What we’re probably not telling our kids about social media

Psst. Hey parents. Yeah, you over there. C’mon over a second. Can we talk?

This parent gig is hard. It’s hard and it’s probably tougher than it was for our parents back in the day because times are different now and there are a lot of different elements we’ve gotta look out for that didn’t even exist when we were kids. We’ve gotta find that balance between how much we care and not being helicopter parents. Raising good people but not raising special snowflakes who feel entitled to everything without putting in the work.

It’s exhausting. Totally rewarding, but… it’s tough work.

And it just seems like it’s forever getting tougher. Take a look at your kid’s social media accounts.

No really. Go take a look. I’ll wait.

I spend a lot of time on my kid’s channels – I look at what she posts, what she comments, what people comment on her posts. I click over on the profiles of the people who comment and like her posts. I randomly take her phone and scroll around.

It’s one of the conditions for getting to be online because I know that it’s kind of a weird space, online. I’ve been active in social media for very nearly ten years (my Twitter profile says I joined in 2007) so I’ve watched it evolve over nearly a decade now. Back when I first joined Twitter, my oldest kid wasn’t even in kindergarten yet and I had no idea how the very existence of social media would impact my parenting or their childhood experiences. I’m not sure if, at that point, any of us were.

I started blogging over 11 years ago… Generally, I’ve been ALL UP IN THE INTERNET for over a decade of my life and so while it’s a passion of sorts for me – this whole web and social thing – my presence in this environment for so long means that I tend to be wary about things because, you know, that’s what happens over time.

I’ve watched Twitter grow up. I’ve watched Facebook change faces. Instagram bloomed.

And then our kids got old enough to sign up.

My daughter got series of unkind messages from a girl whose requests for a follow she declined. The details of this are not entirely important to the scenario. The decline of the follow request was not with malice or with the intention to hurt, but more of a, “My social space is private. I am choosing to let in the people I interact with on a day to day basis.”

[In retrospect, perhaps my kid could have verbalized this. However she did not.]

But, anyway, the girl got upset and in this string of messages referred to my kid as “being a bitch.”

Well. That’s not how you win friends and influence people. And I’m not sure what her motivation is – annoyance at not being granted entrance into a “private” online space (private being what it is on the internet, I’m no idiot) or truly hurt feelings.

Here’s where it gets tricky, moms and dads and parent-type people:

It’s a FINE LINE. How do we teach our kids to be kind and inclusive and yet that they are allowed to set and establish and preserve healthy boundaries for themselves and their environments (online or in the real world). If we consider ourselves a house with a fence around it… it is up to each of us to decide to whom we open the gate. Admittedly, that’s a lesson I learned far too late in life.

I was always trying to be nice, to not rock the boat, and to not upset people. I let people have access to me when I’d have preferred to keep to myself. I didn’t realize for a long time that I could shut that gate at any time. That no one needed to be in my figurative (or literal, for that matter) yard if I didn’t want them to be there.

So here we are: no one is entitled a follow. No one is entitled access to your child’s space. If your child wouldn’t invite them to your dinner table, why would he or she be obligated to grant them entrée into his or her social media world – where they share pictures and videos and sing songs and show off the family pet chinchilla or whatever? Having boundaries is healthy. It’s not mean.

That’s where, I admit, it gets murky to me. Because I’m still inclined to go along to get along – accept the follow, it hurts nothing… because I want to raise good and loving people who are kind and inclusive. I never want anyone to feel hurt feelings, and it’s tricky that creating boundaries for oneself brings with it animosity from those who don’t want to respect those same boundaries.

So, parents, what do we do?

I think we need to have those conversations with our kids about those boundaries. We need to establish how you can be protective of your space firmly and kindly without being a jerk but you can’t stop other people from being bent out of shape about it. We can talk about how your number of followers doesn’t define you. We can talk about what the social media experience actually means to you, the story you want to tell, the person you want people to know you as, and how again, it’s just one small facet of you as a whole person.

