Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Facebook Is the Sewing Circle of the 21st Century

Parenthood is troubleshooting on crack.

From the moment your child is born, you're enslaved to his/her needs. They don't help you out, either. The only hint you get to clarify what's going on is the specific pitch and volume of their cries. You're always consulting an inner checklist for clues. "He's crying. Dry diaper? Check. Fed? Check. Cuddled? Check. Napped? Check. All uncomfortable tags/buttons/labels removed from clothing or bedding? Check." As toddlers, crying is replaced by whining and pointing and as teenagers, by unending requests for food/your car/credit card/bone marrow/soul. I've spoken with parents of adults (presumably-verbal) and the work doesn't stop once they move out. You think you'll get free once you're no longer solely responsible for their health and well-being, but you never fully escape. You're always concerned about them and gritting your teeth each time they make a decision, hoping that they make good choices and take care of themselves. The punch line? Unless you murder them as 11 year olds for setting off fireworks in the basement or for hanging their sister on a coat hook in the closet, the plan is that they will outlive you. It's constant. And it's for the rest of your life.

I'm at the beginning stages of the whole fiasco and I'm already over it. Not to wish away time, but some days I cannot wait for him to be able to tell me what's wrong, so that I can either fix it or show him how to do it, instead of what we currently do which is wander aimlessly around the house, while he whines and points at things I can't pinpoint saying, "ma, WOOK!" He's really quite patient with my incompetence, when I think about it. He can keep that up for hours.

I realize I'm lucky my son is so laid-back. He doesn't require much beyond the basics--a space to run and squirm, trucks to push, baths without the scary suds, yummy food to eat and my regular attention. But even he can be a complete mystery. We kick along together most times, but there are days when I don't know how to get him to ________ (fill in the blank) and it's not like it was back in the old days (that's what I call the time when it was common that new moms lived within minutes of their mothers, or sometimes even with their mothers and had hands-on, regular help with all the kid stuff). I always imagine it like something out of Little House on the Prairie. Mothers, sitting in a circle, bent over their knitting, discussing their struggles with new babies, giving and receiving advice as needed, sometimes just listening and being entertained.  Why the frontier? Maybe because I feel like a pioneer with this kid. Every day is a new adventure. Why knitting? Leave me alone, it's my metaphor.

That's why I like Facebook so much. I know...a revolutionary statement, coming from me. Those of you who have suffered my past diatribes on social media know I didn't always like it. I don't really have 700 friends that I want or need to talk to on a daily basis. I talk to three people regularly and some days even that is three too many. Nor, if I'm honest, am I all that interested in where you went today or who went with you. That's how I used to feel. Then I (grudgingly) began to post regular updates to keep our out-of-town families up on the buddy's growth, development and general cuteness. I'm not sure how it happened, but somewhere amid the late night feedings and the isolation that came with feeling completely out of my element, I came to depend on that network at the end of my mouse pointer. I began to check in regularly for to-the-minute, hands-on advice on sleep training, teething, problems eating and even with emergency day care referrals. Not once has my cyber-mommy network let me down. Daddies chime in from time to time, too. Now I find that even when I don't have a kiddie question or emergency, I'll stop by anyway. I take opportunities to encourage other mothers at the end of their ropes or to offer advice and ideas on eating and sleep training. I tell people where I'm going and who's with me. I stalk the pages of my regulars--people I communicate with on some level at least a couple of times a month. Sometimes, I go just to be entertained. On those days when I'm out of my element, I don't feel so isolated anymore and it's in part due to the sewing circle.

Love it.