Sunday, September 14, 2014

Texting is the New Parenting

     I’m exhausted. I just had a lengthy and very heated discussion with both my daughters -- at the same time, mind you. My eldest daughter and I went back and forth about nursing school and all the expenses associated with that. And the youngest wants my permission (and signature) to get her driver’s license, even though she is nowhere near ready to do so. 
     Yep, I’m tired from all this bickering. But mostly, my cramped fingers need a rest.
See, I don’t have actual, face-to-face conversations with my daughters anymore. Oh, no -- those days are long gone, Grandma! Nowadays, I parent by way of text messaging.
     It’s a sad, sad state of affairs, this new age of “Parenting by Texting.”
     Trust me.  I resisted texting as long as I could. When I first heard about this texting business, I couldn’t believe that people never really talked on the phone anymore, and I refused to give in to this ridiculous fad.
I mean, what could possibly replace hearing another person’s voice on the other end of the phone? You know, REAL human interaction?
     I even asked my daughter -- who developed an entire romantic relationship with a boy long-distance by texting with him every day -- why teenagers don’t like to talk to their friends on the phone, and she said, “There are just so many awkward silences. And you don’t get that with texting.”
     Awkward silences? That’s what real conversations are about, for goodness sakes! Two people dancing together, and around each other, through words, nuances and timbre. Laughter, sarcasm, fear, anger, doubt, admiration, love, desire … all these beautiful emotions you can hear in someone’s voice vanish with a typed message. There’s just no soul behind it.
     So I tried to stand defiantly and heroically in front of this oncoming texting train. (Any parents with me on this?) Problem was, the only way I could actually communicate with my children was through the damn text messages. Whenever I tried to call them, the call immediately went to voicemail. But when I sent a text – voila! – like magic, I would get an instant response.
     “Oh, look! My teenagers are actually talking to me!” I would be giddy with disbelief. Getting a response, any response, from them sure felt good. And soon, like Pavlov’s dog, I was conditioned into becoming a full-time texting mama.
     I’ll admit, it is a rather convenient medium. Type a few words, boom, communication accomplished. But I feel so compromised – especially as a writer and an editor. I have spent the majority of my professional life self-righteously cleaning up other people’s writing, punctuation and grammar. Now, like every other texting literate, I just try to find shortcuts and the quickest way to respond. “You” has become “U;”  “To” and “for” have morphed into numbers. And “See you later” has been replaced by “C Ya!”
     And while it is sometimes easier and less confrontational to flex your parenting muscle through your fingertips, text messages from our children have left many of us parents bewildered and confused. With face-to-face interactions, you know when your kids are being disrespectful to you because you can hear it in their voices. With texting, you don’t know what’s punishable or not.
     “Did she accidentally send that text to me in all uppercase letters, or is she sassing back?” 
     This new age of text-messaging has weakened our authority as parents. The stern warning of a parent’s booming voice, “Don’t you talk to me in that tone, young lady!” has now been replaced with the texting version: “DON’T YOU GET ALL UPPERCASE-Y WITH ME!” Somehow, it just doesn’t pack the same punch.
     It took me a while to wise up, but I am happy to report that I’ve solved the texting/communication problem with my daughters. I’ve regained some dignity, respect and parental control. How? Well, whenever I’ve had enough of all the back-and-forth texting nonsense, I simply type back two words: “Call me.”
     If my phone doesn’t ring within the time that it takes to text a response (well, I do allow a few extra seconds for the old-fashioned switchboard operator to connect the line), I let my daughters have it!
     With a text message, of course – IN ALL UPPERCASE LETTERS!

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