Why I finally gave in and let my middle schooler have a SnapChat


Pretty sure messages like this from his mom wasn’t what Finn has in mind when he asked for SnapChat

Finn (7th grade) first asked for a SnapChat the beginning of the school year, and without a discussion I gave a really firm ‘No.’ You’re not old enough, not mature enough, the world is big bad scary place, SnapChat is evil, No.

A few months later he wanted to understand why. Good for him. So I tell him all the bad things that can happen with an app like SnapChat. We googled real life stories about social media gone wrong with teens committing suicide over something someone said on social media. Plus, the fact that posts on SnapChat disappear in just a few seconds lets you hide things. Not good. More on that in a minute.

Of course to him, I was being the eccentric over-reacting, over-protective mom. To me, I wasn’t take any chances with serious problems like sexting, cyber-bullying, stalkers, etc. Teens (adults too) misuse social media and the more private they think it is the more they misbehave. Then there’s creeps and weirdos out there who use social media to lure or blackmail young people to do or say bad things. So I limit and watch carefully what little bit of social media he does.

We also have a “no delete” rule. You can not delete photos or texts without my permission, and if I found out you have (and I WILL find out, I have my ways), you lose your device. Indefinitely. If you’re not OK with your mom reading what you text or post on social media, then don’t post it. I’ve even used the WWJD threat — if you wouldn’t text it to Jesus you shouldn’t text it to your friend.

Which brings me to the biggest problem I have with SnapChat: privacy. Because the snaps disappear after a few seconds the accountability for what is sent and shared is non-existent. And let’s face it, accountability measures work. Knowing that your mom is going to see whatever you send or post is a reason to keep your posts in line. Knowing that your post is going to disappear in a few seconds is just enough false security to do something stupid and think you won’t get caught.

I also don’t see the benefit to SnapChat over using other apps that allow the same things without the accountability/disappearing posts issue. If you want to share a picture with your friend, post it to Instagram (he has an Instagram) or just text them a photo. If you want to chat, text or iMessage. So the only capability SnapChat adds is the disappearing posts. Which again, if you think you need to share something that private, especially at age 12 or 13, you’re probably up to no good and shouldn’t be sharing it at all.

Finn countered that you can add emojis and text on top of photos. Eh, there’s apps that do that too.

And I get that it saves space on your phone because the photos don’t get saved to your photo album thus filling up your phone’s memory with silly one-use selfies. So go delete it when you’re done. Easy peasy. Which violates the no delete rule so you’d have to ask me before you could delete it but still, there’s a way. I have a go-around for every single thing he says SnapChat can do that other apps can’t.

Except one.

The thing SnapChat does that no other app can do is make you cool. There. I said it. SnapChat makes you cool. How? Because you can say “yes” when one of your friends asks “Are you on SnapChat?” And if you and your friends think SnapChat is the best thing since sliced bread (I sound like an old person saying that don’t I?) then having the app — even if you don’t use it at all or often — makes you feel included, cool, like you’re the same as everybody else in your friend circle. And while we don’t always do what everyone else is doing (if everyone was jumping off a bridge would you jump of a bridge too?) I get that desire to fit in and if I can find a way where he gets to fit in and the risk of terrible things happening is significantly lessened, that’s what I want to do.

Finn says he just wants to share team selfies at the track meet or pics of what he’s having for dinner or selfies saying “I’m bored.” And I believe him. He’s a good kid with good intentions. But what do people want to share with him? THAT concerns me more. I know all too well that teens (and who are we kidding, adults too) use SnapChat and apps like it to hide their sexting, bullying, etc. and it’s all too easy to do.

So how I do let him enter this community where his friends are hanging out but keep him from using it inappropriately?

I decided it’s a trust issue. Do I trust him and his friends to use the app appropriately. The answer? No! How can you trust immature, impulsive moody teens to do the right thing when the wrong this is SO easy? You can’t, at least not 100%. So if I can’t trust you, I’ll create rules, rules to make it harder to do the wrong thing and easier to get caught doing the wrong thing lest your teen try.

