April 16, 2014

Friday Reflections: More confessions of a social networker

So, the battle with my inner social networker continues.  The spouse forwarded an article to me last week about actor Bill Nye (The Science Guy) who collapsed while walking towards a podium to do a presentation at the University of Southern California.  While Nye was ultimately okay, the article’s author was more concerned with the peculiar behavior of the USC audience.  According to the article, rather than getting up to aid Nye, most of the students in attendance pulled out their smart phones and began to update their Twitter and Facebook statuses about the event.  Similarly, the article reported another incident where New Orleans comedienne, Anthony Barre, was murdered in the streets and witnesses chronicled his death by updating their statuses and posting pictures of him dying in the streets.

I immediately got into a pretty preachy discussion with a few of my friends via Facebook that involved a great deal of “smdhs” and “wtfs”.  I mostly felt overwhelmed by a generation who could be so emotionally and physically detached from their humanity.  It felt so wrong and unnatural – and I wondered what kind of legacy a generation of passive onlookers could possibly leave.  I stood on my figurative moral high ground and thought to myself, I could never do that.  I would never do that.

Then after a quiet Thanksgiving at home with my family, my husband and I sat down to watch Public Speaking, an HBO documentary on essayist and author Fran Lebowitz (The McCray’s know how to party).  Lebowitz, for those of you unfamiliar, is an author from my hometown, New York City, made famous during the Andy Warhol era for her hilarious social commentary.   In the documentary, Lebowitz, now 60, discusses a myriad of issues including this generation’s apparent disconnection with life.  She noted that she finds inspiration for her writing by traveling by foot everywhere in New York.  She said that, “No matter where you are, if you are doing this-”.  She paused and held her hands as though typing on an imaginary Blackberry.  “You aren’t really there – no matter where you are.” She concluded.

It occurred to me that while I was “smh-ing” and “wtf-ing” about those onlookers at USC and in New Orleans, why wasn’t I allotting similar judgment to my own behavior when I pause to update my Facebook status at the dinner table? Or take a moment to respond to a BBM while coloring with my son?  Or stop my husband from telling me about his day to finish responding to a text message?  I started to wonder just how much time I had spent being barely present in my own life.  A few years ago when my addiction to Facebook was just budding, I joked with one of my friends that I felt like I was beginning to think in status messages.  This leaves me wondering, if I am privileged enough to grow old, just how will I reflect on the hours I spend allowing my mind to attend an imaginary party while the world goes on around me? And if I do decide to become an active member of the planet and limit (or eliminate) my social media outlets, just how lonely will the “real world” be? (Think Bruce Willis in “Surrogates”.)

As a parent, I often wonder that if I am so susceptible to social media outlets what will that mean for my sons’ generation.   In January 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a study that 8-18 year olds spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week).  In a New York Times article discussing the study, one eighth grader reported that she felt her days would be boring without her social media outlets.  In theory, what could be more boring that staring at a tiny screen most of your day and not engaging the world around you?  While my own children are both under four years old, I often wonder how I will introduce these outlets to them… if at all.  What do you think WOH?  How do you manage your own time engaging in social media? How will you or have you regulated the time your children spend on the internet, smartphones, etc?  Something tells me society had a very similar conversation about television at its onset as well.

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara is native of New York City and reluctant resident of the DC Metro Area. She is a writer in her heart but a lawyer by profession. She is a wife and also a mom to two boys. She is a self proclaimed and self loving oddball. She is determined to find both spirituality and happiness and like any true totalitarian matriarch, impose both on her family. She is wise enough to know that this may not happen simultaneously.

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Sweet Tea Tuesday: After the playground

Earlier this week, Catherine asked, “what have been some of your parenting ah-ha’s around helping your young children learn how to initiate and maintain meaningful friendships?” Upon reading her post, I smiled a little at the fond memories of playgroups and playdates-I certainly felt a tinge of nostalgic longing, envy even for the simplicity of parenting young children. But my reflection was short-lived, interrupted by the reality of a new set of circumstances, my “a-ha moments”, these days seem to be mostly replaced by “oy vey moments” as I teeter the tenuous line of parenting a young adult.

At times I feel superfluous, other times my strident teachings are quite poignantly displayed as the sinews of our little family. There’s something far greater than anything I’ve consciously observed and/or absorbed which powers me to meet repeated rejection with resilience and even more love.(Thanks, Mother Teresa) Greater still, is the restraint displayed in not wavering, enabling or otherwise justifying unacceptable behaviors just to avoid said repeated rejection.

