Airbnb and Uber. Is it just me?

Like many of you, I am on the empty-nester side of parenting. We raised our children; they have each been educated according to the paths they chose, and now they have established their own families and homes. In fact, we are at the fun part:  grandchildren.

Our friends who became grandparents before we did used to try to describe what the experience is like. We would smile and nod and think, “Yeah, sure. OK, we get it. You love your grandchildren. We’re sure they’re fun.” 

And then we got some of our own.

For those of you who don’t have grandchildren yet, buckle up. They’re perfect. They’re adorable and smart and the most fun ever. It truly is hard the describe the feeling of being with your grandchildren. You have more energy, you smile all the time, and every word out of their mouths is like music to your heart. I didn’t do grandparenting justice with that description, but it’s the best that I can do right now.

Grandparenting is tricky, because we must walk a fine line. I get busted regularly because I am a pushover, and our three-year-old granddaughter is a dangerous combination of smart and cute. She gets me every time, and it makes my heart happy to let her. But we are the fun adults in the room, and Mom and Dad are the bosses in that same room.

I have to say though, that in this age of internet and digital everything, social media and online connections, I worry. I worried about our children and all these influences, but with our grandchildren, they are growing up in a world in which anyone, anywhere, can reach into their homes and their lives without boundaries or restriction. 

Whatever rules a parent lays down, a kid with a phone or computer will find a way to circumvent. I don’t think that reality will ever change. Our grands, by the time they were two, could reprogram our phones, change the language and profile photos, change ringtones, you name it. It takes us a good week to get everything back to where it was, if we ever do.

As a woman who’s north of age 60, I actually remember a time when our parents would teach us to NEVER get in a car with a stranger. They had to know the family if we were invited to a friend’s home. We hated these rules, but they were put in place for obvious reasons, for our protection.

Today, we live in a world where people can “order” a car ride on the internet. Yes, a complete stranger shows up, and we are supposed to get in their car with that stranger and go someplace. That notion sets off a lot of red flags for me, as a mom. But today, it’s as common as ordering a pizza. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to “Uber” or “Lyft” someplace. I can still hear my mom’s voice, warning me to be smart and cautious.

And what about services like Airbnb? Based on website photos alone, we can reserve a house or apartment or condo anywhere in the world, and it’s owned by a stranger. We must assume that the place is clean, that it’s in a safe area, and oh by the way, we are to assume that the “host” hasn’t placed cameras in weird places, like in bedrooms or in bathrooms. We are also to assume that they won’t show up and let themselves in during our stay. 

My husband and I have used these services (Airbnb and VRBO) a total of four times. Two of those stays were very nice, and two were awful – dirty, unsafe, dilapidated – nothing like the photos on the website. Airbnb was of absolutely no help. 

We have vowed never to use such services again, because the internet business powers-that-be have not figured out to how to make sure people are honest and clean and trustworthy. Imagine that.

Maybe I’m being too OCD about things my mama taught me, but the reality of the internet and social media has actually proven her right. People can be strange. They can be dishonest and bizarre and worse. As an adult, I can handle the consequences of the choices that I make. But children? Teens? Even young men and women?  I’m not so sure.

Young people today think differently. They start their own businesses and do things on their own terms. I applaud that. Now let’s hope that at least one of them can figure out how to place safeguards in a coming world that you and I won’t even recognize in our old age.

Now, I have to try to reset my phone’s incoming voicemail message and language of preference. You see, we spent time with our grandchildren Sunday.

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