Have YouTube don’t need Mom

Say you’re a teenage boy. There’s a girl you have a crush on, and you want to ask her to the school dance. But you can’t begin to tell anyone or get tips on how to act calm when you’re nervous.  Least of all, you can’t discuss it with your mom. She wouldn’t get it, anyway. She’d probably say something dumb and make you feel embarrassed. But that’s okay: lots of other guys have gone before you, and they’ve documented their experiences on YouTube.

Or you’re a middle school girl, and you’re itching to dye a pink streak in your hair. You know your mom will freak out, though, so you can’t ask her to help you do it. Again, no problem: there are tons of YouTube videos to show you how.

In short: have YouTube — don’t need Mom.

YouTube shows you how

YouTube is not merely the source for home videos, humor riffs, stupid cat movies and viral memes. It showcases people demonstrating all kinds of practical skills, answering questions like you used to ask your parents. You’ll find YouTube channels devoted to cooking, makeup, home and car repair. You can learn to sew, knit, crochet, do macrame or pottery, just by watching videos on your smart phone or computer.

YouTube takes over mom’s job

Mom’s job of teaching her kids how to do stuff is becoming obsolete. For example, none of my kids cared about learning to do laundry before they left for college. Never mind: there are plenty of videos online where college girls or guys show you how to wash your clothes, and they’re much more fun to watch than Mom. For more info on garment care, young men can turn to Esquire’s Virtual Valet channel, which has videos on how to iron a shirt, pack a back, polish a shoe, sew on a button, and more.

Mom’s not the expert anymore

Moms no longer possess exclusive knowledge or skills. Anyone can use web video to learn to make pie crust, peel an orange in one long strip, fold perfect hospital corners on a bed. My son sent me a link to a video for “spatchcocking” your Thanksgiving turkey to cook it in half the time. Not only has YouTube replaced me as the source of cooking knowledge — I’m now a recipient of its wisdom, directed at me through my offspring.

YouTube targets ever-younger audiences

As if that weren’t enough, YouTube assistance is reaching down to younger ages. For example, there are numerous videos on how to tie your shoes. Moms can get advice on potty training or sleep training from YouTube. But think of it this way: we can outsource tedious child-rearing tasks — especially now that lots of kids have iPads. Too bad a video can only show you how to change a diaper.

YouTube states that its users watch over 6 billion hours of video every month, with 100 hours of video being uploaded every minute. It’s no wonder you can find better how-to instruction online than Mom could have ever offered. More than that, you can learn stuff Mom never would have told you.

But YouTube can’t do everything

What’s a mom to do? She’s no longer the one her kids look to for advice on domestic matters or traditional passages along the way to adulthood. However, a video can’t look at the jam your son is cooking and tell him when it’s thick enough to put into the jars. And while YouTube might show him the best method for tying a bow tie, it’s not going to tell him how handsome he looks as he leaves for his senior prom.

Furthermore, YouTube can show your daughter how to pick up a slipped stitch in her knitting, but you’re still the one she’ll turn to when she gets frustrated and needs someone to correct her mistake.

You can’t beat YouTube, so embrace it

Here’s how I see it: YouTube offers more and often better “how to” information than moms could ever provide. It’s crowd-sourcing at its best. For moms, delegating instruction in tasks where we don’t excel anyway is a win for us and our kids.  It leaves us more time for the aspects of parenting that YouTube can’t handle. We get to focus on things we do best, connecting with our children in more meaningful ways.

And since we’re saving time by having YouTube teach our kids basic chores and life skills, we can do other stuff. Like watch stupid cat videos.

 

Image credits: YouTube, fdecomite via flickr

Two weeks, two graduations, what’s next for me?

Last month we celebrated. First was college graduation for my eldest on the East Coast, then back home for the last rites of high school with my youngest. There were so many parties and official events that I powered through by focusing on logistics. Now I have time to stop and consider the meaning of it all.

 

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There’s no denying middle age

In addition to the festivities, I also underwent that initiation into middle age, the baseline colonoscopy. And recently I’ve spent hours collecting financial documents, as my husband and I worked with an attorney to update our wills. Little wonder that my spinning instructor cautioned me about hunching my shoulders, and my chiropractor told me to come back in just a week.

