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Why I’m Always So Very Tired.

This is a very long chronicle of last night because I just need to document it so that the many of you who have similar children can commiserate with me.

Parenting a child who with emotional needs is a full-time job. I know…I know…”But Zoot! All parenting is a full-time job!” But I’m going to be honest. I half-assed a lot of it with E because he was so easy. I could relax a lot more as his Mom, I didn’t have to analyze every thing he said and did and then prepare my reaction (based on research and counseling and trial/error) accordingly. I could just react. Or respond. It didn’t require so much…concentration and mindfullness which is GOOD because I was working and going to school full-time and a single Mom for my last 2 years of the hardest part of my college career. My brain was rarely ever capable of anything beyond “zombie mode” when it didn’t relate to school. If he had needed the mental faculties my other two need? He’d have been screwed.

I have one with anger issues and one who suffers from extreme anxiety. And they both require different tools and some days they both need me to be at my best and most of the time those days are when I’m at my worst.

But. I try.

Yesterday evening Wesley needed me in Wesley Mom Mode. I knew the second I picked him up from the day camp he had been going to at a mountain museum here in Huntsville. First? He was mad I picked him up because I interrupted his Monopoly game and he was downright rude to me. Then one of the leaders said (with a very exhausted tone), “He’s been a bit grumpy.” Yep. Here we go.

You learn to spot the signs of your kid being ripe for a meltdown or an attack and this week was LONG for Wesley. It had a lot more activity than he’s used to. And he was up a little later and getting up a little earlier every day so by Friday? The signs were VERY easy to spot. Some days I have to really be in tune but yesterday? Nope. Big Neon Glaring Signs that said, “WARNING! WARNING! POT IS AT IT BOILING POINT! REMOVE FROM HEAT IMMEDIATELY!”

So I shifted into Wesley Mom Mode. And that mode sometimes sucks because I have two kids in those moments. Luckily, both kids have their days when they need special care so hopefully in the end it balances out. Because when I have to focus on one? The other is screwed. There’s no nice way to put it.

I told Wesley we had to run to Michael’s to get stuff to make our shirts for the PRIDE parade on Saturday and he responded with something like, “UGH. OHMYGOD. IDONTWANNA.” There was flailing and exasperating groaning and sighing all while trying to get him in the car to leave. Now, If I’m not in Wesley Mom Mode? I angrily nip that shit in the BUD. “Stop that attitude. It will only take a few minutes and this is for something FUN. GET OVER IT.” Because, SERIOUSLY. It’s not a big deal kid, don’t freak out.

But I had to be in Wesley Mom Mode which means I have to prevent the spiral long before it starts so I have to watch for it. I have to see the signs of emotions that lead to anger: Exhaustion, Embarrassment, Shame, and I have to address those long before we get to the “ANGER!” response if I can.

“Wesley, I’m so sorry. I know you’re tired. But Daddy’s not home so you have to go with me. But how about if I let you pick what we do for dinner? Pizza?”

“No! I DON’T WANT PIZZA!”

And this is when Nikki does what she does when she sees I’m in Wesley Mom Mode – she tries to overcompensate and help me. And while part of me appreciates this, it’s a whole other issue I need to write about another day because it often interferes and puts her in a bad place. BUT ANYWAY. She was trying to be really agreeable and had responded positively to the Pizza – even though she hates Pizza. He noticed and calmly said, “But if Nikki wants pizza that’s fine.” That’s how I know what I do is working, it helps him slow down his reactions and his spiral and gives him time to notice everyone else and calm down.

I talked to Nikki and said, “Hey, we weren’t sure Michael’s would have everything we need.” (Michael’s is small but for obvious reasons we prefer it over Hobby Lobby, but many times Hobby Lobby is the only place that carries what we need) “So should we just skip it and go to Hobby Lobby and not make Wesley have to stop twice?” To which she said, “Yeah, and it’s actually on the way home so we can be quicker.”

