Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Being Socially 'In' Is Not Actually Our Goal

Of course my kids have friends.
So, I know I haven't been blogging much lately. I'm slowly climbing out of a depression/anxiety thing that was predictably triggered by massive amounts of stress. Basically, I'm great in a crisis and then fall apart when everything's okay again. I suspect I'm not alone in that.

One of the ways I know that I'm getting better is how incredibly hilarious I found this random exchange I had today with another parent.

Our kids are in the same swim class, so we were chatting while the kids were in the pool. Hanging out with other parents during swim lessons is a cross between jury duty and being at the worst cocktail party ever -- you're just sort of thrown in with these other random adults that you don't know.

Anyway, today we happened to be chatting about kids and social media. I shared that my older daughters are 12, and while they do have cell phones for emergencies, they're not on Facebook, Instagram, etc. I'm genuinely not judging parents whose preteens are on social media; for a plethora of reasons, I just don't think it would be a good choice for my kids.

Anyway, the lone dad in the room proceeded to lecture me about how I'm too strict with my kids, and that if I don't give them freedom, they'll rebel. I said that Facebook requires you to be 13 to join, and when they're 13 it's something we'll consider. I'm really not comfortable teaching my kids that they have to follow some rules but not others. They also know that "their" cell phones really belong to their daddy and me, because we pay the bill. If I ever see that they have used their phone during school hours, or that they're texting people I don't know, they will no longer have cell phones. Period. And considering that I have blue hair, it's not like I'm really that conservative. My kids will have to turn into Alex P. Keatons to sufficiently rebel.

And seriously, this guy would not let up. I certainly don't feel like I have to explain my parenting decisions to other people, but I also kind of suck at just dropping conversations like this. Random Concerned Dad said that social media is important, and I explained that since social media is pretty much my actual profession, I understood that. And that my kids do use the Internet (with supervision, obvs) but that no 12-year-old actually needs to be on social media. You want to put your kids on it? You go for yours.

Look, my kids will be on social media eventually. Of course they will. But why would I rush that? They have the whole rest of their lives to deal with the ridiculous drama of Facebook and Twitter and everything else. Plus, there's the added fact that my kids haven't asked to be on social media. You know...because they're 12 and they see their friends in real life.

Aaaaaand it kept on going. This super-knowledgeable dad told me that they're 12 now, but before I know it, they'll be 13. (Yes, I can do math, too!) And then everything changes in the blink of an eye. Okay. Fine. I was a teenager and I did all kinds of crazy stuff, and I'm grateful every day that I did all of that craziness before social media was invented to record it all for eternity.

But the thing is (I explained), as parents we have to pick and choose the freedoms we give our kids. What works for each family is different. What works for us: school and family are the priorities. Extra-curriculars, which are limited, are important and fun, but secondary. Real friends are real friends, not people who just clicked on your photo.

And here is the clincher: I was thisclose to faking a phone call to end the conversation, and this man's final argument was, I kid you not,

"But aren't you worried that they'll be socially...weird?"

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I almost couldn't speak because I was laughing so hard.

Dude, my kids being socially weird was a foregone conclusion. All four of them self-identify as nerds, and do so with pride. Being socially cool is by no means their goal, nor is it remotely our goal for them. (Of course, among their friends, being a nerd is cool, but whatever.) I can't even begin to describe the social weirdness going on with our family, but let's just say my kids are the ones pretending to be Daleks in the grocery store.

Our geeky kids are also exceptional students. They are kind and thoughtful and they volunteer in their community. They are and have good friends. My daughters are Girl Scouts. My oldest daughters are Red Cross-certified babysitters who are happy to work with special needs kids.

They are incredible, wonderful kids.

So tell me again how I'm doing it wrong?

(Photo via: R2-DB)

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  1. I really truly suspect that the parents who make parenting decisions based on making their kids "socially approved" are passing on deep issues. So sad.

  2. You're not doing it wrong. I didn't allow my son to have access to social media until just recently. And it's all about Twitter in high school, BTW. (He's almost 15). Wait. We allowed him limited access to Facebook at one point when he was twelve and it was a HUGE mistake. I think you're doing it right.

  3. Sounds like you have wonderful kids! Maybe Mr Know-it-all dad should pay a bit more attention to his children and less to other peoples. Thats almost as annoying as people who dont have kids but think they know everything.

