8 Reasons My Kids Are Not My Facebook Friends

Lisa writes: Don’t get me wrong, I wish my kids were my Facebook friends.  I wish they wanted to share their most embarrassing moments with me. I wish they wanted me to know everything about their high school and college lives. Frankly, I would be happy to stalk them and would love nothing better than to pry into their Snapchat or eavesdrop on their GroupMes.

social media

But the mom part of me that would love a window into their social media does battle everyday with the mom part of me that is proud they are grown and have lives of their own. These two warring halves of motherhood, the half that wants to know and the half that feels I shouldn’t, are locked in a fierce battle and I have declared my childrens’ privacy the victor.

I can be pretty envious of moms who have access to their kids online lives, but for me there are some compelling reasons to stay away.

1. They need to navigate on their own.

At first I thought social media and teens a toxic and frightening combination. But over time I have come to see that if billions of people can handle this challenge, so can my kids. Reflecting my own naiveté, at one time I thought there were baddies online who would come and find my kids through their Facebook accounts. Soon I saw that, just as kids of my generation were allowed to wander free, with our parents giving us rules and advice about dangers and strangers, my kids would need to learn to wander online without me.

2. It might be time to move on.

I want to stalk my sons and would love to drop into their lives and see the photos of their every move. The journey to the empty nest has not been an easy one for me  and I don’t feel the relief that some other parents do that my kids have left home. Despite that, I know that in some ways, for them and me, it is time to move on. By not being able to follow them on social media, I am probably doing all of us a favor.

3. It is their world.

Social media is a combination of the notes we once passed in class or slid into each others’ lockers and the secrets we whispered into the wall-mounted phone. Social media is both the gossip mill of the playground and the private missives between friends and i need to let my kids find their way. They deserve the same privacy we had even if the platform for that has changed.

4. They can run and hide.

Stalking my kids on Facebook was never going to turn up their misdeeds or anything, in fact, that they did not want me to know. Teens trying to hide something from their parents have plenty of places to do so. If I insist that they friend me on Facebook, they can move to Instagram, and if I hunt them down there they can scurry to Snapchat. Eventually they will find a social media platform, (Ello, anyone?) that I have not heard of.

5. Online there is no context.

Have you ever seen a teenage drama online and worried frantically only to discover it was over in an hour? I once called the mother of one of my then middle school son’s friends to tell her I had seen a message the daughter had left for my son (on my computer) which said, “I am going to have to kill myself.” I was wreck all night and could not sleep. First thing in the morning I called the girl’s mother, reasoning that I would not be able to live with myself otherwise. The mother of this girl laughed and said that the phrase was every other word out of her daughter’s mouth. I wondered if I really wanted to know what they say online when I have not context for it in real life.

6. It’s time to get off the “roller coaster.”

Do I really want to ride the rollercoaster of the ups and downs of teen and young adult life at that level of minutiae? In a wonderful piece about how to parent teens and young adults, Lisa Belkin advises to get off the roller coaster. We do not need to ride every up and down of their lives with them, to be there for them. We can be the supportive, constructive adults without living through their every emotional moment. Staying on the ground is much easier to do if you are not with them on Facebook.

7. I would be even more embarrassing if we were Facebook friends.

For many years my kids were embarrassed that I even existed. The last thing they needed was that embarrassment in real life and cyberspace.

8. Staying off their social media does not mean disconnecting technologically.

My kids and I are in an endless conversation on text and my window onto their world is widened with a stream of amusing, poignant and pedestrian photos they share with me. When something makes them smile, reminds them of home or they are just looking for my opinion, I get pictures. Sure the content is curated just for mom, but I am wondering if that isn’t just as it should be.

Why I Love My Empty Nest

Martha Handler, a guest blogger, writes: The kids have all grown and flown, as the last of our four headed off to college this past fall, and I find myself repeatedly being asked, “How is it being an empty nester?” While I’m extremely supportive and understanding of my friends who find this transition period difficult, if I’m being perfectly honest, for me, the empty nest feels great.

Family with adult kids

My career as a full-time mom began over twenty-three years ago and, I think most would agree, that’s a long time for any career to last. So, while I loved every minute of it (lol), I’m actually very excited about what lays ahead. I’m still sorting out exactly what that will entail, but for now I’m enjoying the empty nest.

My day is now considerably longer because it no longer ends when the school-closing bell rings. I can schedule appointments and be assured that I won’t have to cancel at the last minute because I was up all night trying to stop my kid from scratching his chicken pox or because I have to abandon my plans to retrieve a child who’s suddenly come down with stomach flu.

