Thank you and…?

Slightly melodramatic perhaps.

I’ve heard that the average person from our “Generation X” will change career six times in their life. Well I’m up to 3.

At the ripe old age of 26, I’ve made a commitment to take writing seriously, and try and make it more than just a side job or distraction. (I hope that as readers and followers of my blog-you are cheering and waving pompoms at the screen right now, because if you don’t think this is a brilliant and overdue idea, no-one else will!)

So does this mean the end of blogging? (You ask in desperation)

Fear not! I have consolidated and moved my life over to www.elishevasokolic.com, and much in the way that Joey must have felt when Pacey gave her a wall (forgive the geeky Dawson’s Creek reference) I feel inspired. As much as I have loved ‘mummy blogging’ for the past two years, I do believe the unexpected popularity of my blog has been about more than just my judgemental parenting!

In short, I have more to give.

Those of you that have taken the time to comment and especially follow my blog are perhaps my favourite people in life, so I do hope that you will follow me over to the new site and keep supporting me there if you can.

For those of you who aren’t WordPress users, who enjoy my writing, but tend to just click on the Facebook links when you see them, there probably wont be that many of them in the future. It’s just a different direction I’m taking. However, if you fancy signing me up to star in your spam email, I promise to try not to induce procrastination more than once a week. I also promise not to make fun of you if you’ve been secretly stalking me for the past two years without ever letting me know.

Come see what I’m up to why don’tcha? 

Parental Control(s)

We live in an amazing time. We have never had a world so small, or access to as much of it as we do in this generation. Unlike our great-grandparents, our children have equal opportunities and a chance to be children for longer. Unlike our grandparents, we will be blessed with countless photos and videos of our children for posterity and reminiscing. Unlike our parents, we have access to a wealth of information and support from around the globe.

But what is this doing to family values?

Fifty years ago, our parents and grandparents had questions about raising their newborn or toddler. Of course they did, we all do. For all parents, there are parts of parenthood which are like foreign countries, needing to be navigated cautiously and with plenty of advice. Generations before us had one simple line of enquiry; their own parents. Who better to ask about raising a child, than the people who raised you? As long as you didn’t have any huge culture or life-choice differences, they were bound to have an easy answer to your query. This helped mothers and daughters bond, helped grandparents feel like they were being included with their grandchildren, and made for a happy family dynamic.

But now, we have been given the super-tool which is the World Wide Web. And suddenly our own parents cant compete with the hundreds of online doctors, the thousands of baby forums, the millions of other mothers with their own two cents to throw in the pot. And to make things worse, for most of us, our parents arent anywhere near as adept at using this technological encyclopedia.

I know this doesnt count for everyone, but for a large part of the older generation, we are lucky if they can send a few emails here and there, or look up the odd opening time of a favourite shopping centre. Research and socialising are pretty far from our parents minds a lot of the time.

So while we know that cot death has halved since parents started putting babies to sleep on their backs, we still have to listen to great aunt Sophie maintaining loudly that all seventeen of her offspring slept on their tummies for 18 years and it never did them any harm. Although we are listening to medical studies which suggest we offer certain foods later than others to avoid allergies, it’s not so easy to ignore the grandparent who offers peanut m&ms as a ‘treat.’

There is a divide. And in a way which the world hasnt ever really faced before. We know with certainty that our parents are wrong, or badly informed, and yet there isnt really a polite or easy way to say so. To make things even weirder, our generation is really the only one which will be faced with this problem. When my son goes online in 2032 and tells me that the latest word from the doctors is that babies should be hanging upside down by their ankles, I will say “Ooh how interesting”, google it, and probably share it on whatever social media platform I’m using. Not that he wont have other advances which I am not adept with, (Like what on earth is foursquare?) but information will still be as accessible to me as it is now.

I know that I am being somewhat unfair to people over 50 who are computer-whizzes and have usernames for every chatroom in a appropriate time-zone, so let me be clearer. It isnt that our parents cant understand the idea of finding out facts and answers on the internet. It’s that nowadays, especially when faced with the realities of being a stay at home or part time working mother, the internet is more than just information. It’s a community, and for many- a lifeline. The friends that mums make online, the readers of their blogs, the people they share advice with from across the globe; they become family. And not that they can take the place of our parents, because of course they cant, but they are family who are going through the exact thing that we are, at the same time, and who we can interact with in a matter of seconds. The generation before us cant really understand that, because they were never young parents going through it themselves.

And so I see time and time again, questions in chatrooms which start with “My mum thinks I should….” and end with “what should I tell her?” and I think it’s pretty sad. To some extent, there isn tthat much we can do about it. But like most things, it can definitely be helped by communication. All your parents want is to be helpful and involved. If they are a reasonable person, print out an article or two and let them know you found it interesting and it had a lot of info you didn’t know, so perhaps they didn’t either. Agree with them on a few points that don’t really matter long term. If all else fails, smile and nod and then do whatever you wanted to do in the first place.

