Every generation gets to be the first of something. There was the first generation of motor vehicles. The first generation of electricity which lead to the first generation of household appliances. The first generation of television. Which lead to us: the first generation of cable television, the generation that watched computers evolve.
We didn’t grow up with the internet; that’s pretty much the generation that’s coming into adulthood now. The 20-somethings of today. But we are the first generation of moms on using the internet on a daily basis. And the first to use social media to connect.
Since villages and towns and cities came into existence, moms have had to deal with all sorts of eyes watching them. Kids have been raised by mothers with family and friends watching and teaching, with neighbors examining and judging, with acquaintances against which they judged themselves. But the internet changed the intimacy level of it all.
We are the first generation of moms raising kids with the help of social media. We’ve come so far, but not really. Instead of, or in addition to, advice and judgment from the mothers of the village, or the town, or the neighborhood in a city, we now get all of the internet giving us advice and all of social media sitting judgment.
In many ways all this information at your fingertips is a good thing. When my second daughter was born with Down syndrome in 2004, my husband sat down and researched. He learned all that he could learn in two hours and found out about hockey leagues out there for her, if she ever wanted to play, which settled his mind. She could live a normal life, in other words.
This was good, because as I sat in the hospital thinking about two daughters under the age of two, one with a developmental disability, I was a overwhelmed and exhausted, and could not have done a lesson in all things trisomy-21. Thanks to social media, we’re part of a bunch of communities where we can discuss and learn all about what’s available to her, and I’m in touch with many more moms of kids with DS than I ever could have met offline, before social media.
The information available is wonderful, but there is so much more out there. We now know there is a whole set of people out there who didn’t vaccinate, who aren’t necessarily hippies living on communes, and we wonder if we’re missing something (my kids are vaccinated, and they will stay that way).
We hear about making your own laundry detergent, and wonder if we should do that (for me the answer is NO).
We’re told by mothers with a lot more money and free time than most of us that we’re doing a disservice to our children if we don’t feed them anti-everything food, dress them in all natural clothing, and take them on educational trips to Paris for spring break.
The worst, though? Social media judgment. Facebook judgment, mainly. In addition to neighbors, sisters, and in-laws sitting in judgment about our parenting skills, we get high school classmates we weren’t that close to and vague acquaintances from Pilates class. We get it in snide comments about how we’re taking a trip to Aruba (“I wish we could afford that, but we’re saving for a new house/car/dishwasher”), or how many practices our kids do for there sports (“my daughter has too much homework in her advanced classes and her grades are too important for that much dance/hockey/swimming/gymnastics”), or sending a child for extra instruction or camp for a sport or an activity (“if my child isn’t good enough on her own, camp isn’t going to help”).
So we’ve learned more, but we’re also feeling judged more as we’ve expanded our circles. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s here to stay. We’ve learned and evolved and devolved with it, but for our children it just is. This is what they’ve grown up with, this is what they know. Instagram. Facebook. Twitter. Tumblr. Vine. It’s all there for them, and it will evolve and change, and they’ll roll with it.
We’re the first generation of social media moms, but their the first generation of social media kids. We’re still waiting to find out what that means.
And now my book review of The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter.
Haunting, lovely, historic, and beautiful: all words I would use to describe Aislinn Hunter’s The World Before Us.
This is the story of Jane Standen, a fifteen year old girl babysitting sweet five year-old Lily, on a hike with Lily’s father when suddenly, tragically, Lily goes missing. She is never found.
This is the story of 35 year-old Jane Standen, an archivist at a museum going under due to lack of funding. As this crisis looms, and Lily’s father arrives at the museum to accept an award, Jane breaks from her normal life to solve a mystery that has been bothering her since her university days: she wants to learn the name and history of a woman who disappeared over 100 years earlier from an asylum near the woods where Lily disappeared.
After Jane implodes a bit, she takes off to the town near the woods in an attempt to find out what happened to the mysterious woman known only in documents as N. Through personal correspondence and hospital records, Jane traces the past, linking it in a myriad of ways to her present, in an attempt to heal her own wounds.
The story is told beautifully through the ghosts that Jane has collected. They watch Jane, this collection of the dead, doing little else than watching her to learn their own history.
These overlapping and varied storylines could easily have confused, but Hunter does a wonderful job interweaving the stories. With Jane’s ghosts as a tool, she shows us how we touch history all the time, how it gets lost and found, how important even the smallest moments are to the bigger stories.
Jane is life is tragic, and at first she is a lost woman mired in her past. The search for N. converges with her own past, and Jane gets a chance to unravel a bit of both mysteries. She gets a little romance, a little closure, and a lot of discovery.
I give The World Before Us just less than four stars. It is beautifully written and weaves all the different stories well. There were a lot of minor characters, but they were never confused in my mind. I wish that a few more questions were answered, but that’s what book groups and discussions are all about, right?