The Adventures Of Fatherhood – April 15, 2022

FOMO is a real thing with kids.

It stands for Fear Of Missing Out. I had to research to learn more about it. According to ChildNEXUS, FOMO is “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent. FOMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.”

I suppose everyone has a touch of this, but as we get older it becomes less and less important. I tend to like missing out on things nowadays. There’s no need to be anywhere and everywhere, but I recall as a kid not wanting to miss shared time with friends at the movies, a party or sleepovers.

With kids, as in the case of my 13-year-old son, we have had several instances when he hits a state of panic when he finds out a group of his friends are in all one place and he can’t go. The comments go like this – “everyone is at the skate park,” “there’s a bunch of people at Island Creamery right now, I want to check it out,” or “how come everyone is at the park and I can’t go?”

My favorite comment of late was, “Can you take me to the Outlets? All my friends are there.” It was puzzling. I reminded him how much he despises shopping and how tortured he seemed an hour before while at Dick’s in Salisbury for lacrosse equipment. Of course, he didn’t want to go shopping with his friends. They just want to walk around the place together without parents with their heads buried in their phones. We have all seen this.

Last summer it was a similar thing. We were on the beach in Ocean City and he questioned why we did not go to Assateague, showing a Snapchat map with hundreds of his friends scattered on the beach. He assumed they were all together when they were not.

When he had school this week and some of his friends did not, he had another fit. He hinted at skipping school because he didn’t have any tests. He thought better of it before I even said no way, remembering he had a lacrosse game. He did comment how he was just going to stay off Snapchat because it will just bum him out. I reminded him he doesn’t even take his phone to school so not be a problem.

This FOMO is rooted in social media, and the pressures it brings on. As adults, we understand there is some boasting that takes place. Some lives are not always the same as portrayed through social media. It can be about image cultivation and playing a part.

Parents get this and know it well. Young teens do not have the perspective yet. It’s important for us to be patient and aware FOMO can lead to feelings of isolation and paranoia. We just need to remind them of what’s real and not. It also would help if social media had an age limit.

Every few years I like to share an essay called “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley.

A friend’s recent post about the “loss” she has been feeling of late about her special needs child and the memorable experiences – those others take for granted — that have been taken from their family reminded me of it.

We all have our unique journeys in this thing called life. It’s oftentimes not what we thought it would be. While there are magically memorable moments, there are other daily hurdles reminding us life is full of more unimaginable challenges. It can be difficult at times to handle, let alone accept without unhealthy feelings. This column applies to so many things in life and I think it’s worthy of sharing again.

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of that.

Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

 But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.