Dear That’s Life,
For better or for worse, I do not often make it home in time to do homework with my children. That being said, my children know that no matter what, if they need help with their math homework, I am not the parent to call. I was therefore a little curious when my older son (elementary school age) walked over to me with his math workbook one night. He’d been working on a word problem requiring him to calculate tax on a toy that a fictional character was purchasing. He showed me the problem and explained that the question didn’t make sense. When I asked why, he simply said, “they didn’t include shipping.”
After looking at his work, I realized he had included the United States Postal Service’s flat rate for sending a package across the country (thank you, Google). While we do not make many purchases on-line, my son’s additional work showed initiative on his part and served as another eye opening experience to a mom raising kids in an ever-changing world. He assumed the purchase would be made in a virtual world – going to a store was a thing of the past.
Therein lies the heart of an ongoing parental struggle: raising children in a fast paced world. This is not the world in which I grew up, nor does it even remotely resemble it on some days. As I watch TV on my iPhone, I remember the black-and-white television my parents had in their bedroom. I think back to the hours I spent researching articles using microfiche, while it is rare for my children to flip an actual page when they look something up. And as I help my daughter study for her New York State Living Environment Regent Exam, I realize we are worlds away from the Punnett Square I studied when I was her age, as she correctly answers question about cloning (?!) – something she thinks she could do successfully if I would just buy her a sheep.
Technology is as much a part of the modern child’s daily vernacular as is English. And while the comfort level I have with my iPhone is similar to a recent immigrant who begins an ESL course, I also know I have no choice but to learn. If I don’t jump on the technology bandwagon, the train will pass me by. My kids are already on board, so the question remains: if I don’t get on, do I become irrelevant?
A familial environment must be created in which there is a free exchange of ideas, information and questions. Without one, I cannot advise my children as they weather life’s challenges. It is in those everyday experiences where the values and morals we have imparted will be tested. While I have confidence that they will make the right choices and know right from wrong, there is also no such thing as an “auto-pilot” child. Everyone needs guidance in order to properly navigate life. That’s where parents come in – as long as they have “boarded” the technology train.
Before going to school or camp or a play date, I have one classic tagline: “Don’t forget your midot.” At this point, if I get an “I won’t” or an annoyed “I know…” as a response, I am thrilled. Most of the time, all I hear is, “yup” before the door slams. It is their way of saying they know what I mean, they know what I expect, and they don’t need me anymore. To me, any response is good enough. I cannot keep them home forever, nor do I want to. But even when they are outside of my home, they should remember how they have been raised.
The other day, I kissed my preschooler on her head before I hurried to catch the train. “Don’t forget your midot,” I reminded her. And while she has heard it before, and I have said it even more times than that, I got a response that stopped me in my tracks.
“Where ARE my midot, Mommy?” she asked. “I want to put them at the door with my bag so I don’t forget them.
I smiled. Back to basics, I thought. Maybe somebody still needs me after all.
Miriam L. Wallach, M.S. ed, M.A. is the General Manager of The Nachum Segal Network. She began her career with The Network three years ago as a host and producer before moving on to her current position. Miriam is also a frequent contributor on FOX Business and writes the blog “Dear That’s Life,” named for her successful column. She was a successful middle school Language Arts teacher for fifteen years, having been included in Who’s Who in America’s Teachers three years in a row. She and her husband are the proud parents of six children and live in Woodmere, N.Y.