Day 13: Cover your eyes!

Dear friends,

If you have a child or a grandchild in college, chances are your loved one’s college has a “confessions” social media outlet.

I know a little something about both university life and social media and more than I ever wanted to know about the kinds of things college students “confess.”

The trend started on Facebook several years ago, but it appears to have moved on to Twitter. The confessions are anonymous and range from crushes; to one-night-stand regrets; to run-of-the-mill complaints about roommates, parking, cafeteria food and stupid professors; to attention-seeking posturing; to age-old and pedestrian Greek rivalries; to obvious cries for help from young adults in distress; to deviant (or alleged deviant) behavior. It’s simultaneously boring, laughable, painfully familiar, and horrifying.

If you wish to preserve your faith and hope in the next generation, cover your eyes should you ever encounter a college confessions channel. If you’re a parent paying tuition, just don’t go there lest you stop payment on your check.

I accidentally stumbled across the confessional Twitter feed from Kate’s college when one of Kate’s friends retweeted a superficial compliment mentioning my daughter by name. I subscribed to the feed and have regretted it ever since because I find it utterly depressing most days and prefer not to think about the darker and/or shallow side of a rite of passage I long ago survived.

But today, a confession appeared in my feed that both surprised me and bolstered my diminishing hope in millennials. It simply said:

(My daughter) is a beautiful girl, inside and out.

I’m her mother, so of course I agree with the observation, especially on the inside part. But after days of posts about drunken parties and boorish behavior, it was a tiny ray of hope in a bleakly indulgent, privileged, overwrought morass of post-adolescent anxiety.

I’m not one to press my luck, so I immediately unsubscribed. Always go out on a high note, I say.

With gratitude {for the seemingly sweet and thoughtful soul who took the road less traveled},

Joan, who — not surprisingly — avoided the Animal House bacchanalia at her alma mater and, therefore, has no interesting collegiate stories around which most confessions are built

Please don’t tweet “tool” unless you mean hammer.

Dear friends,

After my literary rant yesterday, there’s just one more thing I have to get off my chest.

There’s this teenage girl I made the mistake of following on Twitter and she really upsets me. I’ve only met her once and got an odd vibe. I’ve met her mother a few times and found her delightful.

The rub is this: the girl frequently sends out the most vile tweets I have ever seen. To judge her by her tweets, she is rude. She is vulgar. She is a brat. But since no one wants to be judged solely by their social networking persona, I’m trying to refrain from drawing knee-jerk conclusions.

This is one of her milder posts: “Middle finger up to the high school. See you later b-tches!”

The one that nearly sent me over the edge said “I just accidentally told my mother to f— off. #oops

I didn’t use the expletives in my sentences even though she did.  Mostly, her vulgarities are pointed at members of her peer group (most of whom she calls “tools”) and her family.

I could totally get on my soapbox here about the dire consequences to any child of mine that would dare say those words to me or about me, much less brag about it on Twitter. There would be a destroyed phone. There might be bodily harm. I dare say all the child’s possessions would be carted to Goodwill and hard labor would plague the child until the age of consent. But that’s not the point.

The point is probably that I should unfollow the girl immediately because her behavior is none of my business.

Except . . . except . . . if it’s not my business, whose is it? If I were chaperoning a dance, for example, and she was speaking that way within earshot of me, I would say something — to her and to her parents. Should the rules be different for social networking?

So I’m really torn about whether or not to make the call to her mother. I’ve met plenty of parents, including Mr. Mom, who aren’t on Twitter so I have a hunch the mother doesn’t know what’s going on. Still, there’s probably far more potential downside than upside to reaching out. If her mother reads her tweets and isn’t aghast, what do I say? To quote her daughter . . . Oops? If her mother doesn’t read her tweets but doesn’t appreciate me alerting  her to her daughter’s behavior, well that’s a big ol’ can of worms, too.