My gosh, I’ve wished so many times today that I was raising kids in the 80s where the biggest issue was jelly bracelets and trying to catch your favorite song on the radio so you could record it with your cassette player with minimal amount of DJ blathering before and after (don’t even ask how long it took me to record Debbie Gibson’s “Lost In Your Eyes” because man, I loved that song, but the DJ always talked through the whole piano beginning of that song and it drove me bonkers).

It’s a different world and we have to understand it so we can teach our kids how to navigate it. We have to be present. And we have to be willing to admit that we have a lot to learn and that we don’t know everything… and be willing to learn, evolve and adapt to help our people be good people.

It’s tough stuff, people. Are you ready?

 

Because my heart needed a bit of help this Christmas

I am reeling today, you guys.

And every time I think of what happened, I get this feeling that takes over… this feeling that tells me that no matter how I’ve felt lately, no matter what kind of fear I have about the world or what’s ahead, if we all can just remember to do kind things in small ways we will make big impact.

It started with a gift card.

My friends Nate and J Money (Y’all probably remember them from Love Drop) decided to launch a new project: The Rockstar Community Fund. And because I’ve basically been waiting for the Love Drop reboot for a couple years, when Nate told me about RCF, immediately I was all, SIGN ME UP.

Then my $20 Visa Gift Card arrived.

The guys weren’t really persnickety about what we needed to do with the #GivingCard. Spread some kindness, make a difference. Immediately, my mind reeled with all of the possibilities for this card. Some of the ideas were quirky, some were fun, some had long range future potential, some were goofy. There were so many things I could do, and I was excited about the possibility of it all.

And then on Tuesday, I got another idea. Scrolling through Twitter I saw a tweet about school lunch programs, and I thought to myself, hmmmmm. There’s something here.

As a parent – it’s one of the most basic things we do for our children, we keep them fed… but what if times are tough? I wanted to contribute in a way that parents didn’t need to worry about whether their kids could get a warm meal at school and I wanted to ease that worry for kids, too.

I reached out to our local school food services department. I didn’t have a lot of money, I told them, but… if I wanted to pay it forward, pay down some students’ negative lunch balance, would that be possible? The head of Food Services wrote back almost immediately – yes, yes it would. So, next, I emailed some friends. I had my $20 #GivingCard, and I could certainly chip in some of my own cash – but… what if I wanted to do more?

Immediately, a friend emailed back with an offer for a donation. Then my sister forwarded the email around her office. Now, we were getting somewhere.

Wednesday, I reached out to Facebook. I told them:

I’m collecting funds that will be given to our local schools to pay down student lunch debt for families in need. Families should not have to worry about whether their kiddo has a warm lunch at school… and kids shouldn’t have to worry about it either. I’ve been in touch with the awesome folks at Food Services and they will determine how best to apply whatever funds we can collect.

Donations streamed in. Friends in other states donated – something that I had never in a million years pictured happening. My daughter even chipped in a few dollars of her own money.

Sarah with Visa gift card

I was getting excited counting checks and Paypal donations. Suddenly, this was feeling big.

This morning, with all of our donations tucked into an envelope, my daughters and I went to drop off the donations. The person I wanted to speak to wasn’t there, and that was disappointing. I thought about the time I spent trying to get this right, to make an impact, and I forgot to actually coordinate a time to deliver the funds. Small potatoes, I guess. The staff let me write a note, and I tucked the note and my envelope under a stapler on the manager’s desk.

Our $20 gift card had grown to $330!

High five to my kids as I sent them off to their respective school days. I drove to work, feeling pretty dang good. (Doing good, it feels SO good.)

The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.

The manager emailed me, “We got your funds! I will get this into accounts today and let you know how many families this was able to help.”

Awesome. I was relieved, to be honest, to know that the money was there when she arrived, safely tucked beneath the stapler.

Another hour later, she shared with me that our $330 donation cleared up every negative lunch balance for the middleschool. The Food Services team coordinated with the counseling office to determine the greatest need for funds, and the balance of our donations went to fund the lunch accounts for six students with an extenuating financial need.

All told, we helped 43 families with our donation.

I still can’t even believe it.

I even received another donation tonight, so we can continue to positively impact the families in our school district, and lighten their load.

