Friday, February 17, 2012

Parenting in the Age of Facebook: Nut-Free Healthy Trail Mix Cookies

First, some housekeeping: anyone looking for a BlogHer '12 roommate?  (Yes!  My husband got me a registration for my birthday back in December, and I hope I'll see many of you there!)

Now, for the real meat of today's post:

This morning I took I. and N. for a walk downtown to get a bagel for I.'s breakfast.  It was an exciting trip not just because N. got to wave to the garbage men, or because I. got to wear his rain boots, but because the bagel store has TV.

Yes, it's true: we have no TV in my house.  Not even one on which we watch videos.  But before you pass judgment, know that we have a Netflix subscription that gets watched on a laptop (though we use it at a snail's pace), and that there are plenty of opportunities for my five year old to use the internet--supervised, of course.

Today, as my son was selecting and paying for his honey wheat bagel (because I think it's useful for him to make small transactions like this on his own, with me standing a few feet behind him), I found myself watching TV, too.  Because up there on the flat screen I saw the video I'd seen a few days ago on YouTube, posted by a FB friend, of the father who'd shot his daughter's laptop (which he bought and just upgraded) in response to her FB post about her allegedly demanding parents.  When I watched it the other day, I found myself angry, but not wanting to feed into the (social) media circus already surrounding this family and their choices about conflict resolution.  My son caught it out of the corner of his eye, though, and wanted to know what it was all about.

I explained what had happened, and how her father had reacted, and then asked him what he thought.  Was the girl right?  Was the father right?  We talked about what was missing in the exchange, what they didn't use: their words.  Communication with each other, instead of through a third party: the faceless audience of the internet.

We worry about our children and cyber bullying.  But what are kids learning from their parents about the proper use of media?

Over the years, the internet has made it easier for me to talk to people.  The blogging community has been a source of encouragement, support, comfort.  Sometimes I feel braver, say things I might not have said in person, even when I'm writing to people I know.  But we can't use this media to shout at each other, or worse -- to shout past each other -- if we hope to teach our children love, respect, and tolerance.

I think that parents have the responsibility to build the foundation for communication early on; this doesn't just mean playing with your kid, but really talking with them, trusting them, treating them with respect, and entrusting them with real responsibilities, letting them know that they're an important part of a family partnership.  Sometimes that means baking cookies with them, like I did with I. the other day.  Sometimes it means asking them to take out the trash.  Sometimes it means telling them a difficult truth.  Sometimes it means letting them sit on your lap and saying nothing at all, and really listening when they have something to say.  And then, I think, it's up to us to show them how the internet is just a tool to extend those same principles of communication.

Where does the internet fail you?  What do you think are the limits of virtual communication?  Have you seen the video, and what are your thoughts about parenting in the age of Facebook (Twitter, etc.)?

Healthy Trail Mix Cookies

2 c. old-fashioned oats
1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
1/4 c. ground flaxseed
1/4 c. wheat germ
1/2 t.salt
6 T. unsalted butter, melted
3/4 c. white grape juice concentrate
1 large egg
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. dried cranberries or raisins
1/4 c. dried apricots, chopped
1/3 c. cacao nibs (or nuts if you prefer)

Preheat oven to 325F. Line baking sheet with parchment.

In large bowl, combine oats, flour, flaxseed, wheat germ, and salt. Add the melted butter and mix well. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combined egg and grape juice concentrate. Pour over the oat mixture and stir well. Fold in fruit and cacao nibs.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart. Flatten slightly with the back of the spoon.

Bake 13-15 minutes, until lightly browned but still soft in the center; do not overbake. Let stand on baking sheets a few minutes to firm up, then transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.

Store cookies at room temperature, tightly covered, for up to 5 days, or freeze for 1 month.
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  1. We don't have a TV either. It makes us particularly dependent on the internet for information (we also do that antiquated thing called paper) and it means that I am often a bit out of it (for example, I hadn't heard about that story).

    I totally agree about our responsibility to teach proper communication and respect, online and off. I admit that one of my major parenting fears is coping with what it will mean to come of age online. Clearly, I have NO experience with this and yet I know that it will be a huge part of our kids reality. To be totally honest, it makes me contemplate Waldorf schools - or maybe a remote commune somewhere?

    1. I love Waldorf, but the thing is, eventually our kids will need to cope with the Real World ... so I feel like it's important to give them the tools to do so while we still have some control over the situation.

      I didn't post the link on purpose, because I hate to drive more traffic to the video, but I suspect that it's inevitable ...

