From Facebook to Snapchat to Instagram Stories, or Other Ways My Kids Make Me Feel My Age

“Mrs. Wolfe, you have a Snapchat?” my 9th-grade student sputtered. It was after school, and I naively left my phone front and center on my desk. Yes, indeed, baby Wolfe had chatted her middle-aged mother, and the world now knows.

“Yep,” I smiled as I clicked off the screen. “How else would I know what my kids are doing?”

“That’s awesome!” he exclaimed as if no one my age EVER would know what Snapchat was, let alone how to use it.

Snapchat

The truth is, I strongly dislike Snapchat. I don’t dig the fact that I have seven- plus seconds to read and scan a photo. I dislike when my volume is off and I miss the audio on the video she sends. And I really abhor that I can’t go back and review the images over and over – I want to know what my girl is doing, where she, what her life looks like. She doesn’t live here anymore, and I’ll grab any glimpse I can.

So why Snapchat?

Because that’s what millenials/teenagers/anyoneunder30something use. And if I want to be in the know, I’d better know how to Snap.

Ugh.

Just a few years ago I wrote about my then 13-year-old son jumping online with Facebook. At the time, I was a combination of shocked/curious/dismayed at the idea of his jumping into social media. The ‘pros’ were obvious; social media offers a glimpse into the world away from parents where kids can show other sides of their personalities. He coaxed it would allow him to be tagged when he/we travel, and how much more connected we would be.

Snapchat

Facebook lasted all of a few months for him. Now 17, he tells me he does a monthly check in to see if he’s been tagged. No connection there. Facebook is for old people.

For awhile both kids posted on Instagram – mostly after-the-fact images of their adventures, seemingly innocuous sunsets and sunrises over the mountains, or goofy poses with their friends. Bu these days, ‘grams’ are few and fleeting, and while I love the peek into their worlds, the succinct shots of life don’t have the same impact as good ‘ole Facebook.

Maybe that’s why Snapchat is so problematic for me. It enhances the fleetingness of the millennial lifestyle while at the same time reminding me that I cannot swipe or click fast enough to capture a memory for review. Despite my establishing the perfect condition to carefully open the snap, fingers poised perfectly to screenshot, I undoubtedly mess up, ending with a disappointing shot of the carpet. Not to mention the inability to magnify the image to satisfy my failing eyesight.

Snapchat is an exercise in frustration at best.

And now, just in the nick of time, we have Snapchat’s ‘world lenses’, plying old moms like me with easier replay and overlays that really do emphasize the generation gap. Every time I see someone wearing kitty whiskers or pursed lips and a helium voice it really makes me wonder about the future of the next generation – to have all that time on your hands and spend it augmenting your undeniably ordinary existence is hard to digest.

Someone, stop this Snapchat nonsense.

Instagram to the rescue.

Snapchat

As if the angels heard my plea, Instagram Stories has dumped into my phone glimpses into my children’s semi-adult lives that actually allow me to soak in the moment – I can see my girl on the mountaintop, hear the wind blowing against her phone and the crunch of the snow below her ski boots. And just when I start to hyperventilate that she’s on top of a mountain that she just hiked up to see the sunrise, Stories segues into the next video montage, showing her safely at the bottom of the hill.

Thank you, Instagram, for figuring out how to overtake Snapchat and settle my stressed out mind. Now I can hit ‘replay’ over and over and over, soaking in the details and sharing with grandma and grandpa without feeling like my screenshot game is minor-league. And since all things come back in style, if I just wait long enough, maybe by the time my kids have kids of their own Facebook will be trendy again, and I can take all the time I want replaying and sharing photos of my bound-to-be-adorable grandchildren to all my old lady friends.

See ya, Snapchat. Can’t say I’ll miss you one bit.

If you’d like to be my old lady friend on Facebook or Instagram, you can find me sharing stories, snaps, books and beauty there on a regular basis. Snapchat? Not so much.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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3 Awesome Reasons To Have A Selfie Free Summer

It was a perfect blue sky day. We hit the road early (by teenage terms), and just about 90 minutes later found us in Pt. Reyes, California, ready for adventure.

It had taken some cajoling to get both of them to agree to go hiking with me; these days, getting both kids alone, together, is certainly cause for celebration in itself. It’s one of the things I miss most about them growing up, actually. The time I took for granted when they were little, time to just be together and hold their hands and explore somewhere new – all that isn’t as easily had as before.

Sunscreen applied, water bottles and snacks in our packs, we headed down the trail towards the coast. Everywhere we looked vibrant wildflowers dotted our view, and lush ferns and berry bushes obscured each side of our narrow trail. The hawks flew overhead, and the sounds of songbirds filled the air. It truly couldn’t have been more beautiful.

wild sweet pea flowersStopping to smell the wild sweet peas and snap a few photos, I found myself alone on the trail, lagging far behind my lanky-legged teenagers. Quickening my pace, I caught up just enough to catch a glimpse of them from behind. I’ve always loved the photos of them like this, when they’re not expecting me and in that instant, I imagine all the life they have before them.teens from behindI’m sure even the hawks could see the joy etched in my face on this glorious day; glimpsing over their shoulders I could just catch the shimmer of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. “Turn around, let me take your picture,” I quickly called, worried they would be gone before I caught up. Surprisingly, they obliged, and as I got closer I added,”Let’s take a selfie.”

I’m sure the hawks could hear their groans of disgust, too.

“No Mom – no selfies,” their voices replied in unison as they took off along the trail without me.

What? No selfie? How would we ever remember we were there together? How would they look back on this day and remember I was even there at all? 

I’ve often thought the invention of the selfie is genius – the one way moms are guaranteed to be in the picture! How many moments have I been behind the camera instead of in front of it? What do they mean, no selfie?

