Left foot red, right hand blue

Remember “new math?” Wasn’t it just old math – with a twist?

I can’t recall what the twist was (natch), but I can think of plenty of other twists and twisters… tongue twisters, Twister the movie, and Twister the floor game that’s been around since, uh… when I was a kid!  But my latest “twist” is new parenting. Or is it just old parenting – with a twist?

New parenting

Is there really ever anything new about parenting, other than new twists on old problems? Do the basics stay the same, but shift position? Left foot red, right hand blue?

Now laughter, a tangle, a tumble – and time to get back up again and start over?

Distance learning

These days, I’m relearning issues of “teen space” from my 16-year old son. It’s new territory, a kind of distance learning, as I adjust to his changing needs.

With my college-age kid – this is also new territory. He’s been gone for a month; I’ve communicated little, only responding to his calls and texts. I’m purposely giving him distance. I want to be available without intruding, so while I miss him dreadfully I have left him alone.

He called last week, a few days before his birthday, dancing around the subject of missing home. We talked for awhile, the first real talk since he left. He made a point of saying that I could call or email him anytime. That was an important moment. He still wanted and needed me in his world. 

Technology trade-offs

We have so many ways to communicate now – cell, computer, text, twitter, Facebook, email, web cam. At times, all these tools are terribly interruptive, and I worry that we, as parents, are setting poor examples with our own use of these technologies.

But they also provide extraordinary advantages for:

  • keeping in touch
  • dealing with emergencies
  • learning almost anything, from almost anywhere
  • meetings, mailings, networking
  • and maintaining long distance relationships, including parenting college kids.

Physical and emotional contact

Last I heard, parenting included real engagement, not just “showing up.” Easier said than done. And particularly tough with teens – on both sides.

Kids are stressed and deal with so much going on inside; adults are frazzled, and often, worn out.

We all do our best. We can probably do better.

I tell myself that every day, with my younger son. And doing better includes walking away from my laptop and cell phone when we’re talking. Occasionally, it includes a hug – if he seems in the mood.

Twist and shout!

Last evening my older son spontaneously “skyped” me from his tiny cinder block dorm room, and we enjoyed a meandering 45-minute conversation via laptop. He described his birthday celebration on his hall, his German class, his calculus professor, and the apple tart I had delivered to him with the help of a friendly pastry shop in Boston’s Italian North End. All the while, he was showing me new tricks on his diabolos (Chinese yoyo juggling). I could see him, hear him, and share his contentment. Real engagement, even from 900 miles away.

The new twist in my parenting? My new math?

Skype + Webcam = long distance parenting.

And I will continue to take my cues from both my sons. Today may be left foot red, right hand blue, and tomorrow may bring some other tie-up, tumble, and restart. But for now – we’re still us, with a twist.