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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

This parenting thing......

I am sitting here with my two children. Lana, my thirteen year old eighth grade daughter, is working on math. She's also "on the phone." She's "on the phone" the same way I was "'on the phone" when I was her age. Unlike thirteen year old me, though, tethered to the kitchen by the telephone cord, my daughter can carry her phone around with her--to the bedroom for more private conversations--but right now and right here, she's doing math and gabbing about an upcoming teen Bible study group. She's taking cookies.

Lana doesn't have a Facebook account or an iPhone, so she has to actually converse. Use words. Pick up a ringing phone. Say "hello." Of course, unlike the thirteen year old me of 1968, she already knows who it is. She's had a moment of decision making to do. Answer it? Not answer it? Most often she answers...even if she's heaved an exasperated sigh first at the viewing of the name on the Caller ID.

I actually think that Lana's friends having to call her and converse with her gives them a chance to practice social skills. Skills that include proper greetings. Skills that include social banter: "What'cha doin'? How're you?" I know that having to call Lana keeps her friends away from the online freedom of profane language and the in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS SCREAMING when they are upset. Having to converse with Lana on the phone keeps that potential ugliness at bay. Gives them, thirteen year old girls, a chance to work things out with verbalized words instead of written text. Thirteen year old girls have lots and lots to work out.

I'm amused that she is offering to pick up her friend tomorrow for the Bible study. "Do you want me to pick you up?" she just asked. I am thinking to myself, "Well, how are YOU going to get there, huh? Seems like you might need meeeeee......"

She's also talking about a sick friend who is in the hospital. How does she know that? Insta-gram. Apparently the sick friend just posted pictures of herself in a hospital gown in a hospital. I am taking her feeling well enough to post pictures as a sign that she will be ok.

Lana has an insta-gram account and a Kik account but she has to use my phone to get into those accounts. That's a good thing. That way I feel like she and I have a little balance. She goes in, checks out pictures and messages, posts a few things--most often for Lana her posts will be pictures of cats with big eyes or of horses--and then, unlike most the pre-teen and teen age kids she and I know, gets out. Most kids are hooked, in and live, 24/7. There are very few boundaries.

We adults think we are establishing boundaries Parents say: "You may only use your phone after homework." Teachers and administrators say: "You may have your cell phones at school but you may not use them until after school." We parents agree with that....and then text our children in the middle of their school days.

Lana more than her 12 year old brother Ben who craves "this stuff," seems to instinctively understand that she is protected in some way from the teenage meanness on line. She seems to comprehend, that although adults in her life--me at home, teachers at school--want to protect her from the world's ugliness, we cannot. She must, in the end--and most especially on line--do that herself; for she is alone when she "gets in."

Lana is relieved, even though she whines about it from time to time, to be able to put the blame for the lack of her presence on line smack dap in my lap. "My mom won't let me have texting or an iPhone until I am in high school," she gets to say and roll her eyes.

That is OK with me. I know the only way to truly protect her right now is to limit her time online. The only way to do that is to just not give her iPhones and iTouches and iPads. "Later," I say often. "Later, when you are older. You know you will have all "that stuff" when you are older." I thank God that I've been saying that since she and her brother were little, so it's no surprise to them.

When my husband and I first adopted Lana and Ben, I read, read, read. I often, in some desperation at times, read child psychologist Dr. John Rosemond's wise advice. One important piece of his advice that has stayed with me is "strike when the iron is cold. Don't wait until it is hot." That's what I have done with my messages to my children about their having iPhones and the like. "Not yet. Not now." So I don't have to "strike hot irons" and take things from them. Oh, now that gets ugly for parents. I keep striking cold irons--"not yet, not now. Let's go for a bike ride."

I know a time is coming--and it is coming soon--when both Lana and Ben will be living full time with technology. There is no way that will not happen. So here is my prayer and my hope: that they have been raised well; that they will use technology in fine and good ways; that when they are confronted with the ugliness out there--and they will be confronted with ugliness--that they will turn from it or directly confront it.

I have been striking that "cold iron" for years. I talk about their responsibilities to themselves, to each other, to our family and to society. I talk about the challenges they will face. I talk about integrity and truth. I talk about how difficult it may seem to live a life of integrity and truth. I talk about how immensely valuable such a life is.

So, here I sit. A twelve year old boy studying German on the couch and a thirteen year old girl studying math....and listening to music.....and talking on the phone.

So, here I sit. I love that Lana just assumes I will drive so she "can pick up" her friend for Bible study.

I wonder who will bake the cookies?

5:42 am edt          Comments

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