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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Where R U?

One afternoon almost two years ago I returned from an all morning meeting to pick up several panicked messages from our then fourteen-year-old, calling from the school office to tell me she forgot her flute and band class met after lunch. That day, I chose to ignore the potential lesson learned from a missing instrument because the drive to retrieve it was short. Unable to contact her (cell phone usage is banned in school) I hopped into my Jeep and as I turned out of the parking lot, my cell issued forth a mysterious beep. Prior to that date, our family mobile communications occurred by voice, so when my phone chirped again, I pulled over, sure the battery was dying and my daughter was trying to reach me.

So much for the “no cell phone” rule at school. As I peered at the screen, my first text ever: “can u bring my flute” blinked up at me, although I had no idea how to respond. Later that day, after a “fluteful” band class, I suggested to Meghann that if she wanted me to return a text message, she had better train me how. She did, and in as much as my slow fingers let me I embrace the technology.

There is something rewarding about communicating via text with your teenage child. When a hug or a kiss or an “I love you” in front of friends has long faded from acceptance, this discrete connection allows children to converse with their elders while avoiding any of that touchy-feely, “Yuck, Mom” contact. Our daughter and her friends punch their touch pads constantly; who is to know if one of the million carpel-thumb inducing messages sent over the course of the day happens to be to a parent?

Texting enables our kids to communicate--without superfluous details, or wasted breath, or for that matter, extraneous letters of the alphabet—quick thoughts that jet stream through their minds and travel at light speed out their fingers--thoughts that prior to the text era may have been discarded. Gosh, imagine dialing a number, listening to a phone ring, waiting for another party to pick up and then holding a conversation. How prehistoric. I can guarantee to you that pre-texting, my daughter would never have contacted me from a bus ride to say, “how is yr birthday?” but yesterday she did and I’ll take it.

This summer my daughter transmits cryptic codes from that same bus at the end of her day-camp counselor-in-training program each afternoon, telling me that she is approaching the drop off spot so that I know when to leave the house. Convenience factors in as I text her asking: “where r u?” and she replies, “stuk in traffic.” She texts me when she finishes play practice “I’m redy,” or when plans change “We wont be dun til 3” or “I hav a ride home.” Sometimes her texts tell me who is aggravating her at the lunch table, and others are innocuous, such as “Mommy, I am bored.” Though I sigh at those, I’m secretly pleased that I’m the one she wants to tell.

That aside though, here is the real reason that I’m all over the texting band wagon. When children are young, parents are their universe; hugs, kisses, and expressions of love are welcome pieces of the daily repertoire. By middle school though, peer pressure wraps its Teflon shield around our little ones and demonstrations of devotion by parents are sloughed off. In my daughter’s case it was sixth grade when physical contact during school drop-off became roundly dismissed.

Now though, I’m back in the game because there is no one to know but Meghann when I punch into my cell phone, “hav fun I luv u.” Even better is what I get in return.

“Aw shucks”

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