Sunday, July 17, 2011
The X-Y Connection
I once worked with a woman whom I had little respect for, mostly regarding her family life. Hers was so different than mine. She found ways to avoid going home; working long hours and speaking disparagingly of her sons. Both her high school senior and her college dropout sons were total screw-ups, in my opinion, and were greatly overindulged by this woman who had little parenting sense as far as I was concerned.
For instance, when her 17-year-old son got his third traffic ticket in six months, she reacted completely differently than I would have. If it were my son, he would have been grounded, his car would have been taken away, and I doubt I would have let him drive for the next year. That might have been just the beginning. But what did she do? She hired a lawyer for him since he decided to plead 'no contest.'
When the same son was put on academic probation for bad grades AND plagiarism, as a parent I might have again grounded him, taken away every bit of entertainment and joy that he extracted from electronic devices, and sat on him until he did his work and got his grades back up. My son can attest to this. He now jokes that he's such a strong reader because he only got to watch a few hours of TV during high school since I was never happy with his grades. But her son? He got sent to Spain for two weeks to "get a new perspective on things."
I think his "new perspective" probably matched mine: he would never suffer any real consequences for any of his actions.
So when my co-worker came into work with a new iphone and said she'd bought each of her sons one, too, I shouldn't have been surprised. But I was. She'd been telling me for the past month that her sons weren't even speaking to her. And now she'd rewarded them with iphones? I just shook my head. She explained that she hoped it would bring them closer and then she started talking about "Angry Birds." She said that she started playing it since her sons did and now they had something to talk about. I found that incredibly sad.
But then my son moved away. I'd always enjoyed a close relationship with him and missed him terribly. We emailed each other and talked by phone, but over time, those calls and emails became more infrequent. Then I got an iphone. (He'd already bought one for himself years ago.) I didn't think it was any big deal; I certainly didn't think it would bridge the gap between our generations, but then he started asking me if I played this, or I played that. I resisted at first, but then started texting with him, sending pictures randomly during the day, and playing "Hanging with Friends" with him. Suddenly, I started to see how my co-worker had found this to be a bonding opportunity with her sons.
I'll never been as "connected" as my Gen Y children, but I've made a lot of progress in the past year. I am finding fun ways to connect with them both in their digital worlds. I almost want to apologize to my co-worker for judging her parenting skills so harshly, but I can't. I still have little respect for how she's raised her kids. I have a feeling that "Angry Birds" is pretty much the breadth of their bonding. I am grateful that I have relationships with my own children that go beyond that. But playing games online with them is fun, too. Maybe I'll text her a quick 'thx'.