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Posts Tagged ‘communication’

It is said that parenting has been made more difficult with the rapid advancements in technology and the effects of social media on our children. Certainly that can be the case.

For those of us who are parents of teens, it is nearly impossible to keep up with what is new, what is hip, what our kids are in to.

There is nothing more eye opening for me, as a parent, of how much more quickly the world is changing now, compared to when I was a kid, than explaining to my three kids (ages thirteen, fifteen and twenty):

  • ‘dial up’ … that was the norm only about ten years ago.
  • life without laptops and cell phones … hubby had his first of each about the year our fifteen year old was born (according to Reuters, May 2012, nearly one quarter of American homes have ditched landlines for cell phones)
  • life without i Pods or MP3 players … none of which existed until after our fifteen year old was born (over 300 million i Pods sold)
  • Google was an infant when our thirteen year old was born … it was launched just a month before his birth (it receives almost 1 billion views each month)
  • life without YouTube … it did not appear until 2005 (it’s most watched video, “Charlie Bit My Finger” received almost 500 million views alone)
  • Facebook has only been around since 2006 … my children were seven, nine and fourteen when it became available to all with an email address (now about 955 million users)

The world certainly has changed, and it is not stopping. We have a choice, as parents, we can either bury our graying heads in the sand and pretend that it doesn’t affect us OR we can do our best to understand the world which our children are immersed in.

For me, it was an easy choice, because if I turn my back on the language of my children today, how will we communicate tomorrow? My children have grown up with talk of gigabytes, tweeting and social media. It is, in all practicality, their first language. And if I have hope of continuing in communication, I feel it is easier for me to climb the learning curve, and learn enough that I can walk them through this technological road.

I have not only three children, but also two ‘friends’ on Facebook (one is not yet thirteen, and, since it is the Facebook policy that you need to be thirteen to have an account, he is still waiting). It is here that I can be familiar with who their friends are, how they are conversing, and the ups and downs of their circles. This is not information that I am ‘sneaking’ as my kids know that I am interested in their lives, and in the lives of their friends (many of whom are also my ‘friends’). They do tell me not to ‘like’ every picture they post, because that’s “just creepy,” so I am learning how to navigate this new world from them too!

I am not saying I always agree with all that is new, or the intrusions that technology creates in our lives. I most certainly see foundational flaws to social media as a main use of communication in our world. I see the need for a Miss. Manners in the form of a Wii character, to watch over and instruct the users of the world wide web. I have struggled through terminology that is new (most of which are acronyms) and foreign to my ears. I sometimes wonder if in the future the acronyms we now use in texting will become the words of Webster’s Dictionary. Or that Webster’s will be replaced by Urban Dictionary. I have also found sites visited by my kids that, in the words of my grandmother, make my eyeballs curl.

But, each setback is also an opportunity to teach and to learn, and for me and my kids, we are doing it together, bumps and bruises alike.

For those of us of a more archaic age, the video below might put a smile on your faces, like it did my kids and I:

In our house, it has happened that all five of us are home, even in the same room, having a conversation by texting. It may sound rather ridiculous, but hubby and I figure it is good for a laugh, and helps us maintain uniqueness as a family. We have even been talking about having a dinner where we all communicate via text through the entire meal. We are all about memory making, and hey, the family that texts together, stays together ūüėČ !

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A conversation a long while back still haunts me.

My daughter had the look of one who wanted to spill information that she knew, so we did some errands where we would be driving (nothing like the wheels of a vehicle moving to get a teenager to talk) a significant amount.

It took no time for the story to enfold.

She told me about her friend. Her friend, at the time, was a girl of just fourteen. She had a boyfriend. According to what my daughter said (because she is a question ‘asker’ and she had asked her friend what the two of them talk about together), her friend and the boyfriend didn’t spend much time talking, because there was not much for them to talk about to each other. The two had discussed the details (I guess they found a topic that they wanted to talk about), of when and where they would have sex for the first time. And so, when mom was out, and the house empty, they did IT.

The story does not end there. The next day the daughter asked her mother for oral birth control (I am not sure if she fessed up to mom about her recent sexual explorations). Her mother grounded her for two weeks.