“OHMYGOD IDONTWANNNAA GOOOO TOOOO HOBBBBYYYYY LOBBBBBBYYYYYY.”
“I know, Wes. But I promise. I’ll be really fast and I’ll carry you in so you don’t have to walk. We’ll be home before you know it! Pizza and then home!”
“Can you buy me YuGiOh cards?”

This is one of the many moments where Regular Mom Kim takes over a little bit and Wesley Mom Kim falls back a bit so she’s not all the way in control.

“Wesley. Don’t try to manipulate me and take advantage of my kindness. You know I can’t just buy you YuGiOh cards for no reason.”
“I WASNT TRYING TO MANIPULATE YOU I WAS JUST ASKING!!!”

Shifting 100% back into Wesley Mom Mode and knows it’s time for some redirection

“Okay, Wesley. We’re at Hobby Lobby. I’m going to carry you in because I know you’re so very tired. Then do you want to ride in a buggy or walk?”
“BUGGY.”

So I carried my giant child into the store and whispered my love in his hear and my acknowledgement that he was so VERY tired and I knew that and I’m sorry he would be home soon. He rode in the cart and got snippy about wanting various things in the store. He told me I was “the worst” a few times but he didn’t say he hated me so we were still in the “safe” zone. I just kept trying to redirect and acknowledge the real problem: His exhaustion. That’s the trick. Address the problem that is the ACTUAL problem and not his responses. He was definitely being terrible by average kid standards, but for Wesley when he’s at the “About To Boil” mode it was pretty average but it required me to be on my toes constantly. Constantly redirecting him before his anger boils over. Constantly reminding him he’s just tired and I’m sorry he’s tired.

We get in the car and he’s still snippy about Pizza so we decide on Sonic. (So healthy when Donnie is out of town.) We get home and he goes straight to his YouTube videos (how he unwinds) while Nikki and I work on the shirts. And I could FINALLY relax a little. I’m off duty from Wesley Mom Mode and I can settle in. We avoided a huge meltdown. We were safe.

I think I was so tired because Nikki had her share of anxiety-related issues and just general emotional distress earlier in the day so I was raw from that. Fridays are sometimes hard if we’ve had a hard week. Everyone was exhausted. Especially me.

Fast-forward to bedtime. Donnie is out of town so the three of us are going to sleep in my bed. I’m tired. I’m EXHAUSTED. I need bed. STAT. Then Wesley notices I painted his shirt and he loses it crying because HE wanted to paint it. But he had shown no interest earlier so this caught me really off guard and I was ready for bed so I was NOT in Wesley Mom Mode and – well – everything went shitty from there.

I got him kinda calm by apologizing but then he was being an jerk about bed and I decided I had enough. I didn’t have Wesley Mom Mode even turned on. I was tired and I had given up so I angrily picked him up and said/yelled, “Nevermind. You’re going to sleep in your OWN bed,” and I went to carry him out of the room and he fought me and Nikki started getting upset so I got beyond the door and shut it to keep her separated (like I said, we’re having issues with her intervening).

Then I caught myself and stopped from angrily taking him to his room. My “Wesley’s Mom” radar finally woke up and recognized how futile my actions were so I switched back into Wesley Mom Mode but it was too late. The spiral had started.

He’s kicking and fighting and screaming to get BACK in my room and I’m just holding him. That’s what you have to do when he starts to get violent or aggressive. He’s not trying to hurt me but he’s just trying to hurt SOMETHING and sometimes it’s himself but often I get caught in the crossfire. I am just sitting on the floor trying to hold him but he’s strong and it’s tough so I just keep saying in my calmest Wesley Mom Voice, “Wesley. I love you. Calm down. Let’s talk. I love you.” And I’m trying to rub his back, and I’m singing a lullaby to him. All of the things that I do when I’m in Wesley Mom Mode and he’s in full tantrum mode. But none of it is working. He’s fighting to get to the door. He’s yelling hateful things at me. I’m trying to keep him away from that room where his sister is. Then he gets his hand on the door knob and turns it so I pull harder to restrain him and he breaks free and pops me in the face and I scream (because it hurt) and the door is open and Nikki comes running (because she heard me scream) and she screams to Wesley, “WHAT DID YOU DO?” in the most demonic voice I’ve ever heard from her and I immediately put my pain aside and I’m scared because I’ve lost control of EVERYONE now. It’s a mess. He screams back, “It was an accident!” and tries to shove her but I can also see he’s scared that he hurt me and ashamed and I’m trying to process everything while my face is throbbing and I made the worst move out of fear to keep them apart because I don’t want him attacking her now that he’s ashamed or embarrassed.