I can now enjoy long, carefree evenings out with my husband and our friends without worrying that I’ll receive a text mid-dinner that says “I’m going to flunk my biology test tomorrow if you don’t come home and help me understand the difference between a molecule and a macromolecule,” or “I have to bring homemade Spanish cookies to class tomorrow because I need the extra credit points. Don’t worry – I have the recipe and I would bake them myself but I can’t even pronounce the ingredients. If I fall asleep before you get home, could you just go ahead and make them for me? Thx. You’re the best.” (Full disclosure – I added that last sentence as I have to many of their texts over the years because although I’m sure they were thinking it, they often forgot to include it!)

And while it’s true that ‘once a mother, always a mother’ and ‘you’re only as happy as your least happy child,’ the difference now is that the immediacy of their situations has been dialed way down. I’ll happily read their college papers (if given the opportunity), but I’ll no longer make edits or provide commentary because I know they have TA’s and resource centers for that (and besides, they should damn well know how to write a decent paper by the time they get to college!) And I’ll lend an ear as they gripe about their unfair professors or horrible bosses, but I’ll no longer give them advice (unless, of course, they ask) because I trust that by now they know best when to stand their ground and when to let it be.

My day-to-day job of nurturing, tutoring, teaching, disciplining (or torturing as my kids would describe it), has officially ended. And let’s face it, if we haven’t succeeded in instilling morals and values in our kids in the eighteen years they lived under our roof, it’s doubtful we’ll make much of a dent going forward. So, while my husband and I will continue to love and support them – we’ll now be doing our cheerleading from the sidelines.

Simply put, I’m embracing my empty nest the same way I’ve tried to embrace every stage of my kids’ development. I found them cuddly and adorable as infants, fun and precocious as toddlers, inquisitive and confused as middle-schoolers and challenging and bewildering as high-schoolers. And while I always enjoyed each new phase better than the last, I’m honestly finding the young adult phase to be the most fulfilling and rewarding of them all.

The “heavy lifting” is coming to a close and now we can sit back (ha ha) and begin to enjoy these four wonderful young adults. Instead of them whispering under their breaths that we don’t know what we’re talking about or we’re just plain wrong, they’re now asking us for advice, sharing their concerns, and even apologizing for their past indiscretions. We’ve somehow miraculously transformed from being really stupid to being really smart – and what’s not to like about that!

Martha Handler

Martha Handler is a freelance writer who splits her time between Westchester and Tribeca, New York. Her free time is spent traveling, protecting wolves (as president of the board of the Wolf Conservation Center) and watching silly animal videos on Youtube.

11 Ways to Reclaim a Relaxing Summer

Lisa and Jennifer Breheny Wallace, together, write: Summers start with the best intentions. We fantasize about long, peaceful days at the beach building sand castles with our toddlers or playing tennis with our teens. Casting off a busy school year, we’re excited to finally relax the rules. Yes to the ice cream cones with insanely sugary toppings just before bedtime (heck, what bedtime?). Yes to the car keys (so what if it’s three late nights in a row?). Breakfast brownies? Why not? Another TV show? Sure, go ahead. It’s summer vacation, right?

beach vacation, little girl playing at the beach

Then, in Week Three, reality sets in: the bedtime routine now takes twice as long, everything has become a negotiation, and those idyllic days at the beach — well, they’ve become the setting of the sunscreen wars. How did these relaxing summer days get so… stressful?

Whether your kids are having a throwback 1970s summer, a Free-Range or a Hovering Helicopter summer, beware of the ever-tempting “summer slide.” The summer slide is the parenting equivalent of the “summer brain drain,” where what we know as parents slides, well, down the drain. In an effort to keep our summer fantasy alive, we sometimes bend our rules just a little too much and then suddenly… SNAP.

Before things get totally out of control, let’s get back to the basics, kindergarten-style — and start digging our way out of this sand pit to avoid getting buried alive. It’s worth reminding ourselves that summer is a break from routine, after all, not a break from parenting. Here are 11 things you can do now to reclaim your relaxing summer:

1. Stop with all the choices.

Teachers offer “choice” in small doses. They don’t offer a range of snacks and they don’t ask kids if they’d rather go to art class or gym class. Giving too many choices gives up too much control, and teachers know to do that sparingly.

2. Go ahead, disappoint.

You-Get-What-You-Get-And-You-Don’t-Get-Upset. Don’t be afraid to disappoint. Resilience, learning how to bounce back, is a skill that can be taught, but not if we’re smoothing over every conflict just to avoid a momentary tantrum or mommy guilt. We need to learn to live with the short-term discomfort and concentrate on the long-term gain.