So, now we have a young girl, who is dating a guy who she has nothing to talk about with, who is having sex, who is wise enough to know that birth control is a good idea, whose mother chooses to not only say no to, but, rather than sit down and have an exploratory conversation, grounds her. Yikes! It is the perfect storm of situations!

How is it that, in this day and age, a mother could be so uncommunicative with her daughter? How is it that, in this day and age, a girl could think that having sex with someone who she has nothing to talk about with (other than sex) is a good idea? I keep hearing the voice of the Virginia Slims cigarette ads saying “you’ve come a long way baby” and thinking … really? I keep thinking of the book by Laura Schlessinger “10 Stupid Things Women Do To Mess Up Their Lives” and thinking … will it ever end?

There is a line that I frequently quote to my daughters, that comes from the classic Louisa May Alcott book, Little Women, “I will not have my daughters being silly about boys.” Although they are fully human young women, I greatly desire that they grow up knowing that their value is not in temporary pursuits (and especially when it comes to young men), but in who God has created them to be, and the purpose and intent He has for their lives, apart from romantic or sexual relationships. They are, indeed, sexual beings, but oh, they are so much more! I truly believe that they must seek God’s best for them, as individuals, before they begin down the path of life with another person, and their life’s direction.

It is with fear and trepidation that I co-parent these two precious ladies … fear and trepidation that brings me to my knees! And that is a good place to be.

While on my knees I pray for openness of communication, and for wisdom to help them grow to be wise.

“I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good.
To be admired, loved, and respected.
To have a happy youth, to be well and wisely married,
and to lead useful, pleasant lives,
with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send.”
Little Women

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Recently I was watching the television show, The Dog Whisperer. The ‘whisperer’ himself made the statement, “human babies are innately curious, but babies are not naturally fearful.”

I am not sure if he is right, but there might just be some truth to what he said (or maybe he is planning on a career change to The Baby Whisperer).

A baby certainly can strike fear into the hearts of his/her parents! When a wee one is whaling wildly (oh how I love alliteration) in the middle of the night, mom and dad can be found running around like whirling dervishes. The needs of a baby, and learning how to communicate with each other early on is something that is a necessity for the survival of all involved! Otherwise the issue of fear becomes the only issue.

This is not unlike our Father-child relationship with God.

He is there and attentive to meet all of our needs, and He is faithful to always give us what we need.

Unfortunately, we often get impatient, and we start to cry like banshees when we feel a need must be met. We lose focus of the provider of our needs and how He is faithful to meet them. We get scared that we are going to starve, and we try to meet those needs ourselves.

1 John 4:18 says, “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear …”

As a baby grows in communication with their parents, the crying does lessen (for some it can take a few years … not that I know anything of that … redhead child). The child learns, over time, what has been true since his or her conception … that their loving parents provide the security that the child needs to not experience fear.

We are like that loved child who grows up not concerning himself/herself with things like food, shelter, security because we have learned to relax and rest in the assurance of our heavenly father’s provision.

And, like that child who has learned of their parents love, we have no reason to experience fear.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‚ÄúTherefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? ‚ÄúConsider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you”

Luke 12:22-28

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Today marks the beginning of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, in London, England.

There will be the lighting of the flame, the entrance of the athletes into the stadium, the speeches, the music, the spectacle that is the opening event.

Of course the Olympic Games are about the games themselves, about the competition among athletes and countries, about about winning medals, but, what are the values of the Olympic Games?

According to the International Olympic Committee, it takes more than being an exceptional sportsman or woman to become part of the Olympics or Paralympics. “This is why both games come with a set of core values which encompass what these competitions are all about proving that sport even at this level, is not just about your ability.”

The seven official values, which aim to embody the spirit of the events are :
Respect
Excellence
Friendship
Courage
Determination
Inspiration
Equality

There is a story that is behind the picture to the right. It is a story of a father son relationship that exemplifies all of the values of the Olympics. Beyond that, their relationship is one of love … unconditional, sacrificial love.

To me, they, father and son, epitomize the Olympic spirit, not just in regard to athletics, but also in regards to life … lived full and complete, not because of their circumstances, but in spite of them.

“You can!”

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There is a verse from 1 Corinthians 13 that has been (partially) marinating in my brain cells this week, and it has nothing, and everything, to do with love (as 1 Corinthians 13 is known as the “Love Chapter” of the Bible).

