Parenting Against Expediency – Part II

A new breed of parents or parents who were trying to kick it old school style with a twist in this age of technology and instant gratification? I found myself admiring a small group of people I met while facilitating a course last year.

I decided to buy my lunch and take it back up to the classroom as I usually do when I do sessions out of town. Crowded food courts simply turn me off and I guess that I was not the only one because a number of the participants did the same.

I can’t remember how the conversation got started but we all got to talking about family and upcoming weekend plans as we ate. Somehow I mentioned that I disliked how, on Sunday afternoons when the extended family would gather at my parent’s home, it would bother me how the kids would be glued to their cell phones and they would even text each other right there in the same room.

Instead, they wasted the opportunity to soak up their grandparent’s tales of days long ago, enjoy each other’s company by talking “for real” or maybe even play a round of chinese checkers or Go Fish.

Sunday afternoons should have been times to make memories, have a good laugh and stockpile memories for the future when some of us would no longer be on this earth.

These participants shared that they were experiencing the same type of situation in their own lives. I recounted how one of my peers had started following a trend she had read about. Whenever she would go out to lunch or dinner with her girlfriends to catch up on life, they all had to leave their cells stacked one on of top of the other in the middle of the table during the entire meal. The first person to touch their cell or answer a call had to foot the entire bill and if someone else touched their cell after that, they would have to foot the next bill, and so on and so forth. It was a wonderful incentive to focus on each other’s company and it was working, especially since they were all cheap to the core (her words, not mine!).

I told them that I couldn’t make rules for my parents home but I had implemented my own versions, depending on the situation, when I had family gatherings at my place.

Sometimes, the cell phones of those under the age of 18 had to be placed in a basket at my front door since all other family members already limited themselves to truly important work-related calls (on call, hospital emergency, etc.) On other occasions, I would alter the wifi router so that it would only work with the Xbox and the kids would have to entertain themselves together. And other times, I would simply turn the router on Quiet Mode. After the first time or two, the kids knew to stop asking me for the wifi password.

If you could have seen the look on some of the faces in that room, you would have thought that I had given away the secret to the Caramilk bar (if you are old enough to remember that commercial).

And that’s how the participants spent the rest of the lunch hour in lively and animated discussion about their children, different facets of parenting and some of what I described in my previous post Parenting with Expediency – Part I.

Many joined in, quick to talk about their own experiences and share the steps they were taking to deal with their parenting issues. Others were very quiet, trying to appear disinterested but secretly taking mental notes – I could see the wheels in their heads turning, turning and turning some more.

Here is a snippet of the discussion (paraphased of course):

Participant A: Yeah, I do the same thing with the router at our house. I have it programmed to shut down between 9PM and 5AM so that my daugter will stop texting her friends all night long and be able to get up for school. It’s good for my wife and me too because it stops us cold in our tracks from using tech late at night in bed. If any of you want to know how to fix your router, I could email you the how-to when I get back to the office…

Participant B: Oh, I hear you. Going to parties and outings with friends is not a “right” in our house. It is a priviledge for getting the grades we know they are capable of and for doing what they are supposed to be doing at home. My kids know that a D in English, a bad attitude or their chores not getting done means that they will be hearing about the fun their friends had without them. My husband and I no longer have to ask if homework is done or if their room is clean because the proof is in the pudding…

Participant C: My kids all have their own laptops but my husband somehow configured them so that we are aware of exactly what they are doing. And it’s no secret to our children – they are all very aware that a naked selfie or sexting will boomerang back to Mom and Dad. Same goes for the cell phones. The “I’m at the library story when I am really at the mall with friend’s” doesn’t fly in our house. We don’t have a set schedule to check up but just the fact that they know we can check up on them at any given time makes them think twice before doing something stupid…

Participant D (very quietly): But what about their personal space and their right to privacy? Don’t they get sad and mad at all of those rules?

Participant C: When my children are paying for the internet and their own cell phone bills, they can do what they like. Our house rule is no part-time or summer jobs until they have graduated from high school so they have a little while to go. Hopefully by that time, they would be better educated about cyber bullying and how things done online can come back to bite you.

Participant B: When they get into the workforce, they need to learn how to follow rules and the consequences involved of not towing the line. Real life lessons are what they need to learn to survive in the real world.

Participant E: And as for personal space, they can get that when they leave my house. I shared a room with two brothers until I left home at 19. As a single parent of two boys now, I am doing my best to keep them on the straight and narrow and out of a 6 x 8 jail cell like where I see some of their peers headed.

Participant D: (silent as a church mouse)

It was clear that they wanted to vent and exchange parental stories. And so I kept my mouth shut and simply listened.

But I could tell that this group was proud to discuss how they were trying their best to go the extra mile, even if it meant hours of figuring out how to configure a router, even if there were weeks of dealing with a sulking teenager slamming doors because they didn’t get their way or even if they were on the verge of exhaustion from all the energy it sapped out of them to follow through on consequences they had promised their children.

It was clear that their unconditional love was enveloped by steadfast vigilance and constant effort – an almost impossible feat that they were doing nonetheless. And all in the name of their children who they knew would be the winners in the long run.

My hat was off to them.

©2015 Marquessa Matthews


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