Raising children is no easy task. Ask any parent and you’ll hear tales of trials and tribulations you won’t believe. You’ll commiserate and secretly thank God that your own parenting problems pale by comparison.
Parenting should be easier in today’s world of ever-connected social media. Our children are always one text away even if they don’t always text back. My generation was so different. We went out to play in the morning and came home for dinner at night, with no cell phones, no texting, and no communication with our parents during the 8 to 10 hours we were away from home. Our parents didn’t give us a second thought as long as we came home for dinner.
I have two children, each with their own unique set of challenges for me. My older son is a Boston news photographer ( a “camera person” although he corrects me every time I use that term). Working for a news television station, he is assigned to a different reporter every day. His moment to moment location depends on breaking news stories. I’d worry about him even if he was just assigned to New England news stories. His job has taken him everywhere from the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida to hurricane Florence in North Carolina to Santo Domingo where he filmed Big Papi’s shooter being escorted into a Dominican court house as an angry mob gathered around him.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled he is living his dream, chasing news stories and reporting from the front lines of whatever disaster appears on the horizon. For his dear old dad, it’s nerve-wracking to constantly worry about my son living life in the center of it all with only his video camera as a buffer between life and death as the news unfolds in front of him.
I can only cross my fingers and pray, and wait for a call or text telling me my son is back safely at home with his wife and children. Luckily for him, he has a loving family to help him negate some of the horror stories he’s witnessed through his viewfinder.
My younger son, who is living and working in Tokyo, poses a different set of parenting challenges for me. Video phone calls are a great way to keep in touch, but they pale in comparison to being able to reach out and touch someone. I dispense as much fatherly advice as I can over the telephone. I’ve tried to commiserate with job changes and housing difficulties, not to mention language barriers and the stigmatism of being a foreigner in a country that prides itself on being intensely nationalistic since its inception thousands of years ago. I’ve gone through housing problems, illness, homesickness, weddings, and job changes, all discussed over cold, electronic phone lines. Even though love transcends all space and time, there’s nothing like a real hug between loved ones.
Last week, my son called from Japan to say hello. When I asked what he had planned for the weekend, he told me there was a typhoon (hurricane to us Americans) approaching so he was staying indoors. I mistakenly Googled “Tokyo storm” when I hung up. The largest typhoon in Japan’s history was about to hit Tokyo, along with earthquakes and floods. 800,000 people were being evacuated from the city and I was sure my son was one of them. My panic got the best of me when I called the next morning and I couldn’t get an answer on the phone. The 13 hour time difference didn’t help. I left a message and said a prayer.
Hours later, my son called back, a little groggy as he just woke up.
“The storm passed. I wasn’t evacuated. Earthquakes happen almost everyday here. In fact, the sun is out and it looks beautiful. Typhoons really clear the air,” he said casually.
I realize today’s world is different from the one I grew up in. I know people still live on the same street they were born on. I also know people who have children living, working and going to school all over the world, from Greece, to Spain, to France. I am blessed to have children who keep in touch with me regularly no matter where they are. For the most part. When they can. Usually just before I freak out knowing disaster has befallen them.
When I hear about a local disaster on the news, I pray my news photographer son wasn’t sent to the frontline. I prefer him not to be in harm’s way. When I hear of a disaster in another part of the world, my heart sinks hoping it didn’t happen in Japan. I know these circumstances are beyond my control. I try to focus on the positive but as anyone who is a parent knows, it’s not easy.
I’d be a helicopter parent if I could. In my case, I’d need an actual helicopter to keep up with my children. For now, I’m satisfied with a random text that says “All Good”. Sometimes that’s all a parent needs to hear.