This weekend, our resident young adult behaved in a way that was unacceptable. He was not a good friend, and in turn he was called to answer for it both by the person he wronged, his girlfriend of two years, and by us. At eighteen, surely we handed down no punishment, we didn’t force the two to grimacingly serve up apologies and a handshake with all the willingness of handling a dead fish, but I did seize the opportunity to address sound judgment, character and propriety.

As difficult as it was for me to witness his fragility at the shameful recognizance of what he had done, I did not swoop in to coddle him. Instead, I looked upon him lovingly and acknowledged his pain as I encouraged him to be accountable and seek resolution even if reconciliation was not ultimately the outcome. Despite the criticism of well-meaning friends, I did become “involved”, just as I had in the playgroups, the playground and at recess. This time, I did so not only as his mother, but as a woman, and a trusted friend.

Admittedly, as the words and tears were streaming, I played those playgroup, playground, recess days over in my mind and wondered- if only for a moment- where we, where I missed an opportunity. Only to find, we hadn’t-the opportunity just hadn’t presented itself until now. Much like the other mothers cited, I hadn’t thought much about what he’d be like as a boyfriend any more than they thought of their barely autonomous children as friends. But now that I knew better, it was my responsibility-my duty even to do better, and that meant teaching. And, I did and we spoke and we spoke some more, and some more after that.

We exchanged war stories and he laughed at some of the antics of the far-less-refined-before-his-time versions of his dad and I. As he chortled in sympathetic embarrassment, I saw in him the makings of a great man, friend and partner with some experience and tweaking of his own. We then moved on to forgiveness and the the importance of being sorry and not just saying sorry. Of course not forgetting to touch upon egos, elephants, and the dreaded self-esteem. It was our moment, and it was nice, it was very nice. Although I still writhe en sodade for my little playground cherub, the look on the fuzzy-faced-raspy-voiced-tower-of-tan-skin-perfect-curls-and-gorgeous-teeth before me assured me, if just for a moment (Hell, who am I foolin’ y’all know the first real break-up can go on for days, weeks, months even!) that I was far more super than superfluous, and with that I too, once again, get to say, “a-ha”!

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

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Sweet Tea Tuesday: Tales of a Ma Blogger

Welcome back! Thanks for being so understanding of last week’s vent. It was nice to see so many familiar faces, taking a similar call to inaction. Alas, there is no rest for the weary in the land of rice and laundry, and so I rise.

This week has been an interesting one in the lives of the rest of us. And, by the rest of us I mean the parents of young adults, the ones Drs. Sears and Spock have left out on a lurch, those of us who are no longer allowed the impromptu blog snapshot, also known as the “Mommmmm, oh my gawd can you close my door and leave me alone forever please” shot. Yes those of us, “The Tales of Ma Bloggers”.

Having experienced…undergone…okay, survived natural childbirth twice, I have a list of suggestions for whomever in in charge of evolution. Having lived with the products of said experience has left me completely suggestion-less, albeit issue-filled and quizzical, namely, “Why do they stay so long after they know everything”?

I look to the animal kingdom for most of my cues, thinking they don’t consume HFCS, inhale CFCs or play PS3, surely they’re exemplary. Even cute little hamster mamas are going through it. Why do you think they eat a few of ‘em? It’s as if the mother has some innate sense that this one, “Him right there with the golden patches, yep, he’s gonna be the one, let me eat him ’cause I have 4 others to raise, and shit I’m tired”.

Look at the birds, do you think as they hop joyfully to the tip of the branch there’s a rogue bird way in the back who says, “This branch is mad high, I’m sayin’ why I gotta learn how to fly, George’s moms bought him a whip”. Of course not! You will do it her way or…well y’know… looks down below and whistles. So what gives, Homo sapiens?

I-by the grace of beer and coffee- have had a pleasant couple months after a grueling couple of years culminating in the invocation of the 18th Birthday Clause. Our oldest child is eighteen, we’ve parented him lovingly every day of those 18 years until the day a MySpace Bulletin alerted him (and many, many others): [Upon becoming 18 all requests, (ahem, demands) are now to be predicated on the fact that you are 18. It matters not that you don't have 18 cents to your name, have about 18 characters on your resume and can prepare less than 18 meals (including pre-packaged ones)-you are 18. Go on fool, stage a coup].

