What Motherhood and Social Media Have in Common

What do social media and motherhood have in common?  I learned the hard way this year. You can never stop – not for a minute, not for day, and certainly not for more than a year.

On the motherhood front – I’m almost an empty nester.  That does not imply the end of motherhood.  It does imply the ongoing state of long-distance motherhood. The rule of thumb is if your child doesn’t call (or instant message, or email), good times are being had by all.  You may want to check in  just for giggles, but no news really is good news.

If your phone is ringing with tweets, messages, video chat requests, or even a call, something is awry.  It can be as small as the need for more vitamins, or as large as what to do in the midst of the ongoing bomb threats at the University of Pittsburgh campus. This last one is all too real at the moment. More to come on this when we feel on safer ground.

On the social media front – I now have more blogs, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ accountsthan ever before.  To stay vibrant, they all need care and feeding.  I took almost two years off to attend to my real life, and they all went to hell and a hand basket.  Bringing them back up to health is not easy.  I brought in a professional.

When you’re a harried mother, they tell you to get a babysitter and go out for the night.  I did the same as a harried blogger.  I hired a social sitter (and will be happy to send along the recommendation) and went out to dinner with my husband.

Remembering passwords, user names, logins etc. is similar to trying to keep my children’s friends names straight.  It was easy enough in first grade (or when all I did was Facebook), but by high school it was increasingly difficult, and college is almost impossible. Without a face, how does one remember who’s who?

So, I’m recommitted to straightening out my digital life. I’ve found my real life is now too entwined with my digital life for me to ignore either. Finding time for myself now includes finding time for blogging, tweeting, Facebook posts and the list goes on. Pinterest, like all last born children of large families, suffers the most. I just can’t spend the time nurturing it. At least not until I get the older ones on more solid ground.

Meanwhile, the real kids are really OK. I’m proud to report that I was on LinkedIn and Pinterest first although both have now dabbled in tweets, blogs and are Facebook pros. As they say, the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Apples and Trees

Eldest daughter is in Madrid. Moreover, she has started a blog. Hers is better written, more interesting, immediately got a dedicated following (one of whom is me), and is a true blog – that is a journal or log of what’s going on in her life within a set time period, her time abroad. Check it out: http://web.mac.com/madeline.karp.

Because of her audience, she has an immediate following. Her peers are internet (dare I say it) junkies and automatically check links, bookmarks, plus favorite sites like clockwork. Note: Most don’t wear watches so the clockwork analogy is probably outdated.

I check hers obsessively, because as the mother I crave any news, all news, as much news, and all forms of communication with the child. I’m medium neutral. I love the e-mails, blog posts, photo albums, iChats (still to come) and phone calls with equal relish. I even like hearing about the new faux family in Madrid.

So, do I miss her? What a silly question. But, I love that she’s abroad, seeing the world, experiencing life as the youngest in the family (her two Spanish sisters are both older than her), and pushing herself outside her own comfort zone. And I love that no matter how far she goes, she stays the same. Stray cats find her. She buys more sun dresses than there are days in summer, meanwhile is scared to death of getting sunburned be she at the Jersey Shore or on the Mediterranean, and can’t resist a new pair of shoes.

It’s true that wherever you go — there you are; and the more things change, the more they stay the same. But, it’s also true that if you don’t get out there, you’ll never go anywhere. She’s definitely on the path to somewhere, and it’s a joy watching her get there.

P.S. At least during her time abroad, I’ll finally learn to spell Mediterranean — one t, two r’s , one n. I can’t remember it to save my life. Anyone got a mnemonic for me?

Wright Stuff

In today’s world, parents worry about kids who have a “failure to launch,” meaning they never seem to get their acts together enough to leave home. In the 1880s, a failure to launch by the Wright brothers actually facilitated flight and the entire aeronautical industry.

As a parent, you always want the best for your child and want him or her to grow up to be a functioning adult, generally defined as someone who can have relationships, if not marriage and children, and can hold down a good job. In the case of the Wright brothers, they had a career as bicycle mechanics/engineers, but never got married, never left home, and lived together with a sister in the family home for all or most of their lives.

I came upon the Wright brothers this weekend while spending time in the Air & Space museum in Washington DC. We were driving our eldest back to college in DC to start her second year of school. She was checking in early in order to train for her latest job as a desk receptionist. She has been a fully functioning adult since age 2 or 3, and is someone who works hard to meet new people and be “out there” in life trying new things.

