Family

E-Parenting in 2016: It’s Doomed!

Texting with our kids was never in the mom-and-dad manuals

With two young men in our household (one in college, one in high school), there’s a lot of texting going on in our family, not just with friends and other family members but among the four of us — even when all we’re home together.

As a mom, I always prefer the good, old-fashioned, face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball sort of chats with my kids (remember those?). But there’s something else afoot here in 2016 — a wave, a movement, a shift.

And a bit of whiplash.

“What’s for breakfast?” texts one kid from his bedroom late Saturday morning before we’ve even seen his face that day.

I can’t even tap out a response to that before I see incoming from the other son.

“Can I have the car for the day?” reads his text, also sent from a bedroom (maybe from under the bed covers).

“The cats keep fighting,” reads the next text in quick succession (our new kitty keeps pestering the older cat — it’s a thing in our home right now). “There’s a lot of growling and hissing. It’s ugly,” says the text. “Really ugly.”

“Need money for a pair of jeans,” says the next message.

No matter how well we might think we’re handling our teenagers’ communiques, chances are we are flunking completely.

“Help,” says the next text.

Between breaths, we parents are trying our best to A) keep a straight face; B) keep up with the e-flow; C) compose a few quick responses; D) pray our phones don’t break; and E) pray they do break.

Here is why parenting by text is a little like cooking by looking, or like traveling “virtually.”

The deck is stacked against us parents before we even send a single smiley emoji to our offspring. If we give our best “stern parent” answer in a text — things could go sour very quickly. If we’re too soft, we’re fools. If we banter, we’ll lose every time (the kids are better and funnier, always have been). And if we ignore the kids’ texts completely and turn the phone off, well — good luck with that. We’ll be considered aloof, uninvolved, and uncaring, and could even be visited by someone wearing a badge that says “social services.”

No matter how well we might think we’re handling our teenagers’ communiques, chances are we are flunking completely.

As proof that things have gone totally awry, we now endure a dizzying flood of verbal reaction that follows our text responses to their messages. Yes, the kids have come bounding into the kitchen. You’d think the house was on fire.

“Bacon? We have bacon? Where is it?” (This is in response to our text response about what was for breakfast that morning.)

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“I can’t have the car? It’s sitting right there. What’s going on? Does it have gas? Do you need it? Is there a flat tire?” (This is in response to our text response about whether or not a set of wheels was available for the day.)

“Why do I always have to break up the catfights?” (In response to our response about the comment on those fighting felines.)

“I need jeans, sneakers and a new jacket — actually, I need three pairs of jeans. So I need even more money than I thought.” (In response to our response about cash for clothes.)

Whew.

It has crossed my mind, during these crazy communication experiences, to respond with the following comment: “Check your email.”

Or I could try: “I’d post an answer on your Facebook page, but you’ve blocked me.”

Or, this: “I can’t answer you yet because we’re not connected on LinkedIn.”

Or, in a sure sign that we should toss all of this technology and go back to the way things once were, when we had complete conversations that made sense and flowed from Point A to Point B and we all stood in the same room without any devices to work through or figure out — there’s this:  “As soon as you show me how to create a Vine, open an Instagram account and use Snapchat — then we’ll talk!”

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