The verse that I have been pondering (and taking out of context) is verse 12; “now we see a blurred image in a mirror. Then we will see very clearly. Now my knowledge is incomplete.”

I found myself thinking of my mom, back when I was a single adult (barely an adult, since hubby stole me away so young ūüėČ ), and she was … about the age that I am now. I found myself trying to remember what I was like as a young adult, and what she was like as a VERY YOUNG woman (remember, I was remembering her when she was the age that I am now).

Then out of the blue the verse above came to mind, and I thought of our relationship back then.

My mom and I had a great relationship when I was a child, and even when I tortured her through my teen years. Many times when my friends came over, they were as eager to sit and chat with her, as with me. My mom had a fantastic gift for listening, and what more could a teenage girl want than to have an adult actually listen to them when they speak?!

I also remember the post high school years, and how there was more distance between us. I remember that I started to notice flaws in mom. I started to watch her more, and I started to see that she did not do things as I might have thought the ‘right way’ to do them. It was in this stage that I no longer agreed with all that she said.

This was the stage of me growing away from my mom. It is normal, it is predictable and it is good. It is a stage where a young adult begins to become more independent of their parents, in actions and in thoughts.

I also now know that it must have been hellish for her. To go from such closeness to growing distance must have eaten at her mother heart.

“Now we see (like) a blurred image in a mirror …”

I remember that stage of life. I remember the independence that I was feeling. I remember how very eager I was to grow away from my parents. I remember feeling wise and worldly.

What I know now, that I did not know then was that I was seeing the life before me as a blurred image in a mirror. As clear as life and the future seemed to me then, now I know, looking back, that what I saw was often not reality. I saw things as I wanted to see them.

I was living in the idealism of youth. Now idealism is not a bad thing, as a matter of fact, I wish that I could get some of that idealism of youth back in my mind and heart, but idealism is often not seeing things as they are, but as we wish to see them … it is blurred reality.

I judged my mom, based on my blurred vision. I guess it is a common happening in most young adults lives, with their parents, but now I “see very clearly” how blurred that vision was, way back then. I can not say that “my knowledge is incomplete” quite yet, but I am now at the stage of life of seeing my mom as a whole, not just the parts that I thought I understood as a young adult.

I now understand that some of my mother’s actions and inaction, things she said, and refrained from saying, were responses to the decisions she had been making since she was a young adult herself. I now see that she did the best with what life had thrown at her, and with the consequences (good and bad) of her young adult decisions, when her vision was still blurred.

I do look forward to the day when “my knowledge is incomplete.”

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You can’t teach an old dog a new trick, or so the saying goes.

I like to talk. This goes back as far as my school years, when my parents would go to the dreaded parent teacher conferences, and the one thing that all of my teachers said of me was, “she really likes to talk” (hey, at least I was consistent).

I love to chat it up with cashiers, moms with little kids, and elderly ladies. Oh, elderly ladies are the best! They are funny, full of information, and (big bonus) they say stuff to you like, “when I was young like you,” or “you are still so young,” or “my what beautiful skin you have.”

I have no problems with communicating via email or text (but I do hate the telephone). When there is something that I need to communicate with hubby, the kids, a friend, family, or a co-worker I want to be across from them and feel the conversation, so that I hear not just their words, but what their eyes are communicating too.

All of that communicating is great, but I have been learning something about myself, and my communication habits over the past couple of years. I have learned that when I am speaking to someone who does not leave me feeling listened to I keep quiet, I stop talking.

Perhaps this started as a means of avoidance. Perhaps it was a wordless way of communicating. Perhaps it was a means of keeping the peace.

If it started as avoidance or wordless communication, then what I am really trying to avoid is conflict, because I am feeling powerless in a particular relationship.

If this started as a means of keeping the peace, it is a farce! If that ‘other’ person(s) could only hear what is going on in my mind while I am feeling ignored and not listened to!

Keeping quiet, however that started, can forfeit ones ability to express an opinion. Eventually, one might begin to believe that their thoughts are not important, so why bother trying?

Why or how this began, I do not know. What I do know, though, is that it is time for me to grow out of this stage I am stuck in.

This ‘old dog’ may not be so good at tricks, but I am determined to learn a new skill, by undoing a bad habit … I sure hope the treats are chocolate!

