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Parenting in the Age of Social Media

When big events happen, do you turn to Facebook, Twitter and the like?

Last week's earthquake occurred while I was sitting at a preschool classroom's table, enjoying lunch with my fellow teachers during a break from class set up. After the world around us stopped shaking, we all exchanged surprised exclamations and walked out of the room, many of us scurrying for electronic devices that would connect us with news and our loved ones.

After reaching my husband, my first online destination was Facebook, where I was joined by numerous friends in expressing our shock at the rare East Coast occurrence. Other than two days of closed school for my oldest child, there was no significant effect from the earthquake in our lives, and we went on with business as usual.

And then there was Irene. Honestly, I was so caught up in my return to work after years at home with my children, that I was not following much of the pre-storm news coverage. I heard the nervous chatter of co-workers, but I felt pretty confident that we'd be just fine through the storm.

Living in Greenbelt East, we have the great fortune of underground power lines, and I can remember only one incident of losing power for more than a minute or so over the decade that we've lived in our neighborhood.

Sure, we gathered the flashlights, which my 11-year old happily checked for working batteries. We even bought a large container of water. But my focus on Saturday was really no different than any other weekend—clean the house, do the laundry, change the linens, vacuum and declare the home environment all clear for another week.

Then I saw the conversations happening on Facebook during the evening—the preparedness ones, the "we're hunkering down in the lowest level of our house" ones. As it neared the younger children's bedtime, I began to question my plan to do bedtime as usual.

We only have a two-level home, but what if one of the many trees around us fell on the house? With the biggest brunt of the storm expected after midnight, we'd all be sound asleep, with two of the children atop their high bunks, close to the bedroom ceilings. What to do, what to do?

I posed the question to my lovely community of Facebook friends, both local and not—should we devise a plan of alternative sleeping arrangements? What were other Greenbelters planning to do?

While I awaited replies, I also began an online chat with a good friend in Bowie, a friend who just happened to have a tree come down on her house during a large storm only a few years ago. She and I are of like minds on most subjects. She also tends to be more practical than emotional, which is exactly the type of opinion I was searching for.

Through both venues, I received the advice to institute an indoor camping plan for the night. Better safe than sorry was the mantra. If we could manage it, friends suggested a main level sleeping arrangement, and my good friend concurred during our chat, as well. The decision was made, the furniture was pushed to the walls, and the air mattresses were procured from the attic.

After the beds were made and the kids all tucked in, my husband and I retreated to the upstairs level for a couple hours until we were ready to go to sleep. With the local news on in the background, I once again returned to the online world of social media, where I saw reports from many local friends who also opted for downstairs level family sleeping. We wouldn't be the only ones sleeping on uncomfortable air that night.

While Sunday morning brought only a few scattered twigs around our lawn and the blessed continuity of power, I didn't feel silly for the extra steps we took, "just in case." There is definite strength in numbers, and I have social media to thank for the instant connections with friends that helped guide us in our decision making process.

Dawn may reside in Greenbelt in real life, but online she lives at her blog, my thoughts exactly, where she chatters on about her funny kids, her NPR obsession and plenty of other randomness. She can also be found at 5 Minutes for Books, reviewing everything from contemporary fiction to children's literature. 

Jennifer Donovan August 30, 2011 at 10:54 PM
We lost power once for almost a day (on a very VERY cold day). We were talking to our neighbors and the teen boy was recalling the time 8 years before when it had gone out and they all slept around the fire. He thought it was the coolest thing ever! Your kid will remember the fun hurricane campout too.
Dawn Mooney August 31, 2011 at 01:30 AM
Ha- we'll see if that's the case. Our youngest has asked every night since if we can do another "living room campout," so for now, it's definitely sticking in his memory!
Gretchen Schock September 06, 2011 at 12:25 PM
I would have done exactly the same thing Dawn, I escaped the storm to visit a friend in Michigan. If there ever is a "next time" we will be camping out as well.

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