Nothing makes me feel more “old” than the Internet, cell phones, texting and social media. I’m talking about the “old” feeling, like when we thought our parents were old when we were fifteen. Facebook, Twitter and texting makes me feel like I’m in a foreign country and can’t speak the language. One of my more “tech savvy” friends recently laughed at me because he caught me downloading a text message on my cell phone. I was the center of his ridicule because only old farts have to download their text messages.
I’m not a fan of text messaging, but it has its place: “I’ll pick you up at school.” “Take the bus home.” “Call me now.” And yes, I spell out every word when I text my daughter. Beyond that, text messaging becomes a control freak’s nirvana. I don’t know a more annoying thing than leaving a voice mail about an important matter and getting a text message response. Instead of having an old fashion phone conversation to provide me with what I need in two minutes, it becomes a texting negotiation over ten minutes.
Nothing will identify me as “old” as much as my views on Facebook and social media. I worry that a decade from now, we will have a generation that doesn’t know how to interact face-to-face. Nurturing a friendship entails so much more than uploading pictures, posting to the world where you’ve been and what you are going to do. How can you “be there” for a friend online? Is it necessary to be connected to so many people, especially from your past? I don’t really need to know what my best friend from 8th grade is doing, how many divorces he’s been through and how many child support payments he needs to make.
My daughter who has a Facebook page definitely thinks I’m old but I’m luckier than most fathers. When my daughter was 3 years-old, I quit my job and became a stay-at-home father. For a couple of years, I took long bike rides with her for hours and was there for her each day. Now as her coach at Holy Names Academy, I get to spend a great deal of extra time with her during the fall sports season.
As a father, I want to protect her from the dangers and dogs of the world. As she has grown up, I’ve told her every night that I love her. I tell her she’s pretty and beautiful. I say these words to her so she won’t be starved to hear it from the first boy that says them to her.
My daughter is 15 ½. The last ½ year has been important. In the last ½ year, I seemingly lost my sweet daughter overnight. I lost her to adolescence and to her hormones. She went from paying attention to me, to a need to be the center of attention. She’s not my little girl anymore, she’s a teenager now. But before she transforms into an independent woman, I must continue to protect her and fight the urge to be “old.”
Putting my personal feelings aside, I have taken time to understand Facebook and its safety settings and controls. There are dangers, less visible and lurking on the internet. I suspect most parents, especially Asian and immigrant parents, believe that their kids are incapable of being so naïve or stupid to get involved in something “wrong” on the internet. But in this day and age, it is not as simple as it once was to protect children.
I know my daughter does not have a MySpace and what sites she likes to frequent. She knows that I have enough access to her account to monitor what she is doing. I may be old, but I am foremost a protective father to my daughter.
It was inevitable that I would lose my little girl to adolescence, hormones, and a little to the Internet. I’m learning to not be too “old” to learn about things a part of her everyday life. I’ll never be too “old” to be a father.