So my No. 1 SnapChat rule is simple but strict: Before he can add anyone to his friend list I have to approve them. And I have the right to not allow him to follow someone if I don’t trust that person to use the app appropriately. So if you’re a girl who I see publicly push the limits of what’s appropriate on Instagram or be rude or use bad language on Instagram or texting with my son, he will not be your SnapChat friend. I will not give you the opportunity to take your inappropriateness to the next level with private disappearing messages.

If he adds someone without my permission, no more SnapChat. If he receives something in appropriate, he is to tell me no matter how embarrassing or no matter who gets in trouble over it. I will give him the opportunity to tell that friend that he doesn’t want to receive that kind of stuff and if they don’t stop he’ll remove them from his friend list.

So we’re trying it out. Which means he gets to receive snaps like this from me too.

Long Lost Journal Entries


Apparently back in the summer of 2006 I started journaling and apparently it was going to be this sweet little mommy journal of all those sweet moments from the boys’ childhoods.

My use of the word apparently will be apparent soon.

I bought a fancy little book and everything.

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Finn & Caden, summer 2008

The first entry is so sweet, from July 7, 2006. Finn was one week shy of his 3rd birthday. Caden was 6 months old.

It goes like this:

Finn’s going to be a good big brother. This week John was suctioning Caden’s nose and Finn says, “Don’t hurt my Caden.” He’s fascinated with how Caden is too little for things or can’t walk, talk, etc. I tell him that we’ll have to teach him how to do all those things.

Caden started making gurgling sounds this week.

Aww. Isn’t that adorable? Protective big brothers and baby gurgles.

There’s more.

The second journal entry is three weeks later and is just as sappy.

Tonight Caden has his first bath sitting up. I ran Finn a bath and let him play while I got Caden situated in the baby tub with the seat in it. He love it, making a mess with all his kicking and splashing. We had a better night with Finn too. He ate all of his pizza with only minor protests about wanting or not wanting pepperoni. After Caden went to bed we played with his PlayDoh and tools until near bedtime.

Caden has started blowing bubbles and spitting his bottles and baby food. He also pushed his knees under him tonight like he may want to crawl soon. He’ll be 7 months Saturday!

Awww. Brothers taking baths together and baby bubbles. Cute, cute, cute.

The next entry … oh wait (cue: record scratching sound symbolizing a screeching halt). There’s not a next entry. The rest of the book is void of words. Apparently my sweet fantasy of writing sweet journal entries after my sweet little boys were sweetly sleeping was just that, a fantasy. I’m guessing I became too busy and too tired (still am).

If I were still maintaining this journal today, it would look like this:

Tuesday, June 2

Yesterday the boys were killing me. Caden forgot his swimsuit for swim and I felt so sorry for him I went and bought one at Target (bought a cheap towel too) making me later for work than I needed to be. After picking them up this afternoon we picked up bacon wrapped pizza, which he’d been asking for, and Gigi’s cupcakes for dessert. They ate all the breadsticks before we even got to Gigi’s and then Caden had the audacity to give me attitude that I wouldn’t let him eat the cupcakes in the car on the way home. At his annoyed sigh, I lost the cool I’d been keeping all day. I make a special trip to buy you a swimsuit that you forgot to bring, buy you pizza and cupcakes and you’re going to give me attitude that you can’t have the cupcake right this very minute?? Really? So he had to go to his room when we got home and write three things that he was thankful for that day. He wrote more than three, thankfully, as well as “Forgive me check yes or no.”

I checked yes.

Not 30 minutes later Finn was telling Caden to shut his food hole and Caden retorted with something just as rude.

Sigh.

This morning though, I got into the car to leave and they had packed a lunch for me to have at work today. A slice of the leftover pizza (on a plate and wrapped with plastic wrap, I might add), two ham and cheese rolls (Finn’s favorite), two oranges and a fruit rollup. Also a sticky note from Finn saying “shine bright like a diamond.”

Smile.

I just might be doing something right.

Blog Where You Are: at the Hospital with my Son


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This post isn’t about the shunt they placed in my baby’s head as an infant or the replacement shunt they put in this week.

This is about one of the worst feelings ever, and that is the helplessness of being at your child’s bedside when he’s sick and being unable to fix it, even just a little.

Two nights ago he was in pain and vomiting in the middle of the night, and all I could do was lie at the foot of his bed and pray for healing.