Our school district posted about it on their Facebook page – which kinda made me feel weird. They referred to our group of donors as an anonymous donor, and I’ve been so cautious of how it makes people feel: every dollar donated matters, and every person who donated was a huge part of what we were able to accomplish. As of this writing, that post has been shared sixty times, and has received over 600 likes. It’s a little mindboggling and I’m glad they didn’t name me (though I so wish they had mentioned how many people had a hand in making this happen).

The reaction has been so favorable, so as weird as I feel, I guess my biggest hope is that someone else sees it and maybe donates some more money to the schools. Or does something to bring about kindness in their own way, somehow.

Maybe somehow we can keep this cycle of good stuff going.

As for me, this reinforces what I already knew: this is the kind of work I am meant to be doing. I feel so fulfilled by knowing that through the work we did, so many families were helped. Every donation that came in felt like its own little Christmas morning to me. I haven’t felt this satisfied by any thing I’ve done in a long time.

I’m ridiculously happy.

It started with a gift card. Just twenty bucks. I’m so grateful to Nate and J for allowing me to be a part of this project. I’m grateful for the opportunity, through the Rockstar Community Fund, to find new ways to make an impact on the world.

In case you hadn’t noticed lately, the world is kind of scary. These times feel uncertain and I’ve felt this massive range of emotions since November 8… but I swore that I was going to try to put more positivity in the world, and I tell ya, I’m not always good about doing that… but today we did.

We did it.

High five, people. We just might be okay after all.

Thursday Ten: Is It Over Yet edition

  1. Not going to lie, i’m ready for 2016 to be D-O-N-E. Yeah, it’s been a tough year, but beyond that? I’m just TIRED. So tired. Planning a bit of time off around the holidays and I think I need it.
  2. We’re expecting a bunch of snow today and you all know how I feel about that. We’re a week into December and we haven’t gotten slammed with snow yet so I probably don’t get to complain much – but I’m still not looking forward to it.
  3. I was looking forward to sharing with you guys the awesome stuff in my StrideBox subscription box which I recently signed up for… but according to the USPS website, it’s undeliverable due to an address problem. My first box was super cool – it’s got a lot of great treats for runners, but I’m bummed about this lack of service, and I’m hopeful they can resolve this error soon.
  4. Not that entirely matters – it’s way too dark most of the time for me to go running.
  5. I decided to treat myself to a Christmas present. I drank the KoolAid and bought myself an InstantPot. And since, I’ve been hesitant to take it out of the box or find recipes. I’m afraid I won’t love it like everyone says I will.
  6. Hairspray Live. Underwhelmed.
  7. I’ve been pretty lucky in the school game for my kids. Until now. Pumpkin has a teacher that I’m struggling with and she’s struggling with. I feel frustrated that this person has the ability to influence my daughter negatively about the subject matter she supposedly has the passion for that she chose to teach it.
  8. The Princess had AN AMAZING gym meet last week, earning her first 9.7 on floor – her highest score yet. SHe medaled on all four events and snagged the second place all around award. It was a good day.
  9. Less than three weeks until Christmas.
  10. I’ve now had a cold for nearly two weeks and I super miss being able to breathe through my nose.

Thursday Ten: The Week After edition

  1. I couldn’t write last week. I just couldn’t. There is no way I could wrap my brain around the world enough to make sense of it. A week later, I still don’t know that I can make much sense of anything, but I’m trying. And I’m trying to not be so angry. I’m trying to be productive. I’m…well, I’m trying.
  2. I feel like there’s really no escape from it. It’s too dark for running when I get home from work (and I managed to squish my knee somehow anyway). It’s getting colder. The calendar is crazy busy with so much stuff nearly every day. I need a break, somehow, but there’s none in sight.
  3. I can’t get warm. My hands feel numb. My brain is busy. The shorter days are hard for me. I’ve always felt I was prone to SAD or the winter blahs, but it’s been worse since my stupid retinas got stupider.
  4. That thing where you say you want to be positive and then you whine. Sorry.
  5. Okay. I… guess I can’t really finish this. Here’s a puppy.
    cute puppy