I argued for a few days, weeks even. Oh, it was awful. I don’t believe in arguing with children-we can have discussions, debates even…but something about raised voices makes my eye twitch-and my grandma says that is not a good thing. I cried, I called my husband. Yes I went there, take away a Black Momma star-but just one. Honestly, I was begining to feel defeated, and then I realized, this is not a battle that I need to win, and I surrendered.

They are eighteen, that’s a legal adult in some instances. If they can go to war, surely they can go to bat for themselves in the world, yes? I needed to-as the youngsters say, “fall back”, and I have. It’s not to say that my little bird is ready to soar; I certainly will do everything I can to keep him from well, y’know looks down and whistles, and well, he’s too furry to eat. I guess I’ll just sit back, laugh and remember my days of futile wing and lip flapping. It’s the best I can do, ’cause shit I’m tired and I still have one more to raise.

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

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On growth and growing

This year, my 36th year, has come with some exceptional challenges. To that end, I have had to push myself to great lengths. In those great and oft uncomfortable lengths, I’ve surprised myself, outdone myself, improved myself-I’ve grown.

You know how you have those days where the only positive you can glean is the certainty that tomorrow can’t be as bad? Well, that’s been the past few months. Juggling the delicate balance of holding on and letting go, reaching out and reaching in. Then, in a Karate Kid style epiphany all of my waxing and waning paid off last week!

Last Friday, our oldest child turned 18. Pauses for applause. Like any good mom, I was planning festivities (and worries) for the upcoming year. The recurring worry was, “How do I parent a grown up”? Ridiculous as it seems, since I have clearly lived beyond eighteen and can assuredly attest to the fact that it was not the year of reckoning for me (or most American teens). But, still I was plagued by the thought.

Looking far beyond the obvious, as I often do- I continued to try, and fail-to wrap my head around the answer, because there is none. Not only is there no clear cut answer, but there are no grown people. Huh? Bear with me. As living creatures, there are two concrete phases: growth and death (and the finality of the latter is debatable). Parenting, or raising children is as much about rising to the challenges within as it is about the challenges we face outside ourselves. Parenting is one part growing, and two parts growth.

So, in lieu of concocting some Sears/Spock like surefire plan for ages 18-21, I chose to share simply this: “Life as we know it, will come with some exceptional challenges. To that end, you will have to push yourself to great lengths. In those great and oft uncomfortable lengths, you will surprise yourself, outdo yourself, improve yourself-you will grow, ad infinitum”. And then, we ate cake.

image credit Scooter Flix

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

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Are you serious?

As the parent of a young adult, I’m aware of the dynamic shift in subject matter and overall frequency of mommy fodder. We’re no longer hanging out at the playground; rehearsals, recitals and school/group performances are the stuff scrapbooks are made of. But, the same basic principles apply, or do they?

Last week following a discussion with an acquaintance, I realized a growing trend. It seems recently, people have started to ask about my son’s dating situation, followed by,”Oh dear”, the deer stare and a bit of tonal pearl clutching; you know, lowered octaves and exaggerated phrasing. “Are they serious“? Each time, I’ve found myself wishing I’d learned to raise my eyebrows exclusive of one another other-then, whilst struggling to get my head around a. what is wrong with being serious/ in love? b. shouldn’t we always take all our relationships seriously? I reticently explain.

We spend a great deal of time building character for playground and play date social situations: “Say please and thank you. Ask nicely. Shake hands and make up.” Isn’t this just groundwork for life? I expect my children to approach every relationship with respect for themselves and the other person/s even if it’s their only encounter, as with playground and doctor’s office pals. This is the best advice I can give them whether it’s the playroom, the boardroom or the bedroom. All else is secondary. Do I think he’ll marry this young lady? I don’t think about it; he is to treat her lovingly and respectfully because of his commitment to himself (and because I said so-but that’s another post).

Many of the questions likely come from the knowledge that I am currently married to my homeschool sweetheart who I’ve been “serious” about since age fifteen. However, our story is very much our own. We know that we can’t teach our children to marry young any more than we can teach career selection or other individual lifestyle choices. We can and will however, impart wisdom; choose to love yourself, your work and others.

In closing, my back straightens, a softness resumes in my expression and vocalizations and I say, “Yes, they are.” What parenting philosophies are you serious about?

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

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