It reminded me of parents in the Bible leaving their child’s bedside to run to Jesus to ask him to heal their sick child. I was doing that same thing, begging God to make him feel well because whatever was going on that was making him sick was beyond my abilities to fix.

I laid at my child’s feet and prayed to God and felt akin to those parents from Jesus time. Except one difference — I had/have the Holy Spirit that allowed me to simultaneously run to Jesus while never leaving my child’s side.

Jesus called the Holy Spirit a Comforter, and it was to me at that moment a great comfort, just to know I could talk to my God right then and there and pray for healing.

Pick Your Parenting Battles


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Here’s the deal:

Finn is 10 and is starting to eat larger meals.

Which come with larger drinks.

Which make 7-year-old Caden jealous.

“Why can’t I have a large drink like Finn,” he whines.

I explain it to him, but he doesn’t care.

I don’t even think he’s listening.

So because I don’t care what size cup I drink out of, I give him my large cup.

I drink out of the kid’s cup.

Which means I refill my kid’s-size cup about four times during my meal to drink the amount that I want.

Now, I could “be the parent” and enforce that each of us get the cup that came with our meals.

Which means I get the big cup and he gets the small cup.

I’ve done that before.

Sometimes I’m just not in the mood to deal with “that’s not fair,” and with no explanation necessary I put down my foot.

“This is the cup you get it. If you’re thirsty you’ll drink from it.”

I can be and sometimes am that mom.

But sometimes, I pick my parenting battles.

Sometimes I give him my big cup.

And let him feel big like his brother.

And let him flash a smile of gratitude at me and say “thanks, mom” when I tell him that I’ve let him have my big cup and I’m using his smaller one.

After all, it’s one cup at one meal.

So am I a parenting push-over or did I just do for my son a nice thing?

Would You Do It All Over Again?


 

There’s a country song that says

“If I had it to do all over again, I’d do it all over with you.”

It’s a song about love and marriage, but its lyrics came to mind recently when thinking about a family who traveled to the other side of the world to adopt a child only to have their child die shortly after they arrived home.

I read the blog posts of planning and anticipation leading up to the adoption, and more posts and photos as they traveled to pick up their child, went through initial attachment, finalized the paperwork, and then journeyed home. I saw the photo of their late-night homecoming, and my spirit celebrated along with them.

Then, less than a day later, social media posts from mutual friends delivered the tragic news, that the little guy’s numerous health problems were just too much for his little body to take.

I can’t imagine.

I’ve tried, and what I imagine is painful and overwhelming, yet I’m sure it doesn’t scratch the surface.

Loss is tragic enough on its own, but such deep loss after extreme joy can only be described as plummeting.

Many friends posted on the family’s social media pages words of encouragement, as best you can in a time like this, and the ones that struck a chord with my heart were the ones who said how their little son knew love and knew family during the short time he was their’s, and that they can be comforted in the good that was done through the adoption even though it didn’t turn out at all like they expected.

It was those comments that me made me wonder … if they knew how the story ended, if they knew that their adopted child would die after they brought him home, would they adopt him anyway? It’s a hard question. I can’t say for sure how they would answer. But my feeling is that they would, do it all again.

They adopted out of love, and after seeing the photos and hearing the stories of attachment and transformation, no one can deny that child was well loved and part of a real family for the last few weeks of his life. If he had never before known the love of a father, mother, brothers, sister and grandparents, he did for those few weeks, and that’s a beautiful, beautiful gift.

Pray for this family. It’s not my story, it’s theirs; read the backstory, see the beautiful photos of their son, and encourage them as they heal and write at A Mei Mei for You You.

They’re Not The Only Ones

It just so happened as I as mulling all this around in my head, akajanerandom shared a link to this post by another family who’s adopted child died after being struck by a car.