So I yell at HER.

*sigh*

If this had happened earlier in the day it would have never spiraled but that initial response of mine when I was NOT in Wesley Mom Mode because I thought we had entered the ALL CLEAR, that sent it all spiraling.

Wesley ran to his room, Nikki started BAWLING. My face is throbbing and I’m thinking. “Well. You screwed ALL of that up Kim. Good job.”

I took a moment to explain to her that she CAN NOT under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES get in the middle of a tantrum like that. She has to trust me that I’ve got it no matter if she thinks I don’t.

“BUT HE HURT YOU!”
“But it was an accident. I just screamed because it caught me off guard. He didn’t do it on purpose. You have to stay as far away as possible when he’s having a tantrum.”

And then I had to remove myself. I had screwed it all up and I needed to count to 10. I got some ice for my face and I sat on the front steps and just contemplated how quickly everything went wrong.

Then I went back and talked to Wesley who was having the self-hatred episode I knew he’d be having.

“I hurt you. I’m the worst. I hate myself. I’m terrible.”

I calmed him down and hugged him and told him I knew it was an accident but that’s why those tantrums are not acceptable.

“I pushed Nikki.”
“I know. And you can a apologize to her for that. I love you Wesley and this is hard, I know, to learn how to process your anger and hurt. You’ve come such a long way though. Don’t forget about that. You’re doing better. Tonight was a bad night. You’re tired. I didn’t handle it great.”
“You are the best.”
“Thank you, Wes. But a lot of things went wrong and we’re all tired so we’re just going to all go to bed, okay? Want me to tell you a story?”

So I held him and told him a story about a kind boy named Wesley who helped a homeless man who turned out to be a prince in disguise.

“But I’m not kind.”
“Yes you are, Wesley. In your heart. You are just learning how to handle the other feelings and it’s hard. I failed handling my feelings tonight too. We all make mistakes. We have to work together on that.”

I asked him to give me some time with his sister to talk to her since I yelled at her. I haven’t yelled at the kids in a long time. I had to apologize for that but I also needed to make sure she understood she can not get in the middle of my parenting in those moments. We had a talk and she would NOT promise me not to get in the middle. “He was hurting you.” And it’s tough because from her point of view he is, but he’s not. I’m just trying to restrain him and he’s flailing. It’s tough. All of it. Because we all have roles we need to play to keep everything in balance. And it’s not just on Wesley days. Nikki has her days too and often Wesley doesn’t play the part on those days and everything spirals for her and we have similar but reversed conversations where I’m begging Wesley not to make things worse (in the reverse though, he’s not trying to help, he things her episodes are hilarious because he’s a little brother and he tries to make it worse) so I can never been a full parent to both of them at the same time.

Wesley came in and apologized to Nikki and it was sweet and sincere and I sang lullabies to both of them. I have this generic lullaby I made up when E was a baby.

E-li-ah,
E-li-ah,
I’ll always
Love YOU.
Yes I always
will love you,
no matter,
what you DO.

And it works with the other two as well:

Ny-o-ka,
Ny-o-ka,
I’ll always
Love YOU.

and

Oh Wes-ley,
Oh Wes-ley,
I’ll always
Love YOU.

and for some reason they love it even though I’m a terrible singer. Nikki asks for it a lot. So last night I sang it to both of them and then Wes turned the tables.

Oh, Ki – im
Oh, Ki – im
I’ll always
Love YOU.

and so on. It was sweet and I’m reminded he’s such a loving boy. That’s the problem. His emotions are so strong and overwhelming. ALL of them. Even the love. So there’s a balance at least. I’m not dealing with the negative and getting nothing positive in return.