One can’t criticize the Wright brothers for not trying new things. They invented flight as we know it, for heaven’s sake. But after reading their biographies on the museum plaques, I couldn’t help but wonder if they would have accomplished so much if they had been more “fully functional” as men, husbands or fathers.

If you want to read more about the Wright brothers without spending time in DC, go to Wikipedia, or Google the Wrights. In their lifetimes they met kings and queens, flew to new heights, gave perspective to horizons, and changed a world. Makes you wonder about the viability of that phrase “failure to launch,” wouldn’t you say?

Peter Pan Medicine

There comes a time when your children want to grow up and you want them be adults as well. And, even though parent and child may agree, the maturing effort still gets thwarted. For us, this became evident when the current medical system made it virtually impossible for my daughters to outgrow their pediatrician.

Visits to the pediatrician become awkward around puberty when teens and pre-teens are surrounded by babes and toddlers in the waiting room. The docs know enough to separate the sick kids from the healthy ones, but not the embarrassed double digit big kids from the tots.

There is something called adolescent medicine, but it’s still in its own infancy. There just aren’t many around, so when our oldest daughter turned 18, we moved her records to a women’s health practice. It made sense until recently when we tried to get her the newest vaccine against cervical cancer. Pediatricians stock it, but women’s health centers don’t. Go figure. It’s the baby doctors who have the inventory of all the high demand vaccines from the flu to cervical cancer.

A call to the insurance company got her pediatrician reinstated as her primary care physician for at least the next six months. You can now qualify to see a pediatrician until 21. At the venerable age of 18 you can drive, go fight a war, and still qualify to see your baby doctor!

If ever there was a time for Dr. Spock, it’s now. The most famous baby doctor ever also became a leading war protester in the Vietnam era. Can you blame him? Who would want to administer all those vaccines just to see a bullet get the young patient in the end? We need a new Spock, an encouraging voice of sanity, for this latest era of war and crazy health care. Peter Pan just doesn’t cut it.

Jersey Girls

The T-shirt say’s “Jersey Girls: Best in the World.” You can get it on the Boardwalk, or a T-shirt shop in most Shore towns. I have one from when my husband and I went to the Shore almost 20 years ago and I was showing my Bronx Boy around Jersey. The problem is that I’ve never done the same for my Jersey-born daughters. They tell me they’re lacking of a full Jersey Experience is coming back to haunt them as they now meet people from around the country.

I get it. When I was doing my Junior year abroad in The Netherlands, the average well-traveled Dutchman, who spoke four languages, would ask me what I thought of the Grand Canyon, Hollywood, or Las Vegas. They assumed that I had seen as least as much of the U.S. as they had. They were mistaken. I was an East Coast girl, well heeled in the complete Eastern Seaboard, especially NY, Boston and FLA, and somewhat well traveled in Western Europe. The Wild West was yet to be discovered.

Since that time, I dedicated myself to domestic travel so that forever more I would know as much about my own country as any European traveler. It is only very recently, that I’ve again ventured abroad, but not before having seen several Canyons, cacti and many more states, including Kansas.

So I understand that my girls (who’ve been dragged around the country with me) feel they are somehow not as well schooled in the Jersey Experience as they might be. This weekend, I took one daughter Outlet Shopping (OK, we were in Pennsylvania), but I’ve promised both that we’ll soon scout out Secaucus. Also on the summer agenda is The Shore (we ‘ve been there, but apparently not enough), the Balloon Festival, the Meadowlands Fair, the Sussex County Fair, and whatever else I can dig up that feels Jersey and fun.

They are already more Jersey than they realize. Both love Diners and White Castle cheeseburgers; root for The Devils; have their own Jersey Girl t-shirts (albeit from Urban Outfitters); get the logic of a Cloverleaf for U-turns and aggressive Jersey lefts at intersections; and know without a doubt that the Statue of Liberty is in Jersey not New York. If you have other Jersey suggestions for our summer experience send them on.

Meanwhile, we’re starting our other summer endeavor – watching Lost from the very beginning of Season One so we can catch up with that American Pop Culture phenom. Here’s my prediction before having seen even one episode. They’re in the Pinelands with the Jersey Devil!