Doggie bags & sock mating: Help, I do not speak my kids' language!



 By Kimberly McMullen


I was a warrior single parent, a helicopter mom, a control freak. It came from a sincere place. I’m a Generation X-er and we are not laid back like our parents were. We have car seats, seat belts, bike helmets, vitamins, and we limit high fructose corn syrup. We have to be safe.

I always prided myself on being a hip parent. I thought the Guess Jean-clad girl in my soul could easily relate to teens.

As my kids began to think for themselves, I learned I was not as hip as I felt. I figured I would ease into their fast-paced world and could fit in just enough to keep an eye out.

I tried to listen to their music, but mine is so much better. They don’t care about falling in love with entire albums; they have iPods with thousands of songs at their fingertips. I thought I had great fashion sense, but the kids crushed that by the 4th grade, when they began to protest everything I bought them with hatred and resentment. What’s wrong with khakis?

They didn’t like the best friends I picked out for them and resented my inviting kids over for forced friendships. I will probably have to scrap my plans for arranged marriages.

As my kids approached their teen years, it was hard for me to accept the tiny people who worshiped me by default no longer wanted to hang out. I had to lure them out of their caves with food or gifts. I read the books; I knew how to speak their shallow love languages.

It was exhausting at times, but the world is big and scary, and someone needed to remind these kids they were lacking frontal lobe completion.

As a self-proclaimed “smother,” I was determined to keep up with my kids. I would not let them wander into social media alone and vulnerable. There are predators, chain letters, spam, too many temptations, and I would be there every YouTube video of the way.

I breezed into social media. I conquered Myspace. I thought the HTML I learned to change my background meant I was tech savvy — and borderline genius. I was scrolling along nicely one tweet at a time and settled into Facebook just before my kids were old enough to have their own page. At this point, I was confident that my symmetrically decorated Farmville was a sure sign I had my social media wings.

I had it all figured out, and then came smart phones! The kids are texting, sharing pictures, fast pictures that disappear? What is Tumbler, and how does one tumble? Do I have to get a G-mail account? I like Yahoo. Oh Instagram, I wish there was an Instagrandma version; and please, can someone tell me who the hell Bae is? Maybe Bae can help me. I was blindsided; I could not keep up. I was still stuck on beginner Candy Crush levels, and I do not remember half my passwords. All I could do was SMH (shake my head).

Not only had my kids passed me up in social media, they found ways to hide. I tried to mask my ignorance and pretended I was very much aware of their shenanigans: I quickly started Plan B. Let the hovering begin!

I stood behind them randomly, I read the computer's browser history like a sacred journal, and I demanded access to every password. I hijacked their posts, and you bet I responded to that kid who said that thing about that girl’s aunt’s best friend's cousin. Oh, I went there; I intercepted a few of my daughter’s middle school text wars. I would sneak her phone, and in sheer madness pretended to be her. My daughter didn’t think this was proper. “But, Mom, I don’t talk like that.” I used amazing conflict resolution and created peace amongst people in puberty. And this was somehow a bad thing? I know, that was very “crazy mom,” but my heart was in the right place.

Truth is, it was a slow and awkward transition, realizing that in their eyes I am from the “olden days” and that the Guess Jeans teen in my head is now wearing mom jeans.

We all hit that glorious place in parenting when we start to sound like our parents. It hits you out of nowhere, and while at first you resist like a cat at bath time, I have to say at 42, I’ve started to embrace my maturity with grace and gratitude, even becoming sentimental about doilies and old family recipes. At this point I am just thankful I can still remember anything and have teeth in my mouth that don’t hurt.

I was once working on laundry and I told my then 18-year-old daughter that I mated all the socks. She looked at me in disgust and informed me that socks can’t mate. She pleaded with me to use another term.

My niece and I were out to dinner and she giggled in horror when I asked for a doggie bag. She assumed they were going to put her leftovers in a tiny dog poop bag. She kept saying, “Don’t call it that!”

I have finally accepted that I do not speak their language, and I am sure my parents felt the same way. I will look forward to the day when we can celebrate our adult brains together and mate socks and laugh about everything I did wrong.