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Within twenty-four hours I had been deeply moved, deeply honored, deeply grieved.

The source of my experience were my three children, and each had communicated the same desire of me … to spend more time with me.

I felt one main feeling … guilt. Guilt that they felt that they had been lacking in time with me, guilt that I had not made more effort. Guilt that there simply are no more hours in my day. This one heavily weighted me down as a mom, as I laid my head on my pillow that night.

For all three to actually come to me meant that this feeling of not having time together has been percolating in their minds for more than a few days, more than a few weeks. I felt awful.

The worst of this whole thing was that I knew they were right in saying so. For weeks, I have been thinking to myself, I feel like I need to be more intentional at spending time with my kids. The problem is, I only thought it, and, although good intentions are good, they are not good enough.

My mother heart was torn.

When, as a mother, you have failed, and you know it, it hurts. When you know others know it, it hurts even more. When your own kids know it, and express it … sigh … it feels as though you have failed at your most important reason for being.

Now that it has been a number of days since my three communicated this to me, and I feel a bit better able to see things in a more balanced, less pained way. My kids messages to me were not all bad, they were an … announcement, a wake up call, and it was one I plan to answer!

The first realization was one of success … my kids TOLD me what they were missing. How many times I have asked them to tell me their thoughts, their needs, and they did this.

The next was one of wake up. When our first daughter was born, I wondered, as I looked around at families, how a parent could evolve from the newness of baby love to not talking with their teen. I had made it a goal way back then, to not lose the baby love phase with my kids, and this goal needed to be revived … now!

The final realization was that I am human. This is something I know, but not something that my expectations of myself allow when it comes to my kids. But, I get caught up in the immediate of life. I get tired. I say yes to too many things. All that to say, I need my kids help in meeting the expectations that they have of me, and I have of myself in regards to how I love them. So, I have asked each of them to help me find a way to meet this mutual need. This is still in progress, but I expect that they will each send me a note, leave a post it on my mirror, send me a text, email or a FaceBook message to let me know when they need my time. And, I will make time for them.

In the meantime, I awoke on Mother’s Day with the iron in my soul that they would not go to bed feeling that they were lacking in time with me. So, after church, I informed them that they would be having lunch with me. We left church, and headed to the grocery store deli where we chose sandwiches and snacks. Then we four (no dad, and no one else … not even the beast) drove to a beautifully shaded park, ate our lunch, took pictures and laughed together.

It was so good to spend this time together, just us four. My heart felt full!

I am so glad that they each told me what they were missing, and that I had the unusual wisdom to hear their hearts with my own. Perhaps their outward cries, came from what my own heart was missing too.

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The language of adolescents would seem to be technology. They talk and text and FaceTime and Tweet and game, and then there is social networking!

I had an interaction the other day with my son. I could tell by the way he closed (slammed) the van door, after school, that he was not in a good mood. It took everything within me to not respond … verbally, angrily with his over use of adolescent muscle on my van door. Working in a high school, I know that to respond to anger in a teen, who is angry, is only going to elevate the level of anger. So, I did what I often do … I bit my tongue (it really should be severed in two by this point in my life … come to think of it, maybe this is what is meant when the Bible speaks of the tongue as being a double edged sword … maybe it has less to do with double edged, and more to do with heavy duty steal … but, I digress).

Once we were home, and he and I were alone for a moment, I took a deep breath, and asked (nicely) if he wanted to talk. He said, “no, not now, it was a crummy day.”

So, I let he and his ‘surly’ mood have space (physically and emotionally). The difficulty in giving him space though, is that as a woman, and a mom, one could not get much more inquisitive. All I really wanted to do was to get to the bottom of his bad mood.

Once he had some space (that is spent in his bedroom … his turf), I did what I often do in these circumstances. I knocked at the door, and ‘asked’ if I could enter. I brought a glass of water to him (it is my entrance fee …). Then, I asked if there was anything I could do to help improve his day (I ask because it helps the adolescent feel in control, and chances are he did not feel in control earlier in the day … this is empowering for them).

Sometimes tears start to flow at this point, sometimes a silent shake of the head, sometimes they are already okay, and life has moved on to brighter skies. It is a rare thing that they do not share what their day has held, and where their sorrow originated.

