The Almost Empty Nester: Am I TOO Connected To My Kids?

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Am I TOO Connected To My Kids?

I'm reading a book right now called The iConnected Parent by Barbara K. Hofer and Abigail Sullivan Moore. As I read, I see how much my family has become mainly iConnected, even in my attempts to keep "phone free zones" in the house and limited time on anything with a screen.

The book talks about how we are closer than ever to our kids (not a bad thing) because we can be in constant contact with them, but that in doing so, they aren't learning independence (a bad thing). I've always said that my job as a mom is to raise my kids to grow up and NOT need me. Do I want them to ask my advice, have a good relationship? Of course. But I want them to know how to function in this world without me.

Reading this book has caused me to ask a tough question: We blame our kids and their generation but are we just as much to blame? I've noticed that I tend to text them as much as they text me, probably more. And if they don't answer in five seconds, I've thought them maimed, run over by a car or kidnapped. Really? 

The book focuses on kids leaving the nest and heading to college. When I was in school, which was a while ago but not 100 years, I called my mom once or twice a week. From a land line because we didn't have cell phones until my senior year, and even then it was literally JUST a phone. But if my car had broken down or I had had a bad day with a professor, I would have worked those things out by the time I called her. I would tell her about them and move on, but the solution to my problems were figured out by me.

My kids now text me all the time from school. I joke with them that I'm not sure why I even have them go. Clearly they aren't paying any attention. Thing 1 texted the other day about an issue he was having with Thing 2. My response was, "How would you handle this if you couldn't text me?" Because, first of all, what could I do anyway? Jump in the middle of them (via text - meh) and try to help them duke it out? Well, I could, but I won't do that. And second of all, how will they ever learn to handle situations on their own if they are always asking me first as a knee-jerk way to handle problems?

Girly leaves for college in five months. And as much as I want to see her and spend time with her, I also want to get her ready to spread her wings. She's a typical social teenager. Out and about on weekends and such. And I've tried lately to pull back from checking in with her all the time. And funny thing: she checks in with me. Do I worry about her? Of course. But I also know we've raised her to be self sufficient and resourceful. There have been a few times where something has happened while she's out, she figured out a solution herself, and comes home proud of herself and excited to tell us.

I want to be close to my kids. And I think I am. But I also want them to be their own people. Grown ups who figure out how to find their way. They will still ask my advice, but also the advice of other wise people in their lives and that's all good.

It takes practice and intention to pull away from always being in contact. But it's worth it. Truly. It's not unlike social media. When I pull back from it, I don't know every single thing about every single person I've ever met. So when I see them, we have great conversations and fun catching up. We don't already know everything. If I watch my daughter's snapchat all night or text her while she's out, I have nothing to talk with her about face to face when she gets home. And I prefer that on many levels.

We are a technology connected world. And there is much good to be said about it. I love that I can face time with my family in another state or my nephew who is on the other side of the country in college. It is convenient to ask my kids stuff about their plans via text when they aren't home and I need to know. But I don't want it to overrun my relationship with them, or be a crutch in their lives that keep them from soaring when they leave the nest. I want them to fly and fly well. Visit, check in, share with me, yes. But ultimately, I want them to fly. 

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