It’s just exhausting. And a total struggle. And sometimes I do great. Like all of the errands home and keeping Wesley stabilized. And other times I’m in the wrong gear when an episode happens and all hell breaks loose and then I yell when I shouldn’t yell and we all end up in a ball crying. But most of the times? It’s the first situation. But all of the times? I’m exhausted. I’m just overwhelmed with the emotional taxations on parenting one child with anger issues and another child with extreme anxiety issues. And I had to cancel therapy this week due to scheduling issues. THIS WAS A BAD WEEK TO CANCEL THERAPY.

The kids are all still sleeping. We have a full day of PRIDE parades in the fun shirts we made last night, and fun with NASA so I’m hoping the good night’s sleep we had will help us all.

Thanks for listening.

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The Day Without Donuts

I’m tired after work, y’all. Even on the best of days when I had a full 8+ hours of restful sleep…I still get up around 4am so by the time I get home in the early evening I’m done. I’m out. It takes everything out of me not to curl up in bed right after our 5:30PM dinner.

I have to play tricks on myself. The only working TV in our house is in our bedroom so I used to sit in bed and watch it but I’ve learned this is a TERRIBLE IDEA. Because they I do go to bed before 7pm. Now I sit in the uncomfortable rocking chair that forces me to get up periodically and do some chore or something to keep my back from cramping up.

But lately I’ve not been sleeping well. I’ve been more restless than usual. I’ve had a hard time getting to sleep which is unusual as well. So now? In the evenings? I’m like a zombie.

And by “evenings” I mean, like, 6pm.

All of this is to tell you that I’m a TERRIBLE Mother at night. Both of my kids require kid-gloves. They both have emotional challenges that mean I have to analyze every word out of their mouth and then analyze my words and actions as a response to keep one from falling into an anger spiral and the other from having a panic attack. Parenting is exhausting and I have no energy for it in the evenings lately. NONE. I’m doing a huge disservice to my kids but – you know – I’m also human so I’m trying to be too ashamed.

Last night was a night where I really needed all of my patience and energy and I had none and it was as terrible as you can imagine. Both kids had breakdowns and it was due to my lack of focus and energy and I handled the breakdowns terribly and it was just a giant mess. Donnie came home and I remembered I needed to get the kids some cough medicine so I went to Publix to pick up JUST THAT ONE THING.

But I was having a TERRIBLE night.

What do I usually do in that situation?

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6-pack of Krispy Kremes eaten in my car and the box disposed of before I got home.

And usually I buy some beer for the house. Donnie even asked me to buy him beer but I said, “Listen, I’ve had a bad day and I’ve not had any beer all week and if I buy YOU beer I’ll drink it so can I wait and just get beef for you this weekend?”

But the donuts…that was a decision I had to make AT THE STORE.

And I bought peaches instead.

And I came home and made one of my favorite treats: Fresh peaches with some preserves spread over them.

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It was still a bad night. I didn’t find any energy or patience at Publix to purchase. I was still emotional incapable of being the parent my kids needed…BUT!

At least I didn’t add a big whopping serving of Eating and Drinking My Feelings on top of that, right?

It honestly wasn’t even too much of a struggle. I’ve been logging my food again which is a good habit to be in but it’s so tedious and I hate it so I usually don’t do it. But I know without out a doubt if I stick to it, it helps me focus on eating WELL instead of just stuffing my face with whatever numbs the pain.

And I’ve had four really good days and had no desire to ruin that stretch so avoiding the donuts wasn’t so difficult.

But I’m proud. And after a terrible night of exhausted parenting, I need something to be proud of.

EEK. I got up, made another cup of coffee and came back and realized THAT IS A TERRIBLE WAY TO END A BLOG ENTRY. You all are going to feel compelled to make me feel better so let me say one more thing:

I have the luxury of having had one really easy child so I’m well aware that some kids take more energy than others and when I’m not in the middle of FEELING LIKE A TERRIBLE PARENT, then I know I’m doing a respectable job. So this morning I’m not as down on myself as I was last night. Mainly I’m just frustrated I can’t sleep better and that my body things 3:30am is the best time to have ALL OF THE POSITIVE ENERGY! My kids never see that side of me because they’re still in bed. Nighttime Kim is kinda useless. MORNING KIM IS AMAZING!