  4. I sounds like EXACTLY what I do in my house. My kids play the Weeping Angels person is The Doctor and the others have to move when The Doctor isn't looking. :)

  5. You just had how to mother your children mansplained to you!

  6. You are doing better than most. Heck, my oldest knows about FB and she doesn't really care about it. She has a cell phone that is as basic as can be. It can call, text, and take pictures - we just added the ability for her to send and receive picture messages. But that's it.

    My kids are socially "weird" and they like it - there is so much more to worry about than social apps - dude, give it a break.

    And glad to see you back ;-)

  7. Coming from a parent who would not let my kids play a T rated video game until they were a "T", I applaud you! My oldest, who is seventeen, just told me the other day "you were the strictest parent when we were little but now you let us do all kinds of stuff" I told him that was because I worked hard for it to go in right and judging by the way he turned out it was coming back out alright!

  8. I suspect he was feeling insecure and even judged for allowing his kids on social media. So maybe he was trying to justify his decisions to himself. Sad.

  9. Bwahahahaha! I almost died when I read about the Daleks. My kids are such huge Whovians . . . they are having a Doctor Who themed birthday next year, decorated their rooms with paper models of the characters and run around the apartment complex yelling random words like "Exterminate", "Allons-y" or "Raxicofallipatorious". They have educated debates on the merits of the various doctors at bedtime and are trying desperately to convince their friends to watch as well. :) Also, even though they are only 9 and 11, they aren't allowed on Facebook either and they don't have cell phones. Many of their friends have both but I have explained to them that they don't need that kind of interaction yet. If they want to talk to a friend, they can use my phone or go outside and talk to them. Their job right now is to play and be outside, not sitting in front a computer glued to inappropriate content. I have long since realized that my kids are not ever going to be socially normal. I am not socially normal thought so why would I even want my kids to be? Normal is for people who aren't trying hard enough. LOL We embrace our weird while teaching them how to behave in a more neurotypical way when they have to, but all the other time, we let the weird hang all out. Besides, aren't we always telling kids to be themselves? I don't recall ever telling them "Be yourself, except if there are other people around." Embrace it, flaunt it and be happy. And let your kids be kids, not mini-adults. :)

  10. seriously. It blows my mind when people get MAD that you won't break the rules your kids. What does that teach them? That you know more than the people who have studied this issue extensively? It's not just Facebook- it's almost all things social media. Kids (and they are KIDS) aren't ready for that sort of thing and can get into positions that aren't safe for them- no matter how good the kids are. They're just not ready for it. I don't know if my kids will be ready for it after they turn 13, either. That's why kids have parents. Because they can't truly understand the consequences of their actions. They need to be protected. Hovered over? Not really, but then, that's a personal parenting decision based on the nature of the individual child as well.

    I'm so glad you laughed at that guy. He deserves to be laughed at.

  11. Ah, I love this. I, too, have two proud self-professed geeks, who are beautiful, wonderful people. Great students, volunteers - just like you said. People I LIKE. Well, most of the time. Because they are still teenage girls, so I still have to, you know, roll my eyes at them.

    Your swimming lesson parent-thing reminded me of something. When my girls were younger, they had a friend who was born without her left forearm. Just missing. She was a perfectly normal kid, full of spunk and as beautiful as they come, but her left arm ended shortly past her elbow. Didn't stop her from anything. When she was about 4, her mom had her at the Y for swim lessons. Another mother approached my friend and asked her if there was any way she'd consider moving her daughter to another class. "Why would I do that?" asks my friend. "Well, um, you know, her, um, ARM (loud whisper). It's really freaking my daughter out and she won't get in the pool." You talk about Mama Bear! My friend, who is about five-foot-nothin,' told this woman in no uncertain terms whose child really had the problem here. And it was NOT her daughter! The fact that she was working hard at swimming with a missing arm and hand was supposed to be negated because you don't have the spine to talk to your kid about respecting differences??! Ummm, no.

    Which really has nothing to do with your post, but the memory dropped in. One of those times when I kept asking my friend, "Really?? She REALLY said that??" - because I just don't want to believe people are that awful.

  12. Am I the only one that thinks it's creepy that and an adult male is concerned about 12 year old girls being allowed (or in this case, he wants them forced) to be on Facebook?

