They come to us not as empty vessels, but as blueprints. We are wrong to think that our job is to teach our children everything we know. In fact, the innocent zeal and hapless goodness reflected in the wide-eyed faces of our future adults represent a lesson parents should never stop learning, and that is the only blueprint we should ever use to construct our lives and theirs. So, how do we get back to the point where families — in whatever form — are the perennial root cellar of our people?
If the world hums along on an exhaustive circuit of production, expectation, and acceleration, how do we encourage our young spirits to seek rejuvenation not from a device, but from the soulful connections they were born with? I asked New Hampshire TV news anchor, and author Jennifer Vaughn to walk us through the critical ties that keep her bound to two teenaged kids as they navigate this wonderful yet challenging process of parenting, and growing up in a wired world.
Jennifer and her husband, Brad, balance demanding jobs, travel, extensive sports schedules for both kids, and the daily demands we all share. But being a modern mom and dad force regular tweaks to the age-old belief that love is enough. As Jennifer has learned, love can always use a helping hand. That’s why family traditions are preserved and celebrated. “When it’s Christmas, we bake cookies. Every year, no matter what,” Jennifer explains. “One recipe is my grandmother’s. It was her grandmother’s before that, and we’ve worked in a friend’s recipe from her own grandmother. There’s no place for an iPhone when your hands are slippery with cookie batter, so I have my daughter’s full attention and she has mine. I also know that one day, when she has her own children, Christmas will mean baking cookies in a warm kitchen. She’ll remember flour on her fingertips, and belly laughs with her mom. My tradition will be hers. And then whoever comes along after that.”
COMMUNAL PARENTING KEEPS US ALL SANE
“Parenting in 2017 is a complex and communal undertaking,” Jennifer tells us. “Think our kids will ask us when they need to know something? Maybe, but more often they have Siri, Snapchat, and Instagram to consult first.” We are, perhaps, the first generation of parents who battle instantaneous explanations delivered in curt bleeps and looped video bloopers. How do we compete with the technological playground? Jennifer says don’t even try. Instead, employ your team to help firmly grasp the slippery handles of the monkey bars. “It is more than okay to ask for help,” she says. “In fact, we must begin to accept it and give it freely. That includes watching out electronically for our community of children. I discussed dangerous social media consequences with my kids long before they were even aware of them. Don’t be afraid to have those conversations with your young children, and as difficult as it may seem, go out on a limb for your friends’ kids, too. They may not be as savvy as you are with social media. Let them know if you’ve seen a post, picture, or video that concerns you. Most moms and dads will be grateful that you’re watching out for their family. Kids may be dazzled by the fleeting images on their phones and tablets, but nothing will ever deflate the power of a face-to-face explanation or learning experience. It’s up to us to ground them in real life, not the fantastical virtual version of it.”
FUNNY NEVER FAILS
Our young adults face-plant into their phones by default. It’s all they know and exactly what every other kid has been doing for his entire adolescence. Jennifer uses a work-around. “I may think something is hysterically funny, but my kids? We’re not always on the same level. So, I dip into their world just to share a laugh. I find a funny meme, picture, or video. It takes thirty seconds to send it to my kids. A minute later, they’re responding with a silly emoji. Yes, it’s all via phone, but we’re communicating and laughing. Funny will never fail!”
Blueprints may change, so will we, but with a little work, our kids will be just fine.
Originally published at medium.com