So, he told me his tale of woe … and I listened. The world would not have stopped for his great failure. His iTouch would not have wanted to hear his story. If he Tweeted it, or FB’ed it, or whatever else technology could have offered him it would not have come close to what he wanted, what he needed the most …

What my son, and any other son, or daughter, needs most, is a listening ear, and “I love you,” in response, and a big ‘ol mama hug.

The language of adolescents is NOT technology, the language of adolescents is the same as the language of us all … LOVE!

To be heard, to be loved, to be shown affection and acceptance, despite our behaviors … that is what we all want, what we all need.

The language of love is the language that we, as humans, live for! It is how we are wired, it is how we were created!

And, although I am only sharing one story of parental success in the midst of far too many failures for this one mom, I do believe it is in following with the example of Christ.

God loves us. He loves us not depending on our behaviors, but despite them! He loves us, because he knows that we are worth loving. And if I, whose behaviors are so poor, can be loved by the God of this universe, then I need to ensure that the behaviors of the adolescents in my life, are not keeping me from speaking their language.

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This one has been coming for a long time … a rant about traffic controllers (aka ‘flaggers’) …

Before I rant, let me just say that I do respect the individuals, and the dangerous work that they perform on a daily basis, with little thanks and far too many close calls.

So, there is a bit of roadwork being done in my area of the woods, and the place is crawling (well, the cars are crawling … slowly) with people dressed as aliens from some 1980’s neon world. Their attire is very eye catching, in shades of neon yellow and green, and safety vests in a shade of red that is so bright, it could be identified as orange, with a reflective ‘X’ in the middle.

I remember¬† w¬† a¬† y¬† back when I was a kid, and all that distinguished them was a yellow hard hat on their head and a stop sign in their hand (and often a cigarette in the other hand … and, come to think of it, short shorts, and a shirt tied up much higher than their waist … kind of Daisy Duke style … ).

As I have been driving this road construction route, and others over the past few years, I always seem to end up pondering the same question, ‘what the heck is taught to these poor people in traffic control courses?’

When I was a new, teenage driver, I do not ever remember being confused when directed by the person holding the stop sign. The worker was usually a homemaker, looking to make a few bucks while the kids were in school, or a teenager who was smart enough to realize that there was much better money, and a better summer tan, in directing traffic, than working at a fast food establishment.

There were no courses to successfully complete, and be given certification, before being allowed to hold the stop sign. You just had to be available, and (literally) street smart.

Today there are traffic control certification programs. They include in class as well as practical training, and a final exam.

I am afraid that whoever established these courses forgot to educate the drivers on what form of sign language they are trying to communicate with.

I just cannot tell, when a flagger hold their ‘slow’ sigh up and kind of keeps pumping it up continually, if they just want to be seen, or they want me to drive slow, but not as slow as I am going.

Then there are the hand motions … was that a motion forward, or a motion to stop?

And when they are in the middle of an intersection it would seem very clear that not one of any four drivers understands what the flagger is, non verbally, trying to communicate, because all four are constantly looking from the flagger to each of the other four drivers to try to figure out what to do.

I remember a particular time when I was driving along with my kids on a country road, and we came to a lone flagger. He was holding a stop sign and pumping it up to the sky, so I figured he thought I was not going to stop, so I stopped immediately. He then pumped it higher and harder, with an angry frown on his face. As a people pleasing person (I love alliteration) I knew I had blown it, so I started to motion forward again. Then he yelled and pushed his stop sign towards my vehicle. I knew I had done wrong, so I halted immediately … and felt the frustration rise in my face. Finally Mr. Flagger seemed to be motioning me forward. I was nervous, and did my own hand signal to ensure that my moving forward was not going to cause him duress, he nodded affirmation. Since my natural (and chemically enhanced) hair color is blond, I decided to pause when I got to him. I rolled the window down, and apologized profusely for my negligence. I wanted to ensure that I said it all in my sugary sweetest voice possible. He seemed to be empowered by my humility. Then I rolled my window up, and slowly, cautiously, moved forward … then my kids heard a word they do not often hear from their mother’s mouth. GRRR!

Personally, I think that since ‘flagger’ schools have opened, their ability to communicate effectively has deteriorated immensely.

Glad I got that off my chest!

 

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