In June 2009, my last child, Daniel, joined our family and my days of homeschooling four little ones began.
tweens and teens
I want our home to be a place where my kids feel free to be themselves. It is my desire that each of my children feel known and celebrated for who they are.
When it comes to homeschooling, I want our annual plan to reflect each of my children’s unique set of strengths and their own personal goals. It is my desire that they feel like an important part of the decisions made about their education.
There are lots of ways to achieve these goals but most will require a parent who is committed to communication and willing to change and grow.
In that spirit, I created a survey that I offer my kids 1-2 times a year so I can touch base with their feelings about our home and our homeschool.
It’s already four o’clock and I haven’t eaten lunch. This isn’t normal for me.
I pause and think about it and realize that my stomach is in knots. No wonder I haven’t eaten. There is an ache in my stomach making me feel ill, but I am fairly certain that I am not sick. It’s not that kind of ache.
It is the sort of ache I get when I am stressed, so I start to think about it.
Am I stressed?
I can’t think of any particular stressor at the moment. Typically the root causes of this type of ache are the kids’ schedules, work, or homeschooling. But as I mentally think through my list, I can’t identify any deadlines or projects that are weighing on my mind.
I start to think about my schedule for the next day and the knot in my stomach tightens. This time, I feel seriously ill.
Then it hits me. I am avoiding any thoughts about one particular event on the calendar tomorrow.
My oldest child is taking her driver’s test.
And despite my brain’s refusal to think about it, my stomach is in knots.
Guilt is a universal feeling though it rears its ugly head in different ways, using different strategies for each person. We must all learn to tackle this beast in our own way and find the strategies that work for us.
I have been working hard to be reasonable, rational, and really honest with myself as I attack the ridiculous guilt that creeps up on me.
Yes. Ridiculous. Some guilt is just plain ridiculous.
Are you familiar with Dan TDM?
I know all about his Pugs and his wife, Jemma. I recognize his British accent on the TV almost instantly. And I have opinions about his various hair color experiments. (Just so you know, I am a much bigger fan of the purple-ish hair color over the green.)
Why on earth does an almost 40-year-old mother of four know all of this information about a 20-something-year-old Minecraft Youtuber?
Because of my kids.
Three of them love Dan TDM. They regularly stream his YouTube channel on our television so that I hear his voice most mornings when I enter the kitchen. My boys love to discuss Dan’s latest adventures with me. I listen, ask questions, and do my best to engage them in conversation.
(I should confess that I cheat a little though. I follow Dan TDM on Instagram. Then I can share little-known facts with them because my boys don’t have Instagram yet.)
But why? Why all of this effort to talk about Dan TDM?
It’s simple really. It’s about connection.
I wrote this letter over 2 years ago, in January of 2014 on the brink of my oldest daughter’s purchase of her first iPod. I wanted to record a few of my hopes and thoughts about the “world of texting” that I knew we were about to navigate.
Two years later, it is interesting to note that my priorities and hopes for our journey have not changed though I am much more comfortable with this modern form of communication. We took the plunge and have navigated all sorts of forms of texting and social media these last 2 years. Without a doubt, these forms of communication have enhanced relationships within our family and have created positive impacts on my kids relationship with the world around them and their friends outside of our home. It hasn’t always been easy or straight forward to know what to do, but we keep working on it together.
I think I will read them this letter tomorrow and see how they think we have done with our priorities.
You are growing up so quickly and I have no doubt that I will blink and you will be teenagers, navigating the world of text.
Twitter. Facebook. Email. Blogs. SnapChat. Instagram. Text Messaging.
And everything else “they” come up with in the next few years.
Instant text will be a significant method of communication and somehow I have to help you navigate this world of text. Admittedly, aspects of this frighten me.
Because text is dead. It lacks tone and emotion. There isn’t body language or facial expression. Yet, it is a primary method of communicating these days.
And let me teach you right now that cute little emoticons at the end of very nasty words don’t make them friendly, funny, or nice.
Seriously. Remember that!
And remember that whether you like it or not, your text reflects YOU.
Yes. Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, and all of these cute ways to share and communicate are reflections of YOU. They are not the entire you, but they reflect your values, likes, choices, and life. And they often are avenues to communicate with folks who may not really KNOW you.
And once you put something “out there”, you can’t take it back. Sometimes there are serious consequences to your writing in worldwide text. We must guard what we communicate and that is tough in the world of instant “sharing”.
So we will practice. And we will mess up. Together.
Yes. I, too, have learned some lessons in this area.
And while text might be a handy form of communication, it is not the primary form I want you to have!
I want you to learn to value the company in front of you without hopping on a smart phone to see what other folks are up to. And to know you are worth face to face conversation that disconnects from everyone else around.
That means we don’t have to answer texts instantly. Truly. I don’t. You don’t. It is OK to wait for an appropriate moment.
And I am strongly suggesting you don’t have a second date one day with someone who seems more interested in their phone than in you.
I hope we remember that being present in a moment is more important than sharing a picture of that moment.
I don’t care how many likes the picture might get. It doesn’t matter how many likes you get if you find yourself constantly distracted from your own life.
It is my hope that we always make time to turn off the phones, close the laptops, stow away the tablets and declare a space and time that is not shared with anyone who isn’t present. A time where we ignore the bings and the beeps and the buzzes of those who might steal our moments as we work together to protect them.
I hope to teach you that sometimes you should pick up a phone and talk. Your inner circle of family and friends should laugh with you and cry with you absent of emoticons. You can hear stress in a person’s voice that you can’t hear in their email. Issues sometimes need to be resolved in a manner that requires voice or face to face contact. Hurts can be healed more effectively with a conversation and a hug then with a smiley face text.
Other times, text will be the fastest, easiest, and most efficient form of communication. Use it.
But always remember that real relationships aren’t usually fast, easy or efficient. They take time, energy, and effort.
They are always worth it.