I was speaking with my coparent a few weeks ago when he eloquently shared the importance of prioritizing, finding purpose and exercising time management to our teen, who had opened up another social media account without our permission. The first attempt was on Snapchat earlier this year but this most recent one was on TikTok when both he and I knew the narrative about the pros and cons of being on social media had to change. First, we acknowledge and are aware that our teen (like others) is curious about the world around her.
“Why can’t I have a social media account,” she asked? “Sweetheart, we are not saying you cannot have one ever but rather waiting until you are mature enough to handle its content is the preferred time,” was my reply. I could clearly see how my reply was welcomed, yet she was not satisfied and the reasoning did not appease her curiosity nor her desire because the ‘outlier’ status she has among her friends isn’t a good feeling. So, as to avoid piling on more sentiments atop what is happening in her friendship circle, her Papa shared a correlation to put things in perspective.
He said ‘Today my number is 28; I added a year since I turned 57.’
We waited, knowing an analogy would follow. I then silenced my voice and joined forces with his because I knew he had a message that I could endorse. He continued, “I recently asked God to grace me with 85 years. Now at age 57, I have 28 years left. If given the opportunity to see you mature, grow and blossom, you will be 44 years-old. Just imagine how that might look and feel for us, your parents, to witness your adulthood and reflect upon how you manage time, navigate challenges, tap in to your emotional intelligence and accept responsibilities – most, if not all of these milestones, happen when we are teens.”
Before he finished making his point about his number 28 (the balance of his life), our Butterfly understood the message and so did I. It was then she interjected with an emotional whisper, telling us how much she valued our time, while understanding that having a social media account requires a level of maturity she hasn’t reached; appreciated our love deposits; understood the importance of parenting and how finding the balance between being a friend in the parent realm is a delicate balance. Her feedback was clear and unambiguous! It was like an Aha! moment for us all, including he, who had not expected such a reaction.
Conversely, the takeaway for us is to instill, deposit, share, teach, instruct, display and illustrate our walk in parenting. And because my ex- and I are products of the ‘hush-hush’ generation where responding to parents is nearly prohibited, we vowed to break the cycle of remaining mute when God gave us our daughter because a silenced voice or expression will invite neglect, confusion or worse, may lead to unacceptance among other things. Therefore, our 3-person conference call was a discussion, and is never an ultimatum to our daughter because our intent is to rear an independent thinker, who will attempt at opening up another social media account – that is no doubt – but at least in doing so it will be a conscience act and not a trivial one.
What will you do with the balance of your time? As for me – my number is 34. I am also asking God to grace me with 85 years. And at age 51, I have more years behind me than in front, which is why I chose peace over drama, simplicity over complexity, valued relationships instead of quantifiable acquaintances and the list continues. Therefore, although our Butterfly will adopt the habits that may not be to our liking when she becomes an adult, we will always stand by her decision to choose what she believes is correct, which will be in a couple of years.
Hopefully, it will be awhile before we have another ‘social media’ discussion at which time our teen may be preoccupied with something else to hold her attention. Nonetheless, we will continue to give thanks to God for guiding us through challenging discussions and for showing us the importance of validation because the takeaway was just that – our teen’s feelings mattered. And she further learned about why we do what we do and how its done, i.e. coparenting to the best of our ability, while living in different states.
What’s your number?