    I made the mistake of allowing my daughter to be on Facebook (she's 14) and I had her close her account because her grades dropped. But, while it was up, I learned waaaay more about other people's kids than I ever wanted to. It makes it really hard for me to want to let my kids socialize with these other girls and boys after I see what they've been posting. Sex, drugs, underage drinking, you name it it's all there for anyone and everyone to see, and don't even get me started on the cyber bullying. Some of these kids are as young as fourth grade!

    Your kids aren't missing a thing. They have real lives, and real friends, and a really awesome mom! Keep up the good work!

  13. If you see that dad again, perhaps suggest to him to google a news story. "Poconos psychiatrist arrested Facebook" should do the trick. This psychiatrist, who has a documented history of lewd behavior, attempted to befriend a 13 year old boy on Facebook. Fortunately, he was no match for super-mom (a friend of mine) who contacted detectives, and brought him down in a sting operation. There is an article about this in the Pocono paper (pocono record?) today. I'm not a fan of freaking kids out with strange-danger. But I think it'd be ok to freak the dad out a little!

  14. I did the generations before Facebook, Twitter, and all other forms of social media survive?? *sarcasm* We don't even subscribe to a television service because of all the junk out there that we don't want our kids exposed to, and while my daughter is still an infant, I plan to NEVER allow her on social media until she is old enough to understand the consequences. Maybe she'll be 13, maybe she'll be 18. It depends on the child and their maturity. I think you're making the best decision for your kids, and that people should respect that.

  15. WOOT! Yes! Love this. And yeah, my kids also pretend to be Daleks. And I just had my friend's 3 year old color a weeping angel for me.

  16. "Dude, my kids being socially weird was a foregone conclusion. All four of them self-identify as nerds, and do so with pride. Being socially cool is by no means their goal, nor is it remotely our goal for them. (Of course, among their friends, being a nerd is cool, but whatever.) I can't even begin to describe the social weirdness going on with our family, but let's just say my kids are the ones pretending to be Daleks in the grocery store."

    Wow, we have the same kids ... they have no problems being weird or nerds & neither do their friends

  17. Glad you are back - although I certainly understand and support the absence. Loved this post, and good for you, trying to talk some sense into the perpetually clueless....

  18. Yes do tell me kind sir how Facebook is going to improve my children's lives?! I have mommy friends who say "oh I should get on fb" and I tell them it's nothing but a mind-suck a nd insecurity-instilling ego-drain!! I mean, I'm addicted, but let me take that hit for you...I certainly would advise putting it off as long as ANY age. Good for you.

  19. Kudos to you for holding your own and staying classy. Having someone with the least investment in my children "advocate" on their behalf is the most annoying thing ever. Really, stranger? You think you care more about my children than me? You think I'm depriving them by not giving them each iPads? Write me a check and I'll think about it.

    In the meantime, I've had to email family and friends to remind them gently to keep their opinions (on raising my children with special needs)to themselves. No, I haven't tried that special diet. No, I haven't read watched that documentary. I'm busy surviving. Unless they are in my shoes, which they are not, they can't advise me on how to feel, what to do, and what's best for my kids.

  20. Depression is hard. I just wanted to acknowledge your struggle and send my best wishes.

  21. Neither of my kids (12 year old step daughter and 15 year old step son) are on FB. She has shown almost no interest yet. He is a little interested, but we've told him he has to wait and he hasn't really pursued it. They are both very PROUD to be more than a little "socially weird". He is Aspy and so proud of it that he often introduces himself to new people "Hi my name is... and I have Aspergers. This is what it means...." He has a small but strong group of friends and so far has dealt well with bullying and other social pressures at junior high very well. She has dyslexia and struggles to read, but loves books.

    Both my wife and I are also more than a little "socially weird" and use FB. It's just not right for our kids yet. Good on ya for not taking this stranger's nonsense!

  22. You are totally excellent. Sorry you had to put up with that guy!
    Oh, and when your kids finally do end up on social media, tell them to come find me. I have a feeling we'd get along wonderfully :)

  23. This is a great post! (I had to google Dalek, :)). I'm not a fan of those parents either.

  24. As a teacher of the 12-15 year olds, all I can say is thank goodness for parents like you!

  25. That's a great post! I just came across your blog a couple of days ago and am now browsing through your older posts, and this one just made my day. What a complete moron dad! When I get thrown into conversations with know-it-all parents with ideals opposite to mine, I'm mostly too much in shock that someone might think that way that I just don't know what to reply. You rocked that conversation!

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