Parenting is hard.
Parenting in the age of technology is harder.
Sometimes it’s a blessing you can just text “dinner is ready” to the tween hiding from the world, consuming as much youtube as humanly possible without making yourself hoarse. Sometimes it’s a curse to get the thumbs up emoji when it wasn’t a thumbs up or down question, and sometimes you open your phone to a background of 1000 selfies, and discover your instagram is full of ‘pranks’. I try as hard as possible to adapt to the times to stay relevant, just like my animal jam user name “momrocks83” would suggest.
You can’t always be with your children, especially when you’re trying feverishly to raise $30,000.00 to bring one home forever, parenting across an ocean or even a state away takes creativity and planning. I will share with you a glimpse inside my pro-tips to parenting success, “How to stay relevant in an emoji world”. See photos (Emomjis).
I think it’s important to let your children figure certain things out for themselves, navigating disagreements are important skills to learn. When your sister leaves the bread on the counter so the great dane (who is allergic to gluten) eats the whole loaf, you have to learn how to express your disappointment, and convey the seriousness about the situation while your hangry is turned all the way up. When you expect a turkey sandwich and you’re left with only a torn up bag and a stinky dog (who is by now a walking proliferating yeast factory), someone needs to do some damage control. Sometimes that someone isn’t me. Sarcasm is something I find essential, it helps to take the edge off of very serious situations that often leave you breadless. If the answer isn’t throat immediate punching, you know you have at least a little hope for resolution (some of my great mom skills were taught to me by a wonderful friend Molly).
Whether it’s personalized reactions so your teens get the full effect of mom-ing while you’re away from home; the comfort in knowing you’re willing to put a throat punch on hold until Thursday, or an encouraging thumbs up with a cat on your head to make them feel like your annoyances are only one message away, technology lends itself to helping us convey clear messages in such a confusing virtual world.
Not all my kids are old enough to text, unfortunately. Some of them are struggling with big problems like “what if my favorite color is being used by someone else and I need to use it”. Helping them to navigate ideas like “just use your second favorite color” or “if Santa is real why are there so many cars in your office”, it takes creativity and practice. Who else will help them handle the “my Popsicle is too cold” end of the world scenario if not me?
I always say hold fast to your beliefs, and for us, we believe in science. I always teach my children to be ethical, fair, honest, and hold your integrity above everything. If you can’t prove it with science and math, consider it might not be worth believing in.
Certain scientific truths must be upheld when you’re raising a bunch of scientists, and when their anxiety gets higher than the joy of a useless tradition which you never effectively used; perhaps the lie isn’t worth keeping around and it’s time to lay some science on them.
Last night I realized the tradition of Santa has handicapped my children. As I watched my 4yr bawl because she was nervous about potentially being placed on the naughty list (something we had never discussed with any of them ever) for inadvertent and unclear rules, I knew the façade had to end. The control I gave the world by participating is this lie became immediately alarming. Letting her believe that there was one man that could decide her entire fate of Christmas, a holiday she looks forward to all year was dangerous. Why did I let her put more trust in a lying man at a mall to tell her if she was doing the right things over my own advice? She would only need to be in the vicinity of an ill-intentioned adult who could force her to do things she knows she doesn’t want to do for fear of this arbitrary list of lies. I had to come clean, it didn’t matter we are only 4 days away from Christmas.
When I told her that there wasn’t a naughty list because there was no Santa she beamed. Her terror faded away instantly, and she laughed and said “I knew there was something going on because I saw all those cars in the office for Ollie”. I knew this was the right decision. It is important to make things understandable for children, and when things get confusing, they get scary. Children should always be taught to recognize that feeling in their stomach when things aren’t right; this is the feeling that will protect them from abuse and exploitation their whole lives. There is no magic in anxiety of arbitrary rules and associated gifts, the messages you sing to the cradle whisper to the grave. I choose to teach my children if something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably because it isn’t. She wasn’t broken by the experience, but grew from it. She was proud for noticing that something was off, and empowered by the reinforcement that what she was figuring out was correct. There is no Santa; everyone can be A Santa if they chose to spread joy. She went to bed stronger and smarter, one stop closer to being a real scientist. Raising atheist children doesn’t mean they lack for morals and higher thinking, my children lack for nothing, especially not comfort. There is overwhelming comfort in solving a problem. I will never allow the world to have power over them with smoke and mirrors; I will teach them that they need to be the change they want to see in the world. This is the world I will soon hand over to them to run, I need to teach them to do it well, not to continue the broken practices of their ancestors because its ‘what we have always done’.
There is no magic in lying to your children. There is no integrity in tricking them with elaborate lies so they behave for less than a month before you go into the red for a holiday that has lost almost all of its original meaning in today’s materialistic world. It was time for me to re-evaluate Christmas, and I’m so glad I did with 4 days to spare.
Today is one more day I’m thankful to science and algorithms to help me navigate the sea of staying relevant in an emoji (and way too commercialized) world.