Thursday Ten: The 15K Edition

  1. This past weekend, Chris and I went to Chicago and we ran a 15k and I’ve never done that before in my life and I SURVIVED YOU GUYS! I totally lived to tell about it, but oh my god, if you look at my souvenir race photo, you would see just how rough I was feeling at the end of it. Running is not my prettiest self, but I am so so PROUD of what we accomplished.
  2. My GPS totally screwed up during the run though and it was telling me I was further than I was and it was telling me that I was running faster than I was. Like…significantly faster. And it was a bit of a slap in the face to finish and realize that nope, I’m still slow. The good news is that while I was running, it motivated me to think I was running so fast, so… that helped.
  3. No, I have no idea what the hell I was thinking that I thought that I was actually running like 90 seconds faster per mile than usual. Guess I was giving adrenaline a lot of credit.
  4. My running playlist rocked my socks, though. I threw it on shuffle and started the race with REM’s “The End of the World (As We Know It)” and moved through the Chicago streets singing along to TLC’s “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” went through some weird loopety thing by McCormick Place to Kanye’s “Runaway” – and hit a variety of other songs in between in the 98 minutes I was running. Such a fun list…if I do say so myself.
  5. I’m not sure when I’ll get out to run again but soon I hope. I have visions of getting a half marathon under my belt in 2017… and since that’s just 3.8 more miles than I just did, I think it’s totally doable. I know there’s a 25K in Grand Rapids this spring. I also know that I don’t think I want to run 15 miles.
  6. It’s funny how you hit a goal and then push a little harder to see what else you can do. And uh, I just subscribed to Runner’s World, y’all, so either I’m gonna keep running, or I’m gonna be the most informed couch potato ever.
  7. Wow, so I talked about running for over half of this list. Can y’all believe it? (Pick a half marathon for me. Watch me fly. I can do big things.)
  8. In other news, HOLY BANANAS it’s NOVEMBER. How the heck did that even happen?
  9. Between the Gilmore Girls and Moana, we’ve got a lot to look forward to this month.
  10. How are y’all? Talk to me, goose.

Thursday Ten: And Somehow I’m 40 edition

  1. So, somehow I turned 40. I let it go by on the blog without the fanfare I was planning on but I made it through the day with only a small amount of sadness and a huge amount of trying to just be grateful for my years and my blessings. Aging is hard, but, as they say: it beats the alternative.
  2. The day before my 40th birthday, I ran farther than I ever had before in my life. Nine miles. Nine. It sounds absurd to me – how on earth could I manage that, when last year I couldn’t even run one? But nine. I did it. And then in the midst of it, somewhere around mile seven, I tripped over a crack in the pavement hidden by a pile of fallen leaves and my knee hasn’t bee the same since. Yay Team 40!
  3. Chris and I will be running a 15K in a few weeks – should be interesting seeing as how we both are moving a bit slower lately. Anyway… all of this to say: I had no idea I could ever do this, and I’m amazed and excited. And… after this race, who knows what’s next. (Spoiler alert: I have no desire to run a full marathon)
  4. Rewatching The Gilmore Girls with the kids and yeah, we’re looking forward to the reboot this November.
  5. I took the two days before and after my birthday weekend off from work and it was…pretty great. I hadn’t taken that many days off in a row since…ever? And I needed it. On the heels of project after project over the summer, the downtime was much needed. I wasn’t as productive as I thought I’d be, but I enjoyed the time off tremendously.
  6. I bought a bunch of books and magazines during my vacation, even managed to read a whole book. I have already surpassed my goal of reading 30 books this year… will I make it to 40?
  7. I made the mistake of starting a post about politics on Facebook last night and I should know better but anyway, here we are and ugh… It could’ve been worse, but it still wasn’t great. It feels rotten to have my friends insulting each other. Ready for the election to be over so I can start liking people again.
  8. Had the exciting opportunity to take the girls to see the Olympic gymnasts in Grand Rapids. It was truly amazing to see Simone Biles in person – what a phenomenal athlete. It was pretty exciting and the show itself was so well done. What a treat!
  9. The fun thing about taking off Thursday – Tuesday is that you end up with two three day weeks in a row.
  10. When you want to be healthy but you want to eat a brownie sundae.

month at a glance

I haven’t posted in over a month. The hiatus wasn’t really intentional – I was in the midst of changing over blog hosts but my life is such a cluster at the moment that it took me that long to do it.