  2. Three cheers to this (and the fact that you're coming to BlogHer). The computer shooting story bothered me, and I can't really explain why. The violence in the act even if it was aimed at a computer?

    1. I agree ... it was like he was using a computer as a stand-in for other violence. He was too calculated-sounding. And I couldn't understand why he didn't do something else that was less violent but would have sent just as much of a message ...

  3. 1. I wish I could be your roomie for BlogHer! Alas, no funds :(
    2. I am sooo impressed you don't have a TV. Although I'm worried now about our usage of the iPad and wifi network. I can't conclusively find proof it's bad, but, I worry.
    3. Totally happy I missed the dad shooting at his daughter's computer. Sounds super classy. And teaching kids wonderful lessons. *eye roll*

    1. Jjiraffe ... I wish you could be my roomie, too! I'm going because it's in NYC, which is hardly an hour's commute away ... so it won't be quite as expensive.

      And we probably use our wifi too much, too. It's become a stand-in for TV, and worse ... because we have two laptops, so the people in the room don't talk to one another to fight over which channel they're watching!

  4. I kind of want to go to Blogher, but I keep waffling back and forth. It's so expensive. And I don't really know what it's seems like a lot of it is about monetization, and I'm not interested in that.

    I saw that video. It made me feel uncomfortable on a lot of different levels: the aggressivity, the public message, the utter and complete waste...

    1. I think that part of it is about monetization, but there's also bits about better blogging, and meeting other bloggers, and ... well, Mel could probably explain it better than I can. I'm going because it's in NY, and not much of a commute for me at all. I hope that you *do* come ... though I agree about the expense!

  5. I haven't seen the video. We do have a TV, and I often feel like my daughter watches waaaaay too much of it, we only watch Netflix kids programming while the kids are awake. Since they aren't all snug in the beds until almost 8, I rarely watch the news either. So...I kind of have my head in the sand most of the time.

    Having a son with a communication disorder, the process of communication is always an issue. Technology has opened up a huge world for my son, and on the other hand...he wants to disappear into the computer world far too often. I probably say "Use your words" and "Talk to me" and "look at me" about 1000 times a day. If my son saw this video on a random TV at a bagel shop, I'm not sure if I could explain it to him. Or, maybe he would understand the father's wordless rage better than any of us?

    In any case, I'm incredibly jealous of people who can carry out deep and random conversations with their children, and those who waste their time by not talking to their kids when they have the chance. I would give my right arm to ask my son "Would you like to talk about it?" and having a real conversation.

    1. You raise a great point here. While I wouldn't necessarily consider most of my conversations with my son "deep," I do take that potential for granted. I recently saw a video of an autistic girl who was given a computer and suddenly was able to express herself ... and I know that there are others like her. But: it was clear that her parents were able to make her understand how loved she was, and how she could trust them, even though she was stuck in her own wordless world for so long. Once she was able to express herself, she "said" so. And I suspect that the same is true of you and your son, frustrating as the process of communication is.

      And the nonverbal aspects of communication are just as important as the verbal ones ... sometimes I think when there is dissonance between them, kids notice more than people assume they do.

      I am a verbal person, though, and you've reminded me just how lucky I am that I can use that form of communication with my kids.

  6. The video unsettled me on both a personal and professional level. I seemed to be the lone dissenter on FB when several of my friends posted this. Most commenters I read were supportive of this dad's approach, and I died a little each time I read a comment that lauded this dad's behavior. There's so much wrong with it. On the simplest of levels, he admonishes her for being histrionic, for airing her grievances in a public forum, and then does does the very same thing? What does this model? Certainly NOT healthful means of communication and conflict resolution. On a deeper level, this demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of child development on the dad's part. Much of what she said seemed like typical teenage stuff to me. She IS self-focused, because that's a part of teenage development. She IS trying to assert her independence, because that is part of teenage development. I'm not minimizing her feelings, simply normalize them. And I am certainly not saying she handled her own feelings in an appropriate manner, but rather to emphasize that her behavior is not terribly outside the norm. And the gun? Shooting the laptop? The message here is something broader than simply shooting a piece of inanimate property. Just as in some instances of domestic violence, you can abuse someone without ever hitting them. You simply need to raise your hand, to create the threat. The threat is just as powerful, just as controlling as the actual thing. And again, he admonishes her for being ungrateful--and yet his lack of gratitude and perspective is boldly on display as well. Instead of destroying that laptop, why not DONATE it to a school or to a homeless shelter or something like that? Why take it for granted that way? Again, what is this modeling? :(

    Aaaanyway, I am stoked that you're attending BlogHer! And I love that your fam doesn't have a TV. We only have one, and it's in the basement, and we watch it about twice a week. I refuse to have a TV in our bedroom, though we do occasionally watch movies on our laptop in there.