So I’m not feeling as bad about myself this morning as I was last night. Let’s just hope tonight can be a No Donut night AND a Good Parenting night. WOULDN’T THAT BE NICE?

Forcing Casual Amidst The Awkward

My entrance into puberty was interesting (to say the least) as I was going through it all being predominantly raised by a man. A man who was raised on a farm which tended to keep him a little behind on the social norms and made him very awkward around anything even remotely taboo. But even things like slumber parties always perplexed. Not just that they existed, but how invitations were exchanged and why I always came home basically hung over and unable to function. So something personal and inherently awkward like puberty, was a challenge.

Once I got past the “training bra” stage, Dad would basically just give me a credit card at the mall or at Target and let me buy my own under garments. This was actually kind of fun because I got to buy pretty stuff when some people had Moms buying their bras and therefore stuck to the boring white/beige colors.

When I got my first period, my Dad had a serious girlfriend. The only serious girlfriend he ever had. I started my period on a weekend I was at my Moms house, but my Mom obviously told my Dad. And my Dad told his girlfriend. And she thought we should celebrate, so I found myself eating at Red Lobster with a big group of people, basically celebrating my period which I thought was MORTIFYING. I mean, as an adult? The story is hilarious. Especially the part where we told them it was my birthday so they made me wear a lobster hat and sang to me and the entire time I’m thinking, “I GOT MY PERIOD. STOP SINGING TO ME.”

But as an adult? That story is one of my favorites to tell. There is photographic evidence of this night somewhere but I can’t find one…YOUR LOSS.

In our house now? We talk about puberty constantly. I feel like if we keep open conversations early on, it will never be awkward like it was with my Dad. I never felt comfortable asking for tampons or pads at the store so I would get my friends to bring me some of theirs. I tried to rotate friends so I didn’t put that burden all on one person, but I never asked my Dad. IT WAS TOO WEIRD. Once I was finally old enough to drive, I would get my own which made life MUCH EASIER.

So we openly talk about it all in our house. We talk about periods and erections and bras and pubic hair and I try to keep it as casual as possible. I read something a long time ago that said when you’re kids ask questions that make you uncomfortable, have the conversation in the car. That was never a deliberate decision on my part, but it’s the way it always works. I think my kids are as aware of how much easier those conversations are when we’re not making eye contact, so they always ask the tough questions when we’re driving places. Like, “Mom, can you get pregnant by touching a boy’s penis? So-in-so says you can.”

We had already had the sex talk due to a similar question once before. (I’m sorry to break this to you, but if your kids go to a big school where they interact with older kids, there’s a really good chance they’ll come home long before you’re ready with questions like those.) So, we rehashed it. I don’t flower it up and say, “When a man loves a woman…” I’m just clinical about it. We use words like “penis” and “vagina” and “sperm” and “egg.” When they say, “Gross!” I say, “I promise you won’t think that forever. It will be pretty appealing after you go through puberty and you start thinking about thinks like who you want to kiss.”

But I do my best to never let them know I feel awkward, because I feel like that’s why it was obvious uncomfortable with my Dad. It could not have been more obvious how awkward he felt. He never really even had the “sex talk” with me, although he did buy me an academic book about sex for my 16th birthday. Which, if you knew my Dad, was a perfect reflection of his character.

Hence the open conversations in our house constantly. Recently, one of my kids asked how they would know if they were gay. Funnily, they both have hinted at really wanting to be gay, because the person they love the most in the world is gay and so, you know, they want to be just like him. But we talked about urges, and how when they go through puberty those urges will will help them sort out more who they find attractive. I also joke about how it would be great if they were attracted to boys and girls because then they have twice as many options for romantic relationships. I also openly tell them how if life had gone differently, I could easily see having a wife instead of a husband because I find women just as attractive as I find men. We just keep all of those conversations casual, which is the key. If I don’t act like it makes me uncomfortable? Then hopefully they’ll never feel awkward asking me the tough questions.

