Keeping a Real Perspective by Cay Gibson

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It took me a year to get on Facebook and another year to understand it enough to use it. Just call me a slow learner. Awhile back some friends and I were talking about whether Facebook was an option for our young children and teenagers. It was an interesting charitable discussion on the pros and cons, the pluses and minuses of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and all that the vast Internet communication affords our families.

I added my 2-cents:

“I really like Facebook.

“I haven’t had much online time…certainly not enough to write thought-provoking blog posts—and Twitter’s word limit limits my expression too much.

“Facebook is a nice medium.

“And lots of my family and friends are on it which is very nice.

“My son is 15 too.
And he thinks Facebook is being taken over by the “old” people.

“His Oma and I try to respect his space, while he begs his little sister to not pester his basketball friends who accept her ‘friendship.’

“And I’ve learned, via Facebook, that my son is quite the poet! Who knew!??! “

Someone replied that she was learning how humorous her son was, because of Facebook. It really is a good thing for parents to realize that their teenagers are often just trying to be funny rather than sarcastic.

Frankly, some of the stuff my son headlines at Facebook makes me scratch my head at times. He’s pretty melancholic…in a good way though.Then I find out many of his “headlines” weren’t his personal melancholic thoughts but were lines from songs that speak to him. And that taught me a little more about him versus who I thought he was.

Facebook has afforded me a small “peek” into my son’s inner thoughts…in many good ways. As a parent, you don’t often get these “peeks.” Even while sitting across from them at the table or listening to them in the car, you cannot begin to pry open their minds and face the entirety and enormity of the person God has created.

Seriously…

None of us can truly know the inner being of our spouse and children. Nor do they want us to. Only God knows. Still, even within families we struggle to communicate and make ourselves understood. We struggle so hard.

And that’s why I’ll embrace any form of communication that is presented to me, even little 140 character “tweets.”

I find it a privilege that these Internet mediums give me the opportunity to “login” to more insight of my child’s life. I read something they’ve written, even if it’s a one-liner headline on Facebook or a short “tweet” at Twitter, and am amazed to have a glimpse of their real perspective. It’s a small part of them, true, but it’s still a very real part of them. They typed it. And I love that.

It’s like being backstage of a theatre or in the wings.  You get to see more than what the audience sees. You get to see behind-the-scenes. You get to see parts of the whole performance that has placed your child as the star.  You get to see the headlines that you were clueless to.

It isn’t your fault that you were unaware. Parents are busy. We miss a lot that swirls and twirls around our houses. We’re figuring up income tax for the year. You had jury duty this week. You had a deadline to meet. You had to shop for school supplies. You had to cook supper.

Then your child hands you a script—not written by you but by him—and you realize there are scenes in your child’s life you missed, perhaps even ignored. Scenes you didn’t know he had recorded. Scenes you never saw practiced. I think we all get those scripts.

The obscurity of these communicative outlets, while still very public, allows people to be more themselves. I think.

True, some people hide behind this persona, but tell me honestly: can your child really hide from you? The life of these online outlets is a much easier life to live in. Admit it. Being front and center is not easy for most of the population. Stage fright is clearly at the top of our lists of phobias.

At Facebook, My Space, Twitter, blogs, and other “stages”, you aren’t physically standing in front of an audience worried about whether your pants are on backwards—or unzipped—or if there’s a speck of spinach between your teeth.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a writer that I think we learn more about people and their thought-process from their writing than by talking to them. My husband and father, who both find people so fascinating that they are content to sit in the middle of the mall strip and simply watch people while my mother and I shop and yak-yak-yak-yak endlessly, would probably disagree with me.

But I speak from experience. I have two young adults, one teenagers, and a pre-teen.

I think I know my children pretty well. I know what makes them tick. I know their future plans. I know their worries. I know what they like and what they don’t like. I know who they like and who they don’t like.

At least I like to think I do. At least for today.

Tomorrow they will prove me wrong.

My teenagers and I talk alot, on a daily basis. We cell phone, we text, we email, we sit on the sofa and recliner, we talk while cooking, we talk leaning against our vehicles, we talk over the echos of the television, we talk over the din of heckling siblings, we talk late at night…midnight even. Conversation here never stops. And I could easily be tricked into thinking that I know my children.

But I’m in my forties now…young enough to not know everything and old enough to know that I don’t know everything. I know that my own parents don’t know everything about me and what makes me tick. Why would I presume to know everything about my children?

There are still times—though not near as often as when I was a teenager—when my parents leave from their morning coffee stop and I feel there are points that weren’t conveyed as well as I wanted  them to be. I feel misunderstood. But I’m old enough now to know there were points my parents tried to convey that were misunderstood by me.

All’s fair in love and war…and communication.

So we laugh about one of the grandchildren’s antics, shake our heads over the state of the economy, and simply go back to sipping our coffee and, in doing so, we keep the communication open and alive…never taking ourselves so seriously that we refrain from communicating in any way except our Facebook pages. And the conversation goes on.

It’s human nature and part of our dignity that wants to be, demands to be, understood. We are never so at peace as when someone understands us. A hundred people might misunderstand us but the single soul who reaches out and says, “I know exactly what you were trying to say” is the one we see as our friend.

These small forms of communication…as I have seen time, time, and again…serve to unite us only at the pace we are willing to be united. There are times to talk face-to-face, times to send thoughtful cards, time to send clarifying emails, time to send quick texts, times to back off, times to be silent, times to be public and times to be private. And we are led to more expansive conversations and insights which bless us and leave us more open-minded and charitable than we ever were in high school drama class. That’s why I’ll take communication in any form it’s offered, especially from my children. Whichever way my children are comfortable communicating, I’ll take it. Gratefully.

Copyright 2010 Cay Gibson

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