When I admitted to my friends that I was the one who put my mother-in-law on Facebook, they looked at me like I had two heads. Of course, I was her first friend (followed quickly by my husband). And yes, she gets to keep tabs on my family from thousands of miles away. That, my friends, is the whole point.
With more Americans spread out from their families, the Internet is a parent's dream, if she'll only give in and use it. Because what better way to avoid talking to your mother-in-law every time your kid loses a tooth, gets into the county art show, says a big word ... freakin' sneezes? Today's grandparent wants in on it all ... and I have a simple answer.
Tell them to get with the times and get high tech for their grandkids.
With a kid in school, having my mother-in-law on Facebook is the only way I can balance keeping her updated on the goings-on chez Sager with getting to all the day-to-day chores of "real life." I take a few pictures, upload them to Facebook, and bam. Both grandmothers see them. Both grandfathers can take a look via the grandmothers. And the aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. all get their own taste too.
It's imperfect. I know. After I signed her up, I had the Facebook version of buyer's remorse. I went through my Facebook postings furiously intent on sanitizing the hell out of the site. I didn't find much, but I made sure I threw out a "mother-in-law is on Facebook, keep it clean" post (with the privacy managed so she couldn't see the warning, natch). It's scary out there in Internetland having to police your thoughts! But to be totally fair, I did the same thing when my mother friended me.
This isn't a "hate on the mother-in-law" issue so much as a battle of the generations. Ever noticed that even the most with it grandparent, who may use all sorts of gadgetry at the office, looks at their teched-up grandkid with a mix of amusement and disdain? "Why do they need all that?" is followed with a heavy sigh. My parents didn't see a reason for the 5-year-old to have an iPod -- even though they each have one, and my mom has spent hours debating the benefits of an iPad2.
But it's the fact that these grandkids ARE so heavily teched out that makes it imperative for grandparents to adjust themselves to the times, and quickly. Do you want to leave your 10-year-old alone with Grandma for a long weekend if she isn't hip to handling your kid's iPod Touch usage? If she isn't willing to take on the mantle of XBox Live minute control to protect your pocketbook? Our grandparents only needed to know how to make good cookies and take us fishing. Today's grandparent has to know more than just Facebook in order to be a stand-in for you these days.
But that's a good starting point. They get addicted to the constant flow of photos and to finding their old high school buddies, and they "get" the tech thing. They "get" their grandkids.
Getting my mother-in-law on Facebook was just the first step. We're now talking on Skype to turn the hour-long conversations between 5-year-old and her grandparents into an interactive medium that will cut down the barrier of a thousand miles. We don't want them to feel left out in the cold simply because we can't go visit them states away every week. We've also been looking into sites like Readeo, where grandparents halfway down the Eastern seaboard can read a bedtime story to their granddaughter ... or let the 5-year-old show off her skills at reading to THEM. Getting them together on the Internet will help them "get" her.
Today's grandparents might be spread around the country, but the Internet allows them to be the most involved generation yet. And that's a pain in the tuchas for you, Mom, but it's really good for your kids. Your kids need Grandma on Facebook -- you just need to learn to manage your privacy settings.
Are your kids' grandparents tech savvy? Are your kids?
Image via DeclanTM/Flickr