But it’s difficult, because most of the time I’m terribly uncomfortable. I’m a prude. I’m modest. I don’t like talking about bodily functions. I don’t like being naked, even around my husband. My terrible reproductive past of ruining clothing by hemorrhaging meant I couldn’t hide that part of my life from my husband, BUT LORD IF I WANTED TO. I didn’t like it being a thing we had to regularly discuss. All of these things make me as uncomfortable as they made my Dad, but I remember how hard it was to go through all of that weird stuff without feeling like I could talk to him, so I’m trying my best to create a comfortable environment for my kids.

Even if it means we have all of those talks in the car so that we don’t have to make eye contact. It’s better than not having the talks at all, right?

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A Fourth Grader And Social Media

I read the title of a few articles recently about why people aren’t letting their kids’ friends follow them on Instagram. I didn’t bother reading the article because, if the title doesn’t interest me? The content won’t. But it has put it in my head to write a little about my thoughts on kids and social media here. And how a ton of my kid’s friends follow me on Instagram.

Let me preface this with the Golden Rule Of Modern Parenting: Stay Fluid On All Regulations. Do not be naive to think the rule you set in place today won’t need modifying with new apps or capabilities or with news of terrible occurrences of misuse. I mention a “new” rule I added to the Instagram use in a few paragraphs after I became aware of something bad that could happen. BE FLUID.

This is the year the Kids Started Social Media in Nikki’s life. She’s 10 years old and in Fourth grade and some of my friends in other areas with kids the same age went through this last year, some haven’t yet. It’s different in any community, I think. I’ve never wanted to let my kids be the first in anything. As a matter of fact, the rule is that they will get a phone when A) It makes our lives easier or B) They can prove everyone in their class has one but them. We are not setting a date because rules and attitudes about technology and social media changes so fast that we are simply taking it one day at a time. Right now? No phone.

The first hurdle was Instagram. Several of her friends (many with phones) were on Instagram. Nikki has an iPod touch she’s had for 1.5 years now and she can text other apple users if she’s on WiFi, but no one else. Kids without iPhones were/are using the Instagram message function to talk to each other, so this became a way to communicate with other friends and since no one uses phones these days to TALK, it was a serious thing to consider.

Rules Of Social Media/Internet In General

First I talked to her about the internet and social media in general. I gave her examples of friendships gone bad because of screen grabs taken of private messages. I talked to her about job hunting and college applications. All of the things that can make some of the stupid stuff you do online, come back and haunt you. These are the rules I told her I live by (and reminded her I learned some of them the hard way).

1) Don’t give any “new friends” (aka strangers) personal information about your life, your schedule, where you go to school etc. Someday I want her to make internet friends (not today), I love my internet friends. BUT. I reminded her that there are predators on line and if they wanted to prey on 10-year old girls, they would pretend to be other 10-year old girls. This rule gets repeated ALL THE TIME.

2) Assume you’re dreams are going to come true and some day you’ll be a rich/successful/famous and that people will go through all of your old accounts to find stuff that makes you look bad because they’re jealous. She wants to be a psychologist so I gave the example of using the word “retard” in a post and she got REALLY MAD because, “I WOULD NEVER DO THAT!” But it was an example that if she casually used it like people in her class do, and someone made she was a successful psychologist found out, she would upset her patients.

3) Assume your grandmother will see every picture you ever post. Maybe your Grandma is not on Instagram, but what if she is some day and scrolls past your stuff? Are you okay with that?

4) Assume all of the people at your school will read all of your words so be discreet. I basically want her to just be careful who she trusts with private information about crushes and stuff. I suggested things like, using nicknames if they’re talking about boys. Establish the nicknames at school when they’re talking to each other, so if there’s friend drama (THERE IS ALWAYS FRIEND DRAMA, THERE ARE A LOT OF TEARS THIS YEAR) your embarrassing declarations won’t be used against you.

