I had the absolute pleasure of getting away last weekend. No kids. No responsibilities. I brought a casserole and some fruit and my laptop. I planned to spend the entire getaway writing — and I did. I got a lot of writing done and I’m happy about that. I also discovered two interesting things about myself.
My teenagers kept texting me like I was at home.
Mom, where’s my bracelet?
Mom, can I have the chips in the cupboard?
Of course, they don’t use proper punctuation or even spelling, but I’ve learned to overlook that (because even when I point it out they blame their phones “it autocorrected”). I’ve tried to embrace the technology they live by. They text me links and images to things they see, find funny, want to save up for, cook, wear, or think we should make.
They text me from class to tell me how bored they are, or that they really don’t agree with what their teacher just said. Or that a friend brought a smelly sandwich for lunch. Or that they need a ride home because they forgot to tell me they’re staying late for baseball or soccer or orchestra.
They text me all the mundane things that happen to them and I love it. Teenagers are supposed to learn greater independence and I encourage that, but I still want to be a part of their day and offer some wisdom when they’ll accept it.
Mom, my history teacher just said that Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are all the same religion. Is that right?
Sometimes I have to say – let’s talk about this later.
Sometimes they go a little overboard – like texting me from the basement to bring them a drink because they don’t want to leave the video game they’re playing. Let me get right on that. NOT! They also text me from the bedroom next to mine when they’re supposed to be in bed about things that are keeping them awake – boys, a test, a fight with a friend.
I wanted to learn the technology they embrace so I know what they’re doing online, but also be available through a medium they’re comfortable with. In no way does this replace face to face time, and I consciously make time for that too. And we do have rules about texting that are enforced.
Hey mom, this guy at school just invited me to use Hot Or Not.
I think it surprised her that not only did I know what that was, but that I was upset on her behalf about it. My immediate reaction helped her see that respect is something we have to demand on our own behalf when it’s not given.
Of course, the downside is that I’ve realized I’m as addicted to my phone as they are to theirs. :/ My phone is my office, so I need access to the social media accounts I administrate and to respond to client emails and texts quickly. But I check it incessantly. I text as I walk because I don’t want to wait a minute until I’m sitting down. When I have a spare moment I pull out my phone to play a word search game or check Facebook – again.
I want to be available and keep communication lines open, but I also need to model restraint and the ability to unplug.
All weekend I purposely did not carry my phone with me. I checked it periodically, so there were times they texted me and I didn’t respond immediately. They were perplexed by that. They solved a few problems on their own, they fetched their own snacks lol — and that’s a good thing too. (I’m kidding about the snacks.)
Ultimately, I learned that I have a pretty good relationship with each of my kids and being willing to text with them has helped that. But I also need to model how important it is to put the phone away and be present, unplug, and that silence or a pause (aka a little boredom) is very healthy. To me, staring at a screen (and using headphones especially) appears very uninviting. The whole world is shut out and it’s too easy to lose track of time — and I don’t want to be that person or that mom or have my kids think that’s OK. I haven’t gone this far, but it wouldn’t be hard to fall into this pattern and miss their teen years entirely.
I want to make myself available, but as they grow up I don’t need to be so available (even through texting) that they don’t learn to search out their own answers and solutions.
Do you have teenagers in your house who text? What rules do you have about texting? Do you have an unhealthy attachment to your phone and social media?