Work is busy – insanely so – with lots of projects, most of which will wrap this week or next and have resulted in my brain being a pool of melted cheese for the most part. Some of what I do, I do with extreme confidence… some, less confidence.

I find lately that I’m letting things get to me too much – things that shouldn’t. Trying to work on keeping perspective and being kinder to myself.

I’m…not so good at that.

I wrote a blog post for OWN THE EQUINOX, the campaign to create awareness for Usher Syndrome – and I shared it, publicly. The response was overwhelmingly supportive and positive. Today, my mom forwarded me the email from someone who claims to have had experience working with people who have Usher – and the email said that I need to learn sign and I need to learn braille and, well… I got a little angry.

Hope or GTFO, people.

I’ve been running. I’m not very fast, but I did run 6 miles morning for a total of 15 miles this week. I’m training for a 15k in October, and honestly, the thought of running nine miles IN A ROW makes me want to throw up a little – but then again, I never thought I could do six and HERE I AM CRUSHING IT (slowly).

So, more of the same and a whole lot of nothing. But I just went through a whole lot of trouble to move this blog over so I guess I better write on it.

 

So….

 

Hi. How are y’all?

A letter to my daughter on her 11th birthday

Dear Pumpkin,

Happy birthday. Today, you are 11 – which is mind boggling to me – feels like such a big number and I’m sure part of that is knowing that you’ll be heading to middleschool this far – so this is going to be a year with some change. I know how you feel about change.

You’re kind of worried about middle school – of the locker, the classes, and when I told you the other day that they had recommended you for advanced math, you got so upset. The thing is – I know you’ll be fine, but you’re worried that math will be too hard, that you won’t be able to keep up. You are your own toughest critic, and while I admire your drive to do well, I wish you could realize how amazing you already are, and that your worth is not defined by a grade in math.

(I also know that you come by these perfectionist tendencies honestly, and I’m sorry – and I’m trying to do my best to make sure you know that you being you is enough – always – and that I’ve always got your back and I will always love you no matter what)

You are a creative and shining star and I love that about you. You still are so much your own person and I love that about you. I think it’s really special that you are true to yourself and don’t follow someone else’s path.

I love that you love to read – you are an avid reader and you have a list of books you want to read. You read series and you love to spend time in bookstores. Not only are you an amazing reader, but you’re a strong writer as well. You want to be an author some day and I believe you can do it.

This year, you did something new called Odyssey of the Mind – which was cool to see – you and your team worked so hard to creatively solve problems, think strategically and perform a skit. I saw you thrive in that environment – with other creative kids. I love how you are excited to try new groups and explore challenges, especially when they build from your love of creativity.

You just finished a week of theater camp this summer and that was exciting as well. You looked amazing on the stage – you had such poise and presence. I admire that! You learned so much in one week – memorizing a script and performing with only five days of practice! You even learned a whole song and dance number. I was really impressed – and I’m excited to see if you’re involved with plays and musicals in school this year.

You still love dogs, especially our pup. I bet someday you’ll end up fostering dogs. Lately, you’ve even asked me for a cat (no go! I’m allergic!).

Recently, I got you and your sister hooked on the musical “Hamilton” so you both want to be Schuyler sisters for Halloween and I love that too. (Also, y’all amaze me the way you can recite the speedy parts of “Guns and Ships”)

You are tender hearted and sweet and kind and sensitive. You are beautiful and funny. You are sassy and bright. You have brought me immeasurable joy in the last eleven years and I can’t wait to see what this year brings. Eleven years ago, I held you for the first time and got to begin to learn who you are. You are a wonderful daughter to me and sister to Princess, you are a kind friend, and a lovely and wonderful human. You are pretty amazing, if I do say so myself.

I love you so very much and I am so very lucky to be your mom.