3. Sloooow down.

Seeds grow slowly; chicks hatch when they are ready; important things take time. Children and teens don’t understand time — they want what they want when they want it. We too often react by jumping on their timeline. When we contort ourselves to suit their whims, we not only upend our lives, we give away the opportunity to teach them about patience.

4. Stop asking permission, OK?

“Mommy just has to run this quick errand, OK?” Teachers don’t ask permission. Ending declarative sentences with question marks is giving power to a little person who doesn’t actually want it. What children want is the security of limits and parents who know when to say no, even in the summer.

5. Let them clean up.

Overscheduled children don’t have time to clean their rooms or do their chores. Teens with summer jobs and SAT prep are just too busy to pick up their clothes off the floor. In school, if you haven’t cleaned up your mess, then you cannot move on to your next activity. By failing to insist upon this at home, we let our kids control the disorder in our houses and in our lives.

6. Revisit Oz.

The single most exciting thing that happens in kindergarten is that children take their first steps on the way to reading — starting on a yellow brick road that leads to a vast magical world they can now visit on their own. And then we and our kids get busy and forget about the Emerald City because life is too rushed and there is already too much reading assigned at school. Take back Oz; remember how lucky our kids felt when they first decoded the printed page.

7. Circle time.

It’s important to ask our kids about their day, every day. Create your own version of “circle time” at home. Tell the kids about your day, your challenges and triumphs, and ask them about theirs. This becomes even more important with teens, who will know that sharing what they are up to with their parents is just part of the deal.

8. Teachers, not friends or fairy godmothers.

When we try to be our child’s friend, we not only cede authority, we actually cheat them out of a more important relationship. We are there to teach and love and guide, not to grant their every wish.

9. Rest time.

Teachers know the importance of rest. Regular and adequate sleep is essential for kids at every age. Even tweens and teens should have a regular bedtime right up through high school. The end of summer should not be like a bad bout of jet lag, with no one able to get to sleep at night or up in the morning.

dunes, beach, ocean

10. Mind their manners.

Manners never stop mattering. As parents, we all too often rush, cut corners, forget to be as polite as we could and let our kids get away with the glib manners of the 21st century. Nothing has changed; manners are still magical and it is within our power to teach them.

11. Summer doesn’t equal spoiling.

At every age, kids think getting everything they want will make them happy, and it will be a very long time before they learn this isn’t true. We know the truth, and if we don’t teach this lesson early and often, the unbridled greed inspired by media can soon overwhelm our family’s true values. Days at the beach are a treat. A family vacation is something special. Summer doesn’t have to equal spoiling. Summer is just a different season, not a different childhood. It can be so easy to confuse the two.

Jennifer Breheny Wallace is a freelance writer with three small children living in New York City. We are grateful for her collaboration.

Photo Credit: TB Kilman


Why Good Parenting Calls For Cheap Scare Tactics

Becky Blades, a Grown and Flown friend, writes: “Dirty clothes shouldn’t be scary,” said a person who has not opened the door to a 17-year-old’s bedroom room or shared a car with an open gym bag. Or a person who has not sent a laundry-challenged 18-year-old out into the world.

Becky Blades, Laundry or Die

Releasing my daughter into society without being sure she would actually do her laundry was a terrifying moment in my empty nesting transition, and I met it the way I meet most scary parenting encounters – with frantic, jerking shrieks of foreboding and emotional threats: “Your life will be out of control! No one will live with you! No one will love you!…Did I not make myself clear? No wire hangars!”

Being afraid my daughter did not know how to take care of herself and her things turned me into Mommy Dearest; I displaced aggression and spent way too much time passing judgment on her closet. But in the end, though it wasn’t pretty, sending her to college was therapeutic for me. It was the crescendo of a decade and a half of using fear as a parenting tool, and it was the leg of my mom journey that sent me into serious self-analysis.

One morning sitting at my journal, I wondered to myself if my two daughters, then 17 and 15, knew the difference between a mother’s warnings and real risk. Like generations of mothers before me, I had used predictions and exaggerations to make points, I had inflated and fabricated scenarios and lorded threats just to make sure I was heard. I always felt these tactics were cop-outs, that a better mom than I would not need to resort to such things.

As I journaled for days, through years of memories, I realized that stirring up a little fear was a big part of my job description. I remembered, for example, that my children had grown up in a much safer neighborhood than I had. They didn’t need to be afraid to walk to school, or to hang out at the neighborhood shopping center. But living in that safe, shiny “bubble” we had worked so hard to create for them had created its own risks. They were dangerously trusting, and truth be told, they didn’t know what door locks were actually for.

“Don’t talk to strangers” were not serious words in suburban la la land.  In fact, the phrase “stranger danger” would set our humor-seeking household doubling over in laughter when properly placed in a conversation.

