My kids all have hundreds of ‘friends’ on their Facebook sites. HUNDREDS! Some of them are relatives and some are parents’ friends. Most are friends from school and summer camp and then friends of those friends. And, at times, they are friends with me.
Rosie, the eldest, blocked me in AOL’s IM from the time we got it. I chalked it up to the whole ‘separation’ challenge that every child must navigate and anyway, I could go upstairs and talk to her for the most part. When she went to college, she created an IM name for me only...I guess she was serious about me not being able to see her “status”. It infuriated me because her then 11-year-old brother had access to her status and I didn’t. Even so, at least she IM’d with me every few days and I knew she was alive. Her separation needs haven’t abated much but I’ve always tried to accept that about her.
She allowed me to be her “friend” on Facebook but I soon realized that it was a ‘limited’ thing. I was her “friend” but I had no rights. I wasn’t really her friend. She thought it was creepy that I had a Facebook account. It irked me and infuriated me a bit but then again she was always the one who shut me out and what was new about that? She was on Facebook when no one but college students were on it. Okay, I could live with it. Until….
Nola and Jack freely added me as their “friend” and seemed not to mind when friends of theirs “friended” me or vice versa (although I was careful to only do it with those were close family friends). Until….
For Rosie, suddenly one day this summer I realized that not only was I no longer a friend but I was a “blocked friend” meaning when I did a search on Rosie’s name she didn’t exist in Facebook. She had purposely and spitefully blocked me from knowing her at all on Facebook. She didn’t exist. There wasn’t even a phone number to call her and introduce myself.
The anger and shock and hurt…I can’t describe it. Raging, hurting emotions from ‘What does she not want me to know (which I wouldn’t have known anyway the way it was set up) to Why do you want to hurt me so badly’? Tears, anguish in the belly, an angry, hurtful email sent through the cybersphere to her while she was walking across Spain. I sent you to Spain to grow up and you repay this graduation present by shutting me out FURTHER? She wrote back that it was no big deal, I should cool my jets and she ‘friended” me…full status. Of course, this left me feeling guilty and ashamed.
My closest friend, HJB, who also has a college age child said that she understood Rosie’s point of view and that I needed to let it go. It’s not about me. That’s her place. And I know it’s true, I know it’s true but I can’t let it go. I’ve tried, I’m trying.
Now Nola is off to her first year of college and suddenly I am seeing things on Facebook I don’t want to see about how she is spending her time, what she is doing with her free time, who she is spending her time with. She is behaving in ways that I don’t think she should be behaving and so, knowing that I risked being excommunicated and brought up my concerns about how much drinking she’s doing AND sharing on her Facebook. We have a tense conversation and I am still her ‘friend’ for a few days and then, suddenly, Nola doesn’t exist on Facebook anymore. I’ve been excommunicated again! Restored by one and then ditched by the other. Again, it’s as if I’ve been punched in the stomach. Not invited to the party at the neighbor’s house even though everyone else on the block was.
So, here’s my question to the world: should a parent be a Facebook friend to their child in college? Should they want to? Or, as HJB tells me, ‘just trust that they will figure out the things that they need to learn, just like you did in college. AND stop looking at her Facebook!” I KNOW this. I say these things to myself actually but the fact that other people have access to my child’s site and I don’t and that I have reason to believe that they are sharing themselves with the world in ways that isn’t a good idea still bother me. If you see what your college age child has on Facebook, do you talk to them about it?
More from parenting