Raising children outside of their passport culture, parents can tend toward feeling guilty about certain things.
It is not uncommon for parents of third culture kids to beat themselves up about the friends their kids have lost, the lack of community their kids may have, the lack of access to “normal” things (music lessons, movie theaters, social clubs, sports, church youth group, playgrounds, etc. etc. etc. forever and ever) they perceive their little people experience.
For some of us, guilt can cause us to be permissive (read:not very wise) in other areas while we attempt to make up for the ways we feel our kids are suffering.
Warning: Guilt is not a healthy guide to high-quality parenting decisions.
For the sake of context and disclosure I bravely share with you today, my age.
I am forty-four years old.
I am currently the grandmother of two and the mother of seven.
I grew up watching The Dukes of Hazzard, The Facts of Life, and Growing Pains.
It was a simpler time.
In Junior High and High School I never once researched a paper by using the Internet or a Google search. As a competitive swimmer, had I heard the word Google I would simply have thought some moron spelled the word goggles incorrectly. Had someone asked me, “Did you see that on-line?” I would have been stupefied and replied, “Do you mean did I see it while standing IN a line?”
It was a simpler time.
I did not post photos of myself or my friends anywhere but on a bulletin board in my brightly decorated bedroom. I used a thumb-tack to do it. It was a simpler time. None of my peers used smart phones. As a matter of fact, most of our phones had cords and were connected to the wall in the kitchen and we did not consider them dumb phones.
It was a simpler time.
I am raising (and have raised) children currently ranging from the age of 26 years old to 9 years old. I was parenting two children when the Internet came on the scene and began to be a more widely used tool.
My first-born taught me to use a mouse at a public library when she was five years old. I will never forget her taking it from my hand while I shook it in the air and saying, “No, Mom, you set it down like this.” My last-born thinks a mouse is a rodent that runs through the kitchen and causes me to scream. Seventeen years separate the first and last. They are experiencing technology differently – and that is just seventeen years of development. That to say, it is no wonder a forty-four year old might feel helpless trying to keep up with it all.
In 2007 my oldest daughter taught us about Facebook while we worked with folks in a rural village in Haiti. “That is the dumbest thing ever” and “What is the point of that?”, we said. That same year these experts talked about raising kids in the ‘Internet Age’. I bet those experts are not the experts today. (Zero research went into that bet. Do not quote me.)
The truth is, most of us cannot keep up with what our kids know. Unfortunately, many of us are learning the hard way.
We recently installed “the Circle” in order to limit our children’s access to sites on the web and to control the time the Internet is available to them each day. We smugly high-five and toasted ourselves as we thought, “Oh my gosh, we are brilliant and awesome and our kids are protected due to our amazing and cutting-edge cultural knowledge. Go us! Parenting is easy!!!”
Approximately seventeen minutes later we were lying face down in despair as we learned that half of the things we allowed the kids access to are neither “safe” or acceptable by our standards.
We learned that Instagram, our kids’ favorite SocialMedia site, has pornography. We learned other terrible things too.
We learned that the despicable and broken beings devote their lives to getting porn in front of our kids. We learned that we probably cannot stay ahead of it without devoting time and attention to staying ahead of it. Even then, we probably cannot stay ahead of it.
As we are learning and trying to protect the five kids left in our home we are reading statistics about the age that most children in today’s world will first be introduced explicit and sexual material and images. If you have a child born last week, it is time to begin to prepare yourself now.
I wish I was bluffing.
It may be that every.single.one.of.you reading this are far more intelligent than my husband and I. As a matter of fact, I kind of hope that is the case. If so, let me be the first to congratulate you on your sagacity, sapience, and shrewdness. I’m standing on my patio in Port au Prince applauding (saluting!) you while being amazed at all the useful words that start with the letter S.
If you are just a regular type of person, and have spent the last three minutes of your life longing for the simpler days of Uncle Jesse and the Dukes of Hazzard, perhaps you are not quite so enlightened and need some tips. Allow me, then, to share some places you can go to educate yourself further.
I suppose I am required to close this parenting in a less simple time post with a hopeful little thought for us all. Parents need hope, after all.
The following is the best I have today:
Hope is good, we can all agree we need more of it.
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Discussion: Do you care to share how parenting from a place of guilt caused you to make a decision you later regretted? Have you been (too) permissive when it comes to Internet access?
Teach us your ways, Oh Ye parents that are normal and frequently fail, so that we might stumble (and fail) less.