Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Independence Day

The 4th of July. Independence.

These days, we all bemoan that our children grow up too fast. Whether we're talking about consumption of digital technology or sexification by way of slutty clothes and push-up bras for the underaged. And, it's not just all the stuff. Our offspring more often than not call the shots for the entire household.

Just like consumers have taken over marketing, kids seem to have taken over their families.

As a focus group of one, I spend an inordinate amount of my time doing what my teenage daughter wants to do, driving where she needs to go, picking up whatever she's missing for her school projects or equine competitions. Every time I catch myself complaining, I remind myself that I only have one. Most families we know juggle two, three and more. Their activity level boggles the mind. Yes, my teen has an expensive and time-consuming extracurricular. But, what about our friends who have a daughter who goes into Boston for dance five days a week, a son whose hockey team has ice time at 4 am, and a third child with a private pitching coach working toward a college baseball scholarship?

Dancing and hockey and baseball ... oh my! I'm reminded of my all-time favorite Dunkin' Donuts ad.

It's not just the stuff or the running around. Kids assume that they have an equal say in decisions. Whatever happened to children being "seen and not heard?" Whatever happened to the family meetings in the Brady household? (Did you ever notice that the kids all call Mike "sir?" Ha. In what alternate universe would that happen now?) Dreaming of my utopian parental paradise (y'know back when I wasn't yet a parent), I pledged that I would never say "Because I said so!" Well, guess what? I do say it. And, guess what? It doesn't work. Not. One. Bit.

So with these independent-minded young people asserting their equality and autonomy all around us, I'm often surprised by how dependent they are as they get older. I couldn't wait to go away to college and be separate, be independent

From my dorm at Tufts University, I called home once a week, on Sundays when the long distance rates were cheaper. But, it wasn't just to save money. I was eagerly living my own life for the first time. A weekly update was sufficient. Today, kids Skype and videochat home all the time. They text and send pictures. Parents get real-time information about real-time issues. (By the time Sundays came around, a million years ago when I was in school, I had already dealt with and resolved mine.)

As an observer, I really think there's much too much connection. Cut the cord already, folks! But, as a mother, I really (really really) understand the allure. 

My daughter's up in Vermont this week with her horse at an intensive equestrian clinic. Despite being warned that there was no mobile signal available, we've managed to communicate every day. She has cell service at the home where she's staying, and the facility where she's training has a youth center with WiFi.

So, I'm torn.

Would this be a more valuable experience if she and I weren't in touch for ten days. Probably. Would it be harder for me to get through those ten days though? 


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