I want to be clear and honest about something. As a family, we are not as pure as the driven snow. We curse. Out loud. But putting curse words in writing in a public forum is just plain dumb, and I told my kids so. “Look” I said,” if you want to rip one off in front of your friends, okay. No big deal. But be smart and keep your tweets clean. Someday you’ll need a job — or something else for which you will be checked out and evaluated — and you don’t need a questionable social networking history following you.” To make sure they follow my advice (at least while they live under my roof), I read their tweets regularly and give feedback whenever I see something that merits discussion or correction.

I know that most kids spend all their energy posturing in front of other kids. So why do I give a whit about one teenage girl’s vulgar tweets?

Because it doesn’t feel like posturing. It feels like a young woman who needs help. And maybe the other adults around her just haven’t noticed yet. Or haven’t spoken up for all the reasons I’ve wrestled with.

So please weigh in. What would you do? On both sides of the fence, if you were me and if you were the girl’s mother hearing from me?

With gratitude {for the parts of my life that are less complex than parenting, such as sleeping},

Joan, who thinks kids are like math papers and therefore require frequent correction


Dear friends,

I’m one of the those parents who brags about my kids on Facebook. If this annoys you, I’m sorry. I can’t help myself. Consider it a symptom of an almost empty-nester. Maybe I’ll lay off for a few years after Parker moves out, but I’m sure I’ll be a prolific grandparent bragger as soon as the opportunity presents itself. (But please, opportunity, don’t present yourself too soon.)

The good news is I am friendly to other braggy parents and grandparents. I never get annoyed and I almost always leave “Great job!” and “Congratulations!” comments on other parents’ posts. (And I’m not just trolling for compliments. I truly enjoy reading about the accomplishments of my friends’ children and I consider it my civic duty to spread the love on Facebook.)

Anyway, my point today is to level the score between my children. I’ve done an awful lot of bragging about Kate, what with her being a senior and going off to college to play tennis. But I have another tennis player in the house and fair play dictates I give Parker a bloggy shout-out.

I just got his tennis photos back from the photographer. Parker’s wearing his game face rather than the smile I would have preferred, but I suppose that’s what boys do.

Yesterday, Parker’s team won the first round of competition in their district tournament. Parker lost his singles match, but he and his partner won their dubs match handily. I took the day off so I could spectate and be a mother, which included making sandwiches for the team and tweeting about Parker’s four aces.

Did I mention I also brag on Twitter? If you can’t use social media for self-and/or-family-promotion, what’s the point? I mean really?

Besides, there was hardly anybody there to witness the match so I had to tweet about it. (As did Kate.)

The sole spectator is me. Despite the loneliness of being a high school tennis fan in this part of the country, new media has helped create a virtual crowd. (At least three likes on my “fourth ace” Facebook post seemed like a crowd.)

School will be out soon and I promise to move on to other topics besides my kids. #ormaybenot

With gratitude {for a Monday better than most},

Joan, an equal opportunity gasbag, braggart, blatherskite, boaster, windbag, bigmouth (and Thesaurus-lover)

For two interesting views on Facebook bragging, read this post by Yoonanimous and this post by Glennon Melton. Yoona made me laugh (and think Oh God, I do that!) and Glennon made me pause (and think Oh God, I do that!).


Dear friends,

So I told you already I had a crap day this week, followed by another crap day. Then I didn’t post anything at all so I’m assuming you knew the crap was still flying.

And in the middle of the flying crapeze, also known as just another day, I took a second to check my Twitter account. I admit it. I was at work, you know working, and I checked my Twitter account. And look what I found:

And suddenly the crap melted away and all was right with the world again.

Parker was at our school’s conference championships playing tennis. Kate is the team manager. She was supposed to be texting me scores, but instead, they both were apparently stretched out like cats, napping in the sunshine. It made my heart swell. And when I turned back to my work, everything didn’t seem nearly as craptastic. Love has a way of doing that, you know.