5) Don’t trust privacy settings. Just because your account is private doesn’t mean you know everyone looking at your stuff. There are ways around every setting and if someone you hate wants to see your posts, they’ll figure out a way.

Now – when she gets older or gets a phone I will add this one but it’s not needed yet. THANK GOD. But still, it’s VERY important and I wanted to share it.

*) Don’t include your face in any naked shots you send someone you are dating. I hate that we even have to do that, but it’s a serious thing and revenge p0rn is serious and the only way to avoid that is to A) Teach my kids not to ever – no matter how much they hate an ex – do that to someone because it’s terrible and contradicts important tenants about privacy and consent and B) Avoid it happening to them by never allowing someone to “prove” it’s you in the picture. I’m not going to say, “Don’t send naked shots!” even though I’ll discourage it for a lot of reasons especially until she’s a legal adult, I’m not going to pretend that in college it won’t come up. (GOD, I HATE PARENTING.) And while we’ll discuss waiting until you trust someone truly before doing that, sometimes we don’t see the ugly side of someone until after a breakup. So I need to point out that without her face in the photo, it’s a guessing game as to who the body is. If the person she sent it to is an asshole (and I accidentally dated plenty of assholes) then she’s safe from future retribution.

MODERN PARENTING FOR THE WIN!

All of those internet rules in place (and we talk about those rules all the time, it’s a constant discussion in our house) it was time for specifics.

Instagram Rules

Simple rules:
1) Her account stays private
2) She only accepts friend requests from real friends or people I approve
3) She only follows people I approve (This rule is especially important for celebrities. I make sure they’re only following the “verified” account and make sure you’ve scrolled through their feed to make sure it’s “kid friendly” before I allow it.)

To make sure these rules are in effect I periodically just scroll through her feed. I don’t go through her messages, I’ve told her until she does something to jeopardize that – she has privacy protected from me.

Here’s the problem with Instagram. You can “tag” someone in photos even if they are private. Some adults I know have been “tagged” in photos and when they click the photo or the profile of the person (b/c it’s just a tiny thumbnail on the message window) BAM! up pops illicit photos/adult accounts. It can be shocking to an ADULT, but a kid? Not acceptable. Those accounts get reported and shut down fast but I didn’t want that happening for Nikki so I told her about it EXACTLY and our new rule was:

4) If she gets a notification saying she has a message or a tag from someone she doesn’t recognize, don’t do anything but take a screen grab and tell me about it so I can flag and report the account and she won’t see whatever she was sent.

It happened once and by the time I went to report it the notification was gone because the account had already been reported. That’s why they need to do screen grabs so you can make sure to report the user.

Allowing Her Friends To Follow Me

Here’s the thing: Nikki’s friends follow me on Instagram. I mean, do I love it? Eh. Not always. Because sometimes she gets made when she goes to school to tell a story and they already know (hee). It does add a little bit of pause on me sometimes, like when I post pictures of beer etc. But I allow it and don’t fret about it.

Here’s the thing: I have always followed the internet rules I discussed WAAAAAAAAYYYY up at the top of this too-long entry. I didn’t expect to be teaching this lesson, but I am now one of the FIRST exposures she and her friends have to adults on social media and I’m trying to show how easy it it is to be funny and entertaining without being insulting or mean. I’ve always said “f*ck” because I don’t like the real curse word showing up anywhere and I still do that. I have really religious conservative friends I don’t want to offend either, so it’s not just her friends I consider. I don’t know what that article was about with the title something like, “Why I Won’t Let My Kid’s Friends Follow Me On Social Media” but I think it’s a great chance for me to give a lesson on how to be on social media in a GOOD WAY.

I mean, I’ve been online blabbing since 2003, I’ve learned a few things and this is finally my chance to use that power for good.

I used the term “af” (it stands for “as f*ck” if you are old like me and didn’t know for awhile) in an instagram post yesterday. Because A) It was perfect and funny and B) Nikki’s friends are on all sorts of other social media too, and they have big brothers/big sisters so I’m certain they’ve seen it. And you know what? It’s a way to say a curse without saying a curse and THAT IS MY FAVORITE THING IN THE WORLD TO DO. Curse without cursing! Woot!

