Communication Breakdown

Communication Breakdown

cell-01I’ll admit it; I’m one of those parents that basically puts my world on hold when my daughter calls or texts

I’m not really ashamed of it, either. That’s a priority I choose and until she begins taking it for granted, I’ll continue.

So, when my daughter’s phone broke, it was a bit of a shock for me.

I had to coordinate a time to talk via email, then talk via Skype when that time came. But, we did talk. She had something going on that her friends didn’t quite understand and she wanted to talk to me.

That’s pretty cool, right? We still communicate when she needs something “big.”

For the week she was without a phone, though,

things felt a little weird.  We’ve long since gotten rid of a house phone and without her having a mobile – there was nothing but face to face.

What?!?!? That’s ludicrous! Face to face in this day and age. Who does that?

History → Side rant

When I first got my daughter a cell phone, she was 14 and it was an important step for her to develop responsibility. After about two weeks, she promptly dropped the phone in the toilet. With a two-year contract still 102 weeks in progress, she was responsible for replacing the phone.

A friend that worked for AT&T felt so bad when I told her the story (yes – I was laughing hysterically, though) that she helped my daughter get a new phone.  A few days later someone traded in the same phone my daughter drowned and my friend gave it to her. Viola! Tragedy averted.

About three weeks later, my beautiful, responsible daughter comes home from an amusement park – sans phone (just to in case you missed that one, she came home without the phone). I want to blame this one on her mother, but my daughter should have been smart enough not to leave her phone in a bag unattended at an amusement park. The bag – and phone – were stolen.

At that point, just barely squeaking into the double-digits of contract life, the deal was that if she wanted a new phone, she paid for it AND had to get a warranty plan on it. In the mean time, she had to show up at school with my three or four year old phone – green screen Nokia with a serial number of 7. Since then, my daughter has been using left-over, partially broken, incredibly outdated cell phones.

And she never once complained about it. Not a single time.

So, yeah. When her last hand-me-down finally went all-the-way-down, I bought her a new phone. More precisely, I let her use the available upgrade and extend the contract two more years. She’s also got a data package for the first time in her life. Yep, at 18yrs old, she’s gotten her 1st smart phone.

Welcome to 2008, Sweety.

Back to the point

It was really weird being in a black hole with her. Whenever my phone buzzed, I knew it wasn’t her, but I’d still check it. You know, just in case it was her – magically.

I know my mom had to have gone days without talking to me when I was in my teens. Yet, here I am sending Internet messages to be responded to at a later time and date. Actually, come to think of it, I didn’t really communicate with my mom as a teen… or early twenties… and maybe some of those late twenties.

When my daughter was younger I read to her every night. When I had partial custody, we read childrens books before bed. When she began to read, she would read them. As she got older, we would read books of wisdom and theory – a couple paragraphs at a time. That went on until she was about 14 when it seemed to suddenly drop off, not by a particular choice from either of us. It just did.

But that daily reading together was communicating. It always opened a time up for her to talk, to ask questions, to just say something that was bothering her. How do we do that as parents of teens?

Let’s be honest here, with work and school load and only a little time left with friends, our time with our kids is getting shorter and shorter. Dinner time has turned into once / week and family night may be once each month… or so.

Sure, we can just say “If you ever need anything, you can come to me.” But, really it’s way easier to bring something up if you’re already in a conversation. You know that, right? Even as adults, if we go a significant time without talking to, or seeing, someone, we feel weird reaching out to them.

Face to Face

cell-02Does it matter? Does it have to be face to face – or even talking? Is Email and Skype and texting enough to be communicating? I think it is.

As long as the line is open, it gives our kids the familiar security blanket to respond. And, you know, sometimes the response from them is “Can we talk?”

What works is consistency. A “How was your day?” Email on nights you’re in bed before them. A “Make good choices” text around 7:30 every morning. Even turning Tuesday into Facetime day.

OK, it is possible I freaked out a little bit over a week of no phone – no “talking to.”

I think I’ll start texting her passages from Dr. Seuss books every night.

Now, you can follow my shenanigans on Twitter.





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