 

That persistent question

Why can’t I stop and bask in my kids’ graduations — celebrate a job well done? Why do I jump to “what’s next?” Maybe it has to do with the question people were asking me at last month’s functions: “Now you’re going to be an empty nester. What do you think about that, and what do you plan to do with yourself?

 

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I tense up. For twenty years I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, school and sports volunteer, carpool driver and family chef. I don’t know how to translate these skills into something that will give my life meaning for the next twenty years.

I know I’m over-reacting. Folks are just being nice when they ask me “what’s next.” We don’t know each other well, and they’re trying to make conversation. Maybe the woman who asks me this is gathering ideas for her own midlife transition, or maybe she wonders if anyone else dreads an empty nest as much as she does. In fact, the actual number of people asking me “what’s next” has been small — nonetheless, I feel overwhelmed by the question.

 

Not knowing what’s next

For lots of us, it’s a scary transition. We’re left alone as our children go off to new adventures, friends and opportunities. Although it doesn’t hit you when they’re in elementary or middle school, the implication of raising your kids to be independent is that, eventually, they won’t need you anymore. This is good. But it’s also terrible.

I’ve spent the better part of two decades shepherding my children through their activities, helping with homework, doing laundry and cooking, and learning about their friends and interests. Now I’m staying put while they move on to do these things somewhere else, without me. Sure, it’s nice to do less laundry than before, not to always plan ahead what we’ll have for dinner. But there’s a big hole in my day-to-day life where my kids used to be, and I’m not sure how to fill it.

 

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A beginning or an end?

Commencement: for the graduates, it’s a beginning. For me, the graduates’ mother, it feels like more of an end. The end of their childhoods, the end of little people who need me, the end of doing what I know how to do.

I have faith there’ll be more joy ahead — I’ll make my way through this tunnel of sadness, fear and confusion. But I’m not ready to announce “what’s next” for me.

When I figure it out, though, I’ll be sure to let you know.

 

Image credits: Daisy Shih, Nick Harris, Anne Rosales

What does carne asada have to do with team building?

Yesterday I hosted the last team dinner I’ll ever get to host. My son’s water polo team gathered at our home prior to a tournament they’re playing this weekend.

Two other moms helped me, and we served the boys mounds of carne asada, hot tortillas, enchiladas, Spanish rice and salad. As if that weren’t enough food, we also offered chocolate milk (great after a workout, you know), fruit, homemade cookies and brownies.

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For years I’ve hosted end-of-season parties, supervised team sleepovers and served dinner to players and families after Little League games. But last night was the end. The end of orchestrating a large dinner to be ready precisely on time, of serving it efficiently, making it look easy. The end of sharing a gift with my children’s teams  —  not by playing or coaching their sports, but by doing something I’m good at: food and hospitality.

I’ll still find people to cook for, still find ways to build community over shared meals. It just won’t involve my kids as much. And since none of them is playing varsity sports in college, it definitely won’t involve their teams.

Maybe that’s why this final team dinner seemed so significant. Sports have been important to my children, but not because they dreamed of playing professionally, or even playing in college. They took their sports commitments seriously, valuing not only personal improvement, but also their teams’ collective achievement. They learned “life lessons” about things like persistence, fairness and sportsmanship that will stay with them far beyond the court, the field, or the pool.

 

Menlo School boys water polo. Photo by Cynthia Yock.

Photo by Cynthia Yock

 

I’m grateful for the role sports have played in my children’s lives, grateful for remarkable individuals who’ve coached them over the years. Needless to say, I’m less grateful for the handful of negative coaches who made my kids’ lives difficult or soured them on a particular sport or season. But even then, playing for such coaches helped my kids develop the ability to discern when they were wrong, vs. when their coach was being unreasonable. Without a doubt, this is a skill they’ll use in “real life.”

Cooking for my children’s teams, or organizing schedules and communications for them, was a way I could contribute to activities they cared about. My son’s a senior, playing in his final water polo season, so I’m nearly finished with these contributions to my kids’ sports. Yes, I most likely will contribute elsewhere in the future. But all the same, an emptiness lingers.   [Read more…]