I have an adult child who has friends who have followed me in IG for years and I don’t think it ruined his life at all.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I DO NOT FOLLOW THEIR FRIENDS ON INSTAGRAM except in certain specific cases. I don’t follow any of Nikki’s friends. I don’t want to be Creeper Mom. Now, I do curl up in bed at night with Nikki watch her scroll through her feed just to make sure none of her friends are doing anything crazy but Nikki doesn’t mind and it does keep me up to date on how kids are using Instagram these days.

Internet Simplified: Use Your Power For Good

And most importantly, I remind her that the internet gives a place for cowards to be assholes without repercussions. So, there is a LOT of negative shit out there. I’ve told her my few stories (I was told to kill myself on Twitter once! It was like I was finally a cool kid!) of my own and general stories of harassment and evil from around the web and even from some of her favorite content creators. So, I point out, that adding GOOD where you can combats the evil. AND TO ALWAYS REPORT THE EVIL. If someone is crossing the line between been “ass” to “harassing” then they need to be reported. Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and YouTube are all struggling to keep harassment of their platforms. Users have to help.

Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart are two YouTubers I’ve had no problem introducing Nikki to. They’re edgy and young enough to be very cool, but they’re great examples of how you can use your power and your platform to build people up and not tear people down.

Basically:

1) Don’t be an asshat
2) Spread joy where you can

Always Keep Dialog Open And Stay Familiar

Once we had the sex talk, I started throwing it out there all the time whenever she asks related questions about words she’s heard etc. “Well, you know what sex is…” “Oh god, Mom…” But by constantly making it an easy discussion to get into, we keep those lines of dialog open. Same with social media, I try to tell her funny stories about things my friend’s have posted so she’ll do the same. I want her to want to talk to me about social media and saying, “I’m too old…” does nothing but make that barrier hard to cross. She wants Snapchat now. I’ve been on Snapchat for a long time but mainly as a “watcher” (The White House snaps!) and don’t use it much as a “user” but I’ve been trying to lately because she wants it so bad. It’s a hard “NO!” for now because she doesn’t even have a phone so she could only use it at home and only ONE of her friends is on it so I don’t feel a lot of pressure. But her friend are on it so I think it’s going to be the next hurdle.

SO I AM LEARNING IT, because if she’s going to be on it someday, I need to understand how it works.

thanks

Training For Gratitude.

This week has been full of enlightenments in so many forms that I sat down this morning to write and thought, “I CAN’T EVEN DECIDE WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT.”

The cool thing is a lot of my revelations came from friends, AND I DON’T HAVE TO PAY THEM! Woo Hoo!

I had a meeting at my house last night and one of the points of discussion was, “How do we make sure our kids don’t grow up spoiled or entitled?” I think we all agreed that some entitlement is inevitable, but what can we do to minimize that and to make sure they have a realistic view of their own privilege? It’s so easy to think the greater world is just a BIGGER version of our small sphere of experience, but it’s so VERY NOT true. Relative to the world, hell – even just to the rest of our country, my family is wealthy in many different ways. How do I make sure my kids realize how rich we are, even if half of their friends have iPads when they don’t?

It turns out a lot of my friends institute gratitude rituals in their families. In some, it’s part of prayers, in others its just part of recaps of days. In my house? It’s part of nothing. We do “Highs and Lows” some days, but we don’t specifically talk about gratitude. One friend referenced that gratitude is like a muscle you need to work out regularly so that it’s always in shape and comes easy and almost instinctively. One friend does this with constant questioning of her kids, “What are you thankful for?”

So, obviously, I’m stealing that idea.

I’m going to try to start making that part of meal time. We don’t do prayers, except at big family functions. But I like the idea that before meals we could take a moment to share something we’re thankful for. I already forgot to do it once this morning at breakfast, so obviously my gratitude muscle is just as in need of working out.

Do you have any gratitude rituals in your family? Do you have any ways to kinda “force” your kids to recognize things in their life they should or could be thankful for?