Of course, if they are not a reasonable person, you pretty much have to live with it. I tell you what, add me on Twitter (@LiterallyAdvice) and we can have a chat about it.

 

Spam

I’ve been drafting this post for a while, and adding to it when I can. I hope this wont only be entertaining to other WordPress users, but as I’ve developed a bit of a following *blush* I don’t mind just this once deviating from my universally relevant themes.

But just by way of explanation for those that dont blog, the comments feature on WordPress is extremely interesting. It is split into 3 parts. Comments, where people you dont know, or your friends, can add witty or interesting anecdotes to your posts, which sit there waiting for you to approve them and then get posted to the main page. Trash, where you can delete any posts you might not want up there, hate mail for example, which I would love to get, then I know I’ve made it. And finally, Spam.

Spam is truly one of the most brilliant things I have ever seen. The WordPress filter ensures that the posts never end up in the comments part, so you have to actively go to spam to look for them, but it is SO worth it.

Spam is made by computers. The intention is that by posting something to your blog, you will unwittingly lead readers to their advertising site through the link on your page. Sometimes through interest, other times through flattery, or insightful comment, Spam has to be pretty clever, using all its wily tricks so that you dont see through it and send the post straight to Trash.

[NB: Each one of these examples is copied and pasted directly from my comments tray, not edited or adapted at all.]

Here’s one such example:

This is the first time I comment on your site, but I’ve been reading your posts for about a few weeks. I admire the passion with which you tell your stories and dream that someday I can do the same. Love

Kind of sound like a foreign exchange student that’s trying too hard? Yep, that’s Spam all right! It kind of makes you want to let it through anyway, cause if you’re reading quickly, you might think it’s a genuine compliment by someone literarily challenged. Unlike the next one, which is never going to work. Stopping mid-sentence, losing your adverbs, and the casual “btw” thrown in to make you sound more human. Sorry Spam, you’ve been busted.

hi I was luck to look for your theme in yahoo, your Topics is impressive, I learn a lot in your Topics really thanks very much, btw the theme of you blog is really wonderful, where can find it

Some Spam posts are slightly cleverer. Stay short, stay to the point. Then you wont get tripped up by google translate or whatever other do-gooding detector robots you meet on your travels. The next one proves my point. It starts well, only one grammatical error, which surely we are all guilty of from time to time..

Great blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Cool….

Angel Wash…

Gosh darn it, You probably shouldnt have signed it. You’ve sort of given yourself away there.

Another type of Spam that pops up pretty often, is SMS. Not Spam via text message, no no. This is Subliminal Messaging Spam. Take the example below, and see if you have the skills to spot the advertisement hidden amongst the compliment.

hi i found your website today and I have read some good information over here. I just wanna thanks you for publicing Gratis Sex Dating it so we all can learn about it!

I think the next one might be my favourite. Realising that the advertising bot isnt going to get anywhere by complimenting me, it turns to insults to see if I’m that kind of masochistic blogger who just needs to maintain her low self confidence. Word for word, this is what I found in my comments box.

This is pointless, why am I even reading it and not enjoying verdens beste gulrotkake? I should learn to spend my time better.

Why would I post that to my blog? Even if I thought it was a real comment? Clearly written by the kind of guy who thinks he’s going to get a girl back to his place by telling her she looks fat.

And then you just have the bizarre.

If Jesus Christ lived in the here and now, he’d probably be able to pick up any chick he wanted, or so you would think.

At least with Pop ups, we cannot help but have them appear on our screens if we want more useful internet content. This scheme doesnt get past a little box on my screen which says ‘delete all.’ In fact, this blog is probably the most attention that Spam has ever recieved, combined. So who is being fooled here? After due analysis, I am therefore adding whatever money goes into this pitiful advertising venture, to my list of ridiculous financial wastes of time.

But it sure is entertaining.

The thing about Twitter is…

You don’t know the people on it.

Twitter has taken social networking to a new level. Wheras on Facebook, Google+ and similar, you add the people you know, on Twitter, you actively search for people you don’t know.

On Facebook, you know your boundaries. Theyre the same as in real life. Easy to work out and adhere to, because you know the people in real life. Would you reply sarcastically to them in a group? Great, then it’s okay to do the same on their wall. Would you wish them happy birthday? Go ahead then. The advent of the ‘like’ on Facebook means that we can do the equivalent of smiling at something someone said, which means we interact more with acquaintances who we wouldnt normally ‘talk’ to, either online or in real.

But on Twitter, we have no social guidelines to stick to. People can talk to us, and we need not reply. People share what we say without our permission, we are suddenly allowed to pester celebrities with our every unhilarious thought, and worse than celebrities, real people. It’s kind of like entering a party in the middle, where you don’t know anyone at all. But you have to speak to people, or why are you there?