Kicking into gear to catch up, I spent the next five minutes being schooled on the three awesome reasons to have a selfie-free summer – according to my teenagers:

1. “Selfies are stupid,” they began. “They’re not as good as pictures someone else takes and everyone knows it was a selfie. Everyone knows you know you took a dozen shots until you got the right one, and that you stood there forever while the phone was angled in just the right position. Haven’t you seen those selfie-sticks, Mom? Those people look so lame waving them over everyone’s head, and then they have to carry them around.”

Hmmm. Good point. How many times have I been looking out at a gorgeous view when someone suddenly jumps in front of me, spends minutes posing, snapping, checking, posing, snapping, checking…

2. “Selfies are for Snapchat, and that’s about it. They’re not meant to be saved…they’re meant to be silly.  How many times have you seen selfies where people look like they’ve spent hours perfecting their pose? Like they’ve spent hours in front of the bathroom mirror perfecting their pout or messing around with the right filters?”

Ok-agreed. As much as I dislike Snapchat (I can’t stand only seeing an image for seven seconds; heck, it takes me that long to find my glasses!), I really dislike the Instagram selfies of people staring into their bathroom mirrors, perfectly made up and serious supermodel looks on their faces.

3. “Selfies make you miss the moment. Just look, Mom. You’re concentrating so hard on getting the right shot, you’ll miss all this.”

I get it. Isn’t that what I preach to them every day? Pay attention to the little things in life. Be present. Be grateful. Look out for the extraordinary in the ordinary. Use your voice – ask someone to help you take a photo instead of staying trapped inside yourself. Look up, breathe, throw your arms open wide and take it all in. This is your moment.

Suitably schooled, I resumed my position at the back of the pack, far enough behind to think. They’re so grown, I thought, and I’ve still got so much to learn. I’m just going to let them lead the way for awhile.

Coast Trail, Point Reyes, CA

selfie free summer-mamawolfe

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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I Thought I Knew What Was Best For My Kid-But He Had Other Ideas

Ski racing at Squaw Valley
Ski racing at Squaw Valley

I got a text from my 14-year-old son the other night suggesting I check ig – that’s Instagram for parents without teenagers. Intrigued, but somewhat hesitant about what I might see, I clicked over. A quick video popped up, taken from the handle of a shopping cart rolling wildly across an icy parking lot in the dark in Mammoth Lakes, California. Screams of delight pepper the soundtrack, accompanied by the comment “What a way to start off the Olympics with some of our own games #slidinanddrivin”.

Yes, my son was unsupervised, in the dark, far away from home and it made me smile. Why? Because surprisingly, it’s what’s best for my kid.

When he was born prematurely fourteen years ago, he spent the first six weeks sound asleep. Watching him snooze, all five pounds of him curled up with a smile on his face, I figured mothering a boy would be easier than I expected. I figured he would always be so sweet, calm and compliant. I figured he would spend the next eithgeen years or so waking up in the room at the end of the hall, and that if I kept the cupboards well-stocked he would be pretty happy to be home. For the most part, I figured right.

What I didn’t count on was his independent, indomitable spirit. Once again, at age thirteen, he forced me to flip through the parenting handbook of my soul and struggle to determine what was ‘best’ for him.

I never in my wildest dreams imagined that he would voluntarily move away to boarding school. I know parents who have had to send their kids away to ‘save’ them, but for my kid, the thought of not seeing his smiling face or hearing him pad down the hardwood floors on his way to the kitchen each morning left me breathless. Panicked. Terrified.

One thing I was always sure of was that I knew what was ‘best’ for my kid, and suddenly, I was stupefied with his idea that moving to Tahoe to live, learn and ski for the winter was what he thought was ‘best’. As Katrina Kenison writes, my husband and I “owed (him) the willingness, on our part, to refine and redefine our own idea of what ‘the best’ might really mean.”

It started out with really listening to him, hearing his goals, his dreams, his passion, and his rationale for wanting to leave home, leave his friends, his school, and everything familiar to take a chance on what might be. The more we listened, the more possible it seemed. So we let him take the lead, hoping that everything would work out the way it was meant to be, but ashamedly, holding out some secret hope that it wouldn’t.

We had it all planned out. He would live at home through high school, attending our alma mater just like his sister. It’s right down the street from our house, after all. He would ski on the weekends like he always had, ski race for his high school, and sleep in his own bed every night. He’d do his chores, continue his piano lessons, work hard in school and go to college. Maybe he’d even live at home until he got married…that all seemed so safe. So doable. So planned. It seemed like the best path for him – for all of us.

Jon Kabat-Zinn said that “our children drop into our neat, tightly governed lives like small, rowdy Buddhist masters,” Katrina Kenison shares in The Gift of An Ordinary Day, “each of them sent to teach us the hard lessons we most need to learn.” I think of this quote every time my stomach drops with anxiety, which happens on a daily basis lately. Relying on texting, Instagram and the occasional sc (again, for the teenage-deprived parents, that’s short for Snapchat) to get a tantalizing tidbit of his daily life is NOT what I imagined my life would be like a year ago. I don’t see his homework every night, I only hope he’s using the washing machine once in awhile, and have to trust that he’s eating his vegetables every day. I’ve released the control over his schedule to his ‘dorm parents’ and his stringent ski coach, knowing that now it is they who have his best interests in their minds each day.

My son certainly dropped into my life in the most exquisitely, incomparable, and unexpected ways. I’ve been forced to reevaluate my parenting, my expectations, and my need to control his path in life. I’ve stumbled forward, learning to trust that things will work out the way they’re supposed to, to mother by faith, and that maybe the hard lesson I need to learn is that ultimately, we are the only ones who truly know what is ‘best’ for us. All we really need to do is be willing to listen for it.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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