Today I am proud to share a guest post by my mom, Jaloo Zelonis.
I graduated from high school, went to college, got a job, got married and raised a family long before the Internet became available or social media became popular. For most of my adult life, I was geographically separated from my mother, sometimes as distant as the entire country; she on the east coast and I on the west coast.
As a family, we were never “close” or big on communication. There was no expectation of daily or even weekly contact. We communicated through the occasional visit, letter or phone call, and I shared my life as I saw fit: a new job, promotion, engagement, pregnancy, etc. It seemed adequate, and my mother never complained of not being involved enough in my life.
Then it was my turn to be a mother. My daughter grew up, graduated from high school moved away to college, started work, married and became a mother. A true empty nester, I pushed her from the nest knowing she could fly and trusting that she had the skills and knowledge needed to make it in the cold cruel world.
As with my mother, we were geographically distant and communicated through the occasional visit, letter or phone call. I was content to be kept informed about events in her life as she felt comfortable sharing them with me. I had the general sense that she was doing well and was successfully negotiating the hazards of the world. I felt I was a successful mother. Any maternal angst I felt when she was growing up was worth it, and thankfully, was over.
I no longer had to worry if she fell and scraped her knee; if she would make friends; if she would miss her bus stop; if she would pass her exams or score well on her SATs; if she would trip during her flag routine. No, she had made it to the real, grown-up world and seemed to be doing fine, if not actually thriving. I could get on with my life blissfully unaware of her daily challenges and trials, while celebrating the successes she shared with me.
Enter the Internet and “social media." I readily accepted emails. It seemed easier to dash off a quick email than write and mail a letter. An email was more convenient than a phone call because you didn’t have to worry about catching the recipient at an awkward time or fumble for a gracious way to hang up. But social media was different.
I’ve never been particularly social. I like to keep much of my life private and in general think others should do the same. However, I liked the idea of keeping tabs on what my friends and colleagues were up to. Several of my community activities used social media to keep people informed of plans and many of my friends used it to extend invitations to social events. So, I signed up; friended and followed friends, relatives, and, my daughter. I enjoy it; it is fun.
I like knowing what movies friends and family are seeing; what kind of vacations they take; how they feel about political issues of the day. Sometimes I even find out things about my daughter I never knew.
What I didn’t expect, however, is that I would suddenly become a “mother” again, and that my beautiful, intelligent, talented and successful daughter would suddenly be “my little girl” again.
How did this happen? I once again became privy to her everyday frustrations, challenges, trials and tribulations. If she misses her morning train, I read it in her tweet. When she spills coffee on her suit, I know about it. Late for her son’s parent teacher conference? Yep, I know about it. Babysitter trouble; I know. Caught in the rain? I know.
Each time I read about one of these mini tragedies, I get that old familiar knot in my stomach. I’m her mother; I’m supposed to protect her from these things. I’m the one who’s supposed to make things right; who’s supposed to be there to pick her up when she falls; who points her in the right direction when she’s lost; who smooths her path.
Instead, I take a deep breath and swallow hard. I try to think of her posts as rhetorical questions; no answer expected. I try to refrain from responding with suggestions and bits of mommy wisdom. I wait for follow-up posts or tweets that indicate that, whatever the problem, it has been resolved and she has survived. Only then do I breathe easier. Only then can I reassure myself, again, that my little girl is all grown up and is doing just fine on her own. And I’m grateful to the social media for reminding me of this every day.
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