    P.S. I made cookies similar to these this week! I added some roughly chopped banana chips! Mmmmmm....

    1. Yes, yes, and yes. While it's clear that this isn't the first time his daughter exhibited this kind of behavior, I thought, "since when are we living in the age of Hammurabi?" He certainly doesn't understand child development (though many parents don't; we can't fault him for that), but even putting that lack of knowledge aside, why would he mimic the behavior of a 15 year old? You put my feelings about this beautifully. (I suspect that it never occurred to him to donate the laptop. Honestly, he doesn't seem to be the "giving" type.")

      Worse, though, is the way this video has gone viral and has been replayed by media outlets across the country. It makes me wonder what kind of statement we're making about parenting. :(

      Are you going to BlogHer, too? :) And damn, banana chips ... brilliant!

  7. Amen to this post! I didn't like it. People need to talk more.

    I wish I could meet with all of you guys face to face instead of blogging.

  8. I did see that video, and I had several issues with it. All of what you mentioned, actually. Plus, I just have a problem with people being destructive and wasteful. Maybe he could have donated the laptop if he really felt the need for permanently taking it away from his daughter.
    I think with the Internet, we're bound to get positive and negative benefits---it's kind of the nature of change, I think. What you're doing, promoting communication and talking about it for other people to read...well, it just adds to the Good.

  9. Well said Trinity! Well said! That was exactly my thought - why not donate it? Why not let it go to good use? And he is doing exactly what he's mad at her for doing, putting up his response for all to see. And the violence, and simple (but devastating - as it always is) use of a gun like that. The whole thing is very upsetting.

    Justine - I LOVE you putting nut-free bars in this! Hilarious! I was cracking up. If only we could create a nut-free internet but alas, that is impossible. If anything the internet will remain a more nut-heavy place than the real world ever seems to be, but that is probably just because the nuts are able to pass incognito through everyday, waiting to show their true colors on anonymous (and not so anonymous) forums on the internet.

    1. Yes, I suspect that the nuts aren't going anywhere. (wry laughter) But wouldn't it be great to teach our kids to use the internet for good, not evil? Like anything else, it's a tool ... as powerful as a gun.

  10. Wow--I hadn't heard about that...but I rarely watch anything other than pre-recorded shows on TV and since I am no longer commuting to work...I don't really listen to NPR (my primary news source) either. I definitely agree that the father's actions were violent and that there should have been a conversation rather than violence. I can't imagine NOT having TV in our house....I use it as a quick babysitter or bribe tactic to manage the two. But, I will say that I have become more sensitive to commercials and the general violence on tv. I won't allow my son to watch anything other than downloaded netflix movies or recorded HBO children's movies. Even innocuous shows can have violence. I'm not sure how we'll handle this when he gets older, but we have talked about cancelling cable.

    1. I never would have seen it had it not been for my FB friend and the random bagel store trip. I, too, miss NPR, since I no longer commute.

      You'll be surprised how easy it is to live without TV (or cable) once you've lived without it for a week or so. And you know what? Kids get plenty of cultural capital just by socializing with all of their TV-watching friends. The games they play are violent enough!

  11. I love this post. So thought out!

    I don't have children, but I often think about how I will raise them in this age of information overload. I think that the internet is a great resource for new parents, but where it falls short (at least for me) is a true sense of community. There seem to be a lot of tight-knit niches that kind of leave out anyone not associated with them. I'm not Christian enough for the Christian bloggers, or healthy enough for the healthy life bloggers, or have enough kids for the family bloggers. I feel like I'm stuck on the fringes trying to bust my way through.

    I commend you for living without a TV. We live without cable (though we utilize Netflix and free Hulu) and I must say we have a lot more time than we used to. We have the shows we like to watch but don't get bogged down with the shows that just happen to be on.

  12. We have a tv but don't have tv and keep it for movie purposes. Internet fail; ever google the word 'flower'. Yikes!

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  14. That video kind of floored me. Yeah, talking might have been an easier first step. And I actually think it's wonderful that you don't have a television. I admire that TREMENDOUSLY. T.v. is a tremendous sucker of brain cells and time. (I've thought about doing away with ours but never quite summoned the courage).


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