It is so easy to overstep the mark when you dont know someone and they dont know you. Recently, I made a flippant comment to a new follower, which evidently not only upset but also offended. I apologized, and was forgiven, but was then basically made fun of by them and a friend of theirs for about 2 hours. 2 hours on Twitter, unlike in life, is like 2 hours at a party. I tried to ignore, but when a conversation is sent directly to your Activity tab, it is much like two bullies following you round the party throwing mini sausage rolls at your head. It was horrible. Now I don’t think they meant much harm, and to be honest I started the problem myself, and I’ve seen at least one of them to be lovely, (in the Twitterverse at least) but I was thrown back to the geekiest version of myself. Nervous that everyone was watching and laughing, in the equivalent of a room full of strangers.

Up until now, I’ve only seen the benefits of using Twitter. For my business, it drives traffic to my website, tells people succinctly what I do, and helps me find potential authors and businesses to work with. Personally, it’s a fun way to network with new people, be introduced to great books and blogs, and as all internet resources, an invaluable procrastination tool.

But beware. When people dont know you, they can’t hear your voice when reading your comments. They don’t see your facial expressions, and someone seriously needs to invent a sarcasm font. Twitter forces you to be fun, flippant and quick, as you only have those all important 140c. But at the end of the day, you’re talking to strangers, and I don’t know about you, but introducing myself generally needs more than that.

Which songs can I sing to make my child a genius?

We all worry about the same things when raising our babies. Are we giving them the right foods, the right toys, the right social interaction? Are we introducing things too early, or leaving them too late? In hindsight, each decision seems well thought out and correct, if not immediately then eventually, (have you ever seen an adult worrying if his life problems are due to which playmat he had?) and yet at the time, we agonise and ask questions to anyone and everyone who has an opinion, and work ourselves into a state if we cant do our ideal response to any given situation.

When my son was tiny, I had a morning routine. Morning was whenever he woke up, which was obviously a different time each day. I would look at my watch, and begin counting. I’m going to give him his first bottle now, so in order to fit all 5 in today, I will feed again at 10.30, and then every 4 hours and 45 minutes until bed time. Some mornings were really stressful. Oh no, he’s slept until 8.30.. How am I going to fit all the bottles in? Yes, you heard that correctly, I said “Oh no. He’s slept until 8.30.” I apologize. But the most important thing to me was getting the full oz of milk into him. There were days when I fed him every 3 hours, and other days when I left nearly 6 hours between feeds. I wouldnt have dreamt of simply leaving out one feed that day, or making the others bigger or smaller. It was all about the maths, with the handy guide on the side of the Aptimil carton as my friend.

Looking back now, I think I’m pretty crazy. But I dont give myself too hard a time, as I watch so many other mums do the exact same thing when it comes to their children and routine. It might not be milk, but most mums have their own share of craziness in one way or another. If she sleeps now, and then we’re going out later, she might fall asleep in the car, and then will she sleep tonight? If he eats that, it’s only an hour until lunch, and then he might not eat enough of his proper food, and he’ll get hungry mid afternoon.

We’re all a little crazy. As I scan the motherhood forums and see the same questions coming up again and again, tips for weaning, when should I drop the afternoon bottle, what kind of toys are right for a 6 month old.. I think our kids may be the luckiest and unluckiest generation ever. Many of us complain that our parents generation don’t understand what it’s like to be parents nowadays, and they would be right. But a lot of that is because we have unnecessary choice and access to opinion. Our parents are about to start weaning us, maybe they ask their own parents, at a stretch the local doctor or a close friend. But the excess ofnew companies and books, let alone the faceless crowd of opinion on the internet, was simply not available (or frankly needed) thirty years ago.

I’m not saying that it’s entirely unwelcome, after all, knowing more means that syndromes such as cot death has been more than halved, and behavioural and social issues are rarely ignored, in comparion to decades past. However, we also have more serious allergies in younger children than ever before, which many put down to our obsessive cleanliness and hygeine guidelines. There are also so many of us walking around feeling like we’re not doing it right. Maybe I’m wrong, but this is not an issue our grandparents had. Self esteem as parents was most likely not even thought of, wheras now, we are constantly comparing ourselves, not only to our friends, but to people we don’t even know on the television and the internet. A new revolution in reality TV is basically entitled “Terrible parenting that makes you feel better about yourself.” Whether it contains ‘problem teens’ or ‘kids running riot’ or even sending your kids abroad to get a week with “stricter” aka “better” parents, the genre has become a phenomenon.

I wonder if we need any of it? Our parents all managed to get to adulthood eating, sleeping, drinking the right amount of milk, without seventeen different opinions about which teat they used. The same goes for us. I’m sure our parents and grandparents still had the same questions and craziness, it seems to arrive with the baby in the hospital, but without the plethora of opinions and people to ask, they just made a choice and got on with it.

I guess I’m saying, whatever decision you make, your baby will be fine. And if we didnt have all these other people to ask, we’d probably make quite a quick decision. But we have too much choice.

Of course, none of this stops me from checking mumsnet to see if anyone’s got more advice on what R should be sleeping in tonight. (Well…. the room is currently 24, but it’s only 2 degrees outside, and I’m not sure if he needs a long or short sleeve vest….)