encompassing parent. And because we tend not to post our parenting valleys, we can get the sense that everyone you know has got this parenting thing figured out while your three kids are running around like a band of vigilantes.
“Henry, stop swinging your brother, he’s 7 weeks old and you’re gonna make him throw up…Charlie get away from the door, and put some pants on…Ohhh, see, he threw up all over his new shirt…GET IN TIMEOUT, NOW!…”
We don’t see FB updates like “Spanked the hell out of my kid in public today” or “went ahead and mailed it in and put my 3-year-old in front of the TV for 3 hours while I ate like dog shit”.
No, instead, we post items that highlight our children’s world, mostly so that people in our circle can be kept abreast of the comings and goings of our lives…yet our posts can seem arrogant, superficial, cliquish…
The result can be devastating. So much so that a few people I know and respect have gotten off FB altogether. I can respect that. Often times the best way to overcome negative energy is to move away from it.
I tend to think the upside of connecting and sharing out-weighs the negative thought processes that enters my head. Besides, if we remember that these postings represent parenting peaks, then we should be truly happy for our loved ones & friends. We shouldn’t take it as an indication of our inability to parent. Here’s my “Am I Good Parent?” test:
1. Do I love my kids? Check
2. Do I wake up every morning, and try to do my best in balancing the needs of my kids, with the needs of my wife and myself? Check
Everything else is secondary.
So, next time you jump on Facebook, after sifting through the Obama/Romney discourse that enlightens everyone…and you see that your neighbor went to school to have lunch with their kids, or took the day off to take’em to the zoo, or whatever it is that we do to make a difference in our children’s lives, don’t take it personal, don’t feel inadequate. Ask yourself the two test questions above. If you can answer yes to both, you’re all right in my book…
….now, I think I’ll go post this on Facebook.