The adoptive mom, Amy, said it way better than I can paraphrase:

I was out on my early morning run and God spoke to me. Not in words, but in this blanket of peace. This is what He said, “Was it you who moved the mountains to find Freh’s birth mother? Was it you who placed, at every turn, the witnesses you needed for evidence in her abandonment case? Was it  you who found Ephrim, your investigator who loves Me and trusts Me and bent with you, on dusty knee to praise me during the investigation? Was it you who matched Frehiwot with your family? Was it you who knew all the while that she would only live to be 4 days shy of 2 1/2? Was it you who gave her a personality so fitting to your family’s? Was it you who bonded you together so beautifully? Was it you who made her so smart, giving you conversations so rich?” …
“No. Amy. It was ME. your GOD who knew from before Frehiwot was born, that she would be on earth but for a flash. It was ME who heard your prayer for a daughter in 2010 and saw her growing in her mother’s womb. It was ME who brought you two together. It was ME who led you to Ethiopia to find the truth of her story. It was ME who moved those mountains and got her home to you. It was ME who wove together the beautiful tapestry of your love for her and her love for you.”

… I trusted God with her adoption. I trusted God with her attachment. I trusted God with her life. I assumed it was a long life. It wasn’t. But look at what he did! He gave her the BEST life. He changed us and put us on a Kingdom course that we would have never known. He drew me closest to Him than I had ever been. We don’t say to each other “understand God,” we say “Trust God.” And I did. And I continue.

Her words are exactly why I imagine these families saying yes, even if the outcome is the same, I’ll do it again.

It sort’ve reminds me of Christ in the garden praying to his Father that is there was any other way to take the cup from him, but if not, he would go to the cross and die — humble submission. Similarly, I might beg God that if there was any other way, let’s do that instead. But if not, I’ll trust God knows what He’s doing, even if I don’t understand it.

Won’t you pray for these families, and others like them?

A Boy and His iPod Touch


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I’m very proud of the young man above. He wanted an iPod Touch this past Christmas, and I was more than skeptical. He’s 8 and that’s an expensive piece of technology to take care of, to keep up with, etc. I was concerned he was too young or too irresponsible. Other concerns: buying games, trusting him on the Internet, I wasn’t going to get his little brother one … ultimately I didn’t get him one.

But after that we made a deal: if he saved his money and had at least $100 by his 9th birthday, which is next week, I’d cover the rest. Well, he crossed the $100 mark just this past week. He saved his allowance ($5 a week if he does all his chores) plus the occasional bonus for doing extra jobs — and used some of his birthday money. He learned to save and to sacrifice for something he really wanted. He also learned greater responsibility and work ethic in our home. Last weekend, for example, he swept the living room without being told, and he asked for extra chores to make extra money. I had him clean the fronts of the kitchen cabinets.

So today we ventured to Target where he handed the electronics guy a big wad of cash in exchange for an iPod Touch. He was beaming and so proud of himself. It was fun to watch! Not only did he show me that he was responsible enough, he’s invested in it which boosts his desire to take care of his purchase. I couldn’t be prouder!

Affirming our Children


“You is kind.

You is smart.

You is important.” — Aibileen, The Help

The Help made me cry, not just once but a few times. Movies that depict racial injustice do that to me. I’m often in disbelief at how people treat others and how stupid they look when doing it.

While the film’s depiction of the mistreatment of blacks in the south saddened me, I also cried each time Aibileen, one of the black maids in the story, told the little white girl she cared for those three sentences above.

“You is kind.

You is smart.

You is important,”

and the little girl repeated after her in the most darling toddler southern drawl.

In the book, Aibileen says of the first white child she took care of:

“I loved that baby and he loved me and that’s when I knew I was good at making children feel proud of themselves.”

Making children feel proud of themselves is affirmation and love. It’s not the kind of self-serving affirmation where every child on the team gets a trophy. Those kind of gestures are about actions and teach children that it doesn’t matter whether you do a little or do a lot, every one gets the same reward in the end. That is not how life works and we are doing our children an injustice by fostering that lesson.

The kind of affirmation where you make a child feel proud of themselves is not about what they do but who they are.

One of my sons told me this afternoon that he had not been a good boy at school today. I smiled and lovingly corrected him that he was a good boy; he just had bad behaviors. No matter how unruly or “bad” children behave they are not a “bad child.” What’s bad is their behavior.

I try not to tell my sons that they will be rewarded if they are a good boy but rather if their behavior is good. I think that’s what most parents mean, but there is a difference in those two statements. I want my sons to know they are kind and smart and important and special and loved and … so many other things, for one because they are but also so they can be. We become who others tell us we are. Let’s tell our children things that we want them to become rather than the things we’d rather they not.