The kids are just going to have to deal with it: Mom's on Facebook.
Among the many snap judgments I've made over the course of my life, I had a hard-and-fast rule that Facebook was strictly for the under-25 set.
Not interested, I would reply when any of my friends asked if I had my own page. I spared them a lecture on my belief that anyone my age who took to the social networking site was trying desperately to cling to a long-past youth or, at the very least, needed to get a life.
Besides, knowing well how my own kids react to this type of matter, I figured any parent on Facebook must have some mortified children at home.
But then three things happened.
First, my husband created a Facebook profile so he could post to his page at work. He became more intrigued than I had expected as he read messages and looked at current pictures of old friends. I'll confess to a slight twinge of Facebook envy.
Then there was the hunt for employment. Now back in the job market, I've noticed many postings include a "must be conversant in social networking" requirement, so I felt starting up my own page would demonstrate my facility with current trends.
Perhaps most important, though, was a conversation I overheard in which our university-bound daughter told her father the fastest way to reach her was via Facebook. While I pride myself on having severed the umbilical cord - no helicopter mother, I - I felt it would be nice to get responses to legitimate questions such as: "Did you get the paycheque I redirected to your Kingston address?" or: "Are you planning a trip home any time soon?"
So the powerful coalescing of spousal envy, job anxiety and maternal longing won me over, and I created a Facebook profile.
While I have clung fast to my vows that there were certain things I'd never be caught dead doing - cooking liver for dinner or watching Jersey Shore, for example - in this case I ate my words, praying that all who'd been subjected to my earlier pious thoughts had short memories.
In no time I received a message from one of my most tech-savvy friends: "What took you so long?"
Admittedly it was fun, although I worried about my children's reactions. I'd been privy to their lukewarm response when their father signed on. But all four were gracious and agreed to my friend requests.
We do have an understanding, however. It seems we have settled on a type of Fight Club philosophy. Not that we're tearing each other limb from limb, but the tacit policy seems to be that the first rule of Facebook is not to talk about Facebook. In a variation of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, I don't pester them for direction on the finer points of the site, while they feel free to offer it when annoyed, embarrassed or otherwise moved.
That has made for a steep learning curve.
After reading one child's status update, for example, I posted what I thought was a witty response.
"Mom. Seriously?" came the stern rebuke for all online to read.
And then there's all the Facebook etiquette I've had to learn, none of which has to do with proper fork placement or how to write a pleasant thank-you note. For example, my gut instinct tells me that correct use of this cross-generational tool means it's okay for me to send a friend request to someone my age, but that doing so with anybody my kids' age would be creepy.
And speaking of creepy, I understand that my use of Facebook comes with unspoken but clearly understood boundaries, and that includes creeping my kids' pages. It's the online equivalent of sneaking a peek in someone's diary, or eavesdropping on a phone conversation. I'm only in contact with my children as needed or requested. Translation: There may well be photos it's simply better for me not to see. Besides, if they have any sense at all, they've already put me on limited access anyway.
I'm certainly stingier with personal information than my kids are. While you might find my actual birth day, you'll never find the year, given that I fall into that over-25-and-using-Facebook category I once scorned.
I also have no plans to fill out my relationship status. After 27 years of marriage, anyone who needs to know does know, and I'm not anticipating any change soon.
I've made some concessions as well. For example, my trusty little band of 22 friends - and growing - will never match my youngest daughter's 304. While I'm intensely competitive by nature, that's a race I know I'm never going to win.
Still, I've found a couple of friends from high school, and the oddest collection of neighbours, colleagues and relatives. I now know that Dave in Labrador looks pretty much the way he did when I worked with him more than 20 years ago, while my cousin Martha's daughter in New York is looking much taller.
And yes, Molly did get her cheque, and she says she'll let me know her Christmas plans ASAP.
Thank you, Facebook.
Catherine Mulroney lives in Toronto.