A truly marvelous thing happened to me this month. Or perhaps more accurately, it was a series of interconnected events. Thanks to social media, I have reconnected with some of my closest friends from the past after a gap of about three decades. This has been a real roller coaster ride of fluctuating emotions. Rediscovering these special people from my childhood has triggered highs of emotions that I don’t remember experiencing since giving birth to my children.
Comparing our stories and memories of shared events has caused me to experience a real epiphany: people don’t always see us in the same way we see ourselves. For me this has caused real joy…and relief!
Since leaving England to live in southern Europe I have tried my best to reinvent myself. I wanted to leave behind the troubled child and young woman who never felt comfortable in her own skin, who was complex to an extreme degree because she was motherless from six years old and fatherless from 15. The memories of holiday gatherings and celebrations where I felt awkward and depressed were pretty difficult to shake off. The flighty attention seeking behaviour I used to exhibit as a teen has terrorised me over the years during many a losing battle with insomnia. It is true to say that I’m fairly embarrassed about the teenage girl I once was.
Although a good student and very quiet during lessons, the breaks/recess were a completely different story. I remember being loud and pretty flirtatious…yes, that makes me really blush now! It was my way of trying to get some of the attention I was desperately lacking at home. Quite simply, I don’t feel proud of the teenager I was. The memory I have imprinted of that time was OTT or Over The Top.
The staggering thing for me this month has been to learn that after three decades of avoiding trips down memory lane, those closest to me didn’t see things in the same way. One of my friends described me as being “witty, smart and knowing how things worked.” Another ‘bestie’ told me she found me funny, fun to be with and pretty mysterious as I didn’t like to talk about my family life.
Really? That’s how they saw me? Playful and teasing but NOT anywhere near as bad as I thought?
I have avoided going to reunions for all these decades because I was embarrassed to ‘inflict’ myself on my old schoolmates?
Wow! If only I had known all this earlier! I’m sure I would have been a much more confident young woman with a much brighter self image!
One of these old friends stayed up until the wee hours of the morning last night to scan and send me photos of our school exchange trip to Berlin, Germany, in the late 80’s. I realised that even after all these years good, decent kids usually remain good, decent adults and GREAT friends, too!
My message to you is keep tight hold of your childhood buddies and those closest to you. At some point down the road when you look back on your life, it is those people who will reaffirm the good in you and show you how others see us. These ‘treasures’ are priceless especially to those with low self-esteem.
Encourage your kids to keep up the ties they are forming now, and GO TO SCHOOL REUNIONS!
How many of you still keep contact with best friends from childhood? Do you think that you see yourself the same way as those closest to you, or do you tend to be more self-critical?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ann Marie Wraight of Greece. Photo credit to the author.
My children are part of the first generation for whom social media has always existed. When I was a child, the term “email” hadn’t even been invented yet. For my children, Facebook has always existed and email is regarded as old-fashioned. This has all kinds of implications for kids, of course. We’ve all seen the multitude of reports and studies about what screen time is doing to our kids, how the obesity epidemic is being linked to the explosion of computer-based gaming, and how computers are making new skills emerge as old skills decline.
Something that is not talked about as frequently is the impact of social media on parents.
When my mother was raising me and my brother, the only people she could call on for advice or opinions were people she actually knew in person.
If she needed help, she had to either pick up the phone and ask, or go and visit someone. In the event of a child getting sick or injured, she would take us to the doctor, trust whatever the doctor said and get whatever medication was prescribed.
My parenting experience has been vastly different. I have the same supports that my mother had – friends, family members, and especially my mother herself – but I also have the Internet. When my older son was born, I joined a parenting group on Yahoo, and developed a friendship with fellow members that endures to this day (the only difference is that the Yahoo group is now a Facebook group). When my son was diagnosed with autism, I joined an autism parenting group, with the same results.
Both groups are about requesting and receiving advice, sharing funny stories about our kids, and having a safe place to vent on our bad days. Through these groups – and through World Moms Blog – I have developed online friendships that are every bit as real as “traditional” friendships. We rally around each other in bad times, and we celebrate together in good times.
No matter what is going on with my kids or with myself as a mother, I always know that there is someone out there who understands. And if I can’t find someone who has the answers I need, there’s always Google.
There are downsides to parenting in the age of social media, of course. Sometimes I go searching for understanding and find judgment instead. I find stark divisions in the parenting community. I have been criticized for vaccinating my kids. I have seen homeschooling moms viciously attack those who send their kids to school, and vice versa. I was once an uncomfortable online witness to a discussion in which a breastfeeding advocate smugly told a breast cancer survivor that she would be able to breastfeed her newborn child if she “tried harder”.
So yes, ugliness is as pervasive on the Internet as it is in the physical world. But we respond to it in the same way: by trying to counteract the bad with the good, by being supportive of one another and by leaving the ugliness behind.
At the end of the day, I am thankful to have the world of social media at my fingertips as I navigate the mysterious world of parenting. And I am even more thankful that at any time, I can pick up the phone and call the person who muddled through it all without the Internet: my mother.
What differences have you noticed between your mother’s era of parenting and your own? Does social media play an important role in your journey as a mother?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Kirsten Doyle of Toronto, Canada.
Photo credit: StartBloggingOnline.com This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
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