Love,

Momma

 

Thursday Ten: A Third Down edition

  1. So, yeah, June is almost over. It feels like summer has barely started but it’s actually almost a third over and how is that even possible? (THE TIME IT FLIES)
  2. With a free download from the Starbucks app, I downloaded the 5 Minute Journal this week. Just a few days in and though it may well be shortlived, it’s good for me to work on practicing gratitude and looking for the moments that made me happy.
  3. I have watched an insane amount of Greys Anatomy on Netflix this week. I’m still pretty sure I could intubate y’all if you needed it.
  4. I was selected to be one of the “Awesome People” on the launch team of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Textbook, due out on August 9. I’m not paid to have opinions – just received a free copy of the book – which I devoured in the span of a few hours while sitting by the lake a few weeks ago. It’s classic AmyKR – whimsical, joyous and sweet. I’ll be posting more about it in the coming weeks, but y’all might consider pre-ordering it, especially if you need a feel-good book to read this summer.
  5. Finally, after over a year of the envelope sitting on my counter, I’ve finally booked an appointment to use the spa gift card that’s inside of it. Next week I have an appointment at a local spa, where it will cost an ungodly amount of (gift card) money to probably dye my hair the exact same color it is now.
  6. I’m working on so many big projects at work right now that I’m barely finding time to breathe, but still making sure that when I can, I get outside for some fresh air and exercise. I used to be a “work through lunch” kind of person but I’m glad to have ditched that habit for the most part.
  7. Dog farts are lethal.
  8. There’s a three day weekend coming. While I’m excited about that, I’m still focused on just getting to the end of next week. I know, I know, wishing my life away, but basically? Just trying to get some projects crossed off the list.
  9. I haven’t cooked in ages. I have no desire to cook. It’s too hot. I’m too tired. I’m not prepared. I’m sick of ordering (and paying) for takeout, though. Next week, I get my shizz together. Tonight, I need to menu plan and make a grocery list.
  10. Hard to get excited about puny fourth of July fireworks after the awesome of Disney fireworks… but I’ll still try.

Thursday Ten: A Change Is Gonna Come

  1. As I type this, I think back on the post I wrote last week. The one where I was so maxed out, so stressed out, so overwhelmed. Well… I’m still there. And feeling this way is not a good thing for me. I’m trying to practice self care as best I can – yesterday, I worked out twice! I drank lots of water! I reached out to my friends! But… I’m still having a very hard time and I’m not quite used to this.
  2. There are 39 messages in my spam folder right now and they’re almost all from the Gap.
  3. I am watching season 12 of Greys Anatomy on Netflix and getting my heard stomped on over and over again with all the drama. In a good way?
  4. I downloaded a new app called “Streaks” in order to try to create some healthy habits in my life – it’s the only reason I’ve managed to remember to floss my teeth for the past 8 days in a row.
  5. Tickets for Hamilton Chicago went on sale and by the time I was able to try to get tickets, all I could find were tickets that are $500+ each… or tickets with an “obstructed view.” (Hey theatres: why would you obstruct the view of the stage?) So what I’m saying is: I didn’t get Hamilton tickets.
  6. And I hate that I am even feeling badly about my life at all because so many people I know are going through some SERIOUS stuff and I’m all like, “Wah wah wah…I’m overwhelmed.” Realistically, we cannot compare our challenges to those that other people face – otherwise we’ll make ourselves even crazier trying to minimize our struggles for fear they’re not big enough to be justified. We don’t have to do that. At least, I don’t think so.
  7. You know, a year ago I was terrified. A year ago, I was newly diagnosed with Usher syndrome and I didn’t know how long my eye sight would last. I was looking for signs all the time about my vision – was it better, was it worse? My visit in Iowa changed a lot of that fear to hope. About my eyes. I think that has altered the changing about the other stuff. In some good ways and some less than great ways.
  8. As you can see, I’m working through my thoughts as I type this list.
  9. It hasn’t rained in a very long time and my yards are dry and what’s there is more likely a weed than grass.
  10. Is it Friday yet? It would be really lovely if it could be Friday.