(By the way, I later found out that Parker and his teammate took fourth place in doubles, while the team won 3rd in the tournament. Hooray for our boys!)

So here’s to sibling love. And Mamma love. It does a heart good.

With gratitude {for the fact that I’m tech-savvy enough to actually know how to use Twitter and stumble across these glimpses of my children’s lives},

Joan, aka @MayberryMagpie if you care to follow her

Before I run, I have to tell you the funniest tennis story I’ve heard in a long time.

In case you’re not a tennis fan, here’s a little background. If you’ve ever watched a professional match, you may have noticed there are people standing around the court doing all sorts of things. A few of those people are “line judges” meaning they decide whether the ball bounces in or out. In amateur tennis, there are no line judges. The players call the lines themselves. And since the player receiving the ball gets to judge his opponent’s shot (and, therefore, determine whether he wins the point or his opponent does), there is an incentive to cheat.

If you don’t play tennis, just imagine a basketball game where a man on defense is allowed to decide whether or not a basket counts. Yeah. Things can get crazy.

Now, I’ve played a lot of tennis and I can tell you 99.99% of players are honest. But every now and then you run across a cheater. Or a guy who understands gamesmanship. And don’t disparage gamesmanship. Some of the best players in the world are also great gamers. (Think McEnroe.) In fact, some amateur players advance far above their talent level purely on gamesmanship.

Mr. Mom is a former tennis coach and he always taught our kids to challenge a cheater by cheating him back. In other words, send an immediate signal that “Hey, I can play your game, too.” He also taught his players that kids make honest mistakes, and if you think your opponent made one, ask “Are you sure?” when he calls the ball out. (A lot of honest kids will correct themselves on a bad call when questioned.)

This tactic doesn’t work with the gamer, of course.

Anyway, apparently there’s a kid named T on Parker’s team who’s a pretty clever gamer. According to Parker, T recently hit a shot out by a foot. His opponent immediately shouted “Out.”

“Are you sure?” T asked politely.

“Yeah, I’m sure” said the opponent.

“Okay,” T said. “Hey, how about we play rock-paper-scissors to decide the point?”

“Uh . . . . . . okay” said the opponent.

And wouldn’t you know it? T won a totally free point on his bad shot that a blind man would’ve called out, all because he outwitted an inexperienced player who fell for the gambit and then was lucky enough to call scissors over paper.

Sometimes a little clever goes a long way.

Mr. Mom, aka the Cluemaster.

Dear friends,

We spent Thursday night at Buffalo Wild Wings, Kate’s favorite restaurant. It is affectionately known as B-Dubs by my children. (For those of you as lost as Mr. Mom, Dub is short for W. Buffalo Wild Wings = BWW = B-Dubs.)

At Kate’s request, we have been planning this birthday outing for a couple of weeks. Only every time Mr. Mom talked about it, he called it BFFs.

If you’re anyone reading this post beside Mr. Mom, you know BFF stands for Best Friend Forever.  Not the same thing (except in Kate’s case, it might actually be fair to say B-Dubs is her BFF).

Anyway, it has become increasingly clear Mr. Mom cannot keep up with the rest of the family. We learned during after-dinner conversation he does not know what a hashtag is. #clueless

He doesn’t Tweet, either, which explains his hashtag problem. And it’s too bad, really, because K8 gave him a S/O today on Twitter for being an especially considerate father and he didn’t even realize it.

We try to talk slow around him and refrain from rolling our eyes, but it’s getting increasingly difficult. #pullovergramps

I feel bad poking fun at him in this way since he does so many things well, like fix our cars #acemechanic and clean our clothes #laundryslave. But there are so few things in life for which I can claim superiority over him that I simply must leverage his appalling lack of new media awareness.

With gratitude {for friends who keep me in the know and, therefore, one step ahead of the old man},

Joan, who served a short stint as a radio announcer in college and learned to properly enunciate W (double-U, not dub-yuh) and, therefore, cringed during the entire second Bush administration