That’s the funny thing about fear. It’s funny. Until it’s not.

And it’s a parent’s job to clarify the difference. It was my job to make sure my eight-year-old got to enjoy life with enough security to laugh at paranoid clichés like “stranger danger” and also to assure those same words will send a chill down her spine at age 18 when a middle-aged man gets a little too friendly on a deserted subway platform.

That’s why my daughter’s last year at home was so frightful for me. I scrutinized my work and wondered if I’d covered the right material. She was terrified of making a low SAT score but undaunted by the prospect of running out of clean underwear. She did not know that having a laundry routine would save her from the free-floating overwhelm that would endanger her very peace of mind and turn already busy days into frantic clothing searches.

After a year of self-inflicted note making, I bid adieu to my daughter with an e-mail. Subject line: Do your laundry or you’ll die alone. Attached were 200+ tidbits of laundry advice, financial lectures and life lessons that I was afraid she might not know.

It got her attention. She read it all. Not because she was afraid of dying alone, but because she was afraid of the parental financial repercussions if she ignored me. (Those threats have not been veiled in the least.)

Come to find out, the things I’m afraid of for my daughter are things she is afraid of, too. As she got to know other young women at college, she reported that I am by no means the most dramatic or fear-wielding mom alive. Other moms fret and stalk and agonize and warn their daughters with much more flair than I.

I should have remembered this comforting fact from my own coming of age: as we step out on our own, women parent one another with the lessons they learned at home. The ones that make it through the noise are the lessons that are most repeated in mom’s most intense voice.

So . . . sorry, not sorry.

If my two daughters aren’t a little bit afraid of the sound of my ring tone between the ages of 15 and 18, shame on me. If my 18-year-old isn’t wary walking through campus after dark, I didn’t do my job. If my 21-year-old isn’t a little freaked out when a guy on a second date won’t take her home when she asks, I’ve missed a conversation.

Parents of sons likely have an entirely different list of fears and parenting imperatives. I hope that in addition to worrying about their sons’ safety, they are terrified of their sons being cavalier with girls’ hearts and bodies. I can think of no stronger deterrent for a well-raised young man than the look on his mother’s face when she learns of her son’s shoddy behavior.

The only thing we have to fear is NOT fear itself – it is losing fear as a parenting tool. But I’m not afraid. I’m betting that just like the laundry, creatively applied scare tactics will always be part of the job that never ends.

Do Your Laundry, Becky Blades

About Becky Blades

Becky Blades is author and illustrator of Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening, a wise, witty collection of counsel for women of all ages.

She lives in Kansas City with her husband of 30 years and her Maytag front load washing machine.

Check out Becky’s web site, LaundryorDie, and her blog, startistry. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest at: LaundryorDie.com


Katie Couric Joins Us in the Empty Nest

Lisa writes: Katie Couric is taking her youngest daughter to college this fall and I joined her show yesterday to talk about the empty nest along with our friend, Sharon Greenthal who blogs at Empty House, Full Mind. Here are two clips from the show (begin the first one at 1:50):

The episode was short and I was so glad that my family had a chance to jump in and share their ideas.  Here are a few thoughts, just personal opinions, that there just was not enough time to include:

The two biggest milestones in parenting are when our kids arrive and then, decades later, as they leave.  Each transition creates an earthquake in our lives, and hopefully, with each we adapt and thrive.

The “empty nest” is not a syndrome, but a sometimes painful, sometimes joyous stage in life.  Kids are supposed to leave, parents are supposed to care, this is life as it should be.  As the leave we will know them a little less, so is it any wonder that the change is bittersweet?

The journey to the empty nest is a very long process that starts when our eldest get their driver’s license and ends when our youngest have another place to call home.  For families with more than one child, this can be a decade or more.  The day we drop our kids off at college is but one step along the way.

During this long period we forge new relationships with our kids.  It is a bit scary and a bit exciting as we transition to being the parents of adults.  Technology and its gift of communication is transformative to parenting but negotiating the new terrain with our kids is truly journeying in uncharted territory.  I feel insanely grateful for the ways that we can stay, but not intrude, in each others lives.

Siblings will be experiencing the change too.  There were lots of kids book that helped us prepare our older children for their younger sibling’s birth.  Younger siblings may feel the departure of older brothers and sisters acutely as well.

As our kids leave, our youngest may for some time become an only, a moment to be cherished.

Sometimes it is hard to not think that our job is unfinished, that there was more we needed to teach our kids, more that we needed to share.  The good news is that our kids will look to us for many things for many years and that parenting never ends…