Raising kids in our tech-obsessed world can be challenging. In particular, providing advice via text is an interesting lesson in brevity. I like to talk. I’m verbose. I take a long time to explain things because I like to give lots of examples and provide context along with (what I consider to be) humor and detail. But the world of texting does not lend itself to lengthy missives. It’s been a challenge for me to try and express myself clearly when my kids text me, especially when they’re asking for advice.
Try and explain the mysteries of online banking to a twenty-ish year old in a text. I can assure you it’s not that easy.
Recently my daughter was out of the country and her credit card was hacked. It is not easy to explain what to do in a situation like this, via text. I find it particularly difficult to communicate via text when I’m under stress, as my fingers certainly do not keep up with the speed of thoughts running through my head as I try to respond to the problem. So there are a lot of typos and miscommunication and it gets pretty hairy.
But since this is how they communicate, I have to figure it out, so I’m working on it. I tend to react, and immediately start responding with lots of questions and comments, only to realize I’m text babbling, whereupon I stop, take a breath, erase what I’ve just typed, regroup to determine what are the critical points I want to make and then type them out concisely and precisely with little emotion or judgement (or as little as I can summon) so that I can get it all across in a simple, short text response.
It’s really hard for someone like me who likes to expound and pontificate and explain and contextualize. But my kids hate that and so I have gotten a bit better at being more concise. Not perfect, but better.
So, like today. I get a text for advice from my daughter:
Daughter: “Where can I buy envelopes?”
Me: (Wondering how I could have done such a terrible job of raising her that at 23 she still doesn’t know where to find an envelope). “Grocery store, drugstores. Or the college bookstore. They’ll be in the aisle where they sell pens.”
Daughter: “Ok, cool, thanks.”
Me: Smiley face emoji.
My son sends me links to songs he’s listening to. I smiley face emoji them and listen when I have the time, anxious to connect with him via music, happy that he wants to share this with me.
Son: (Links to songs) “These are my 3 favorite songs right now. Enjoy.”
Me: “Cool, I’ll listen to them when I get home from the city later, on the train right now. I’m meeting Mary for dinner and a play.”
Me (later): “I’m listening to Tired boy. I like the jazzy old school sound mixed with contemporary rap style. Nice piano too. Reminds me of music from a 1940’s movie.”
Me: “I like how they mashup Beatles and hip hop on Navajo.”
Me: “Listening to goodie bag now. I like it but like the other 2 better. My fave is tired boy.”
Son: “I would say my faves now r 1. tired 2. Navajo 3. goodie bag.
Son: But they all dope.
See what I mean? I ramble, and put in punctuation and try to capitalize and all that jazz. But my kids are succinct and just type short responses. I’m so hopelessly old fashioned, and I don’t even know what they’re talking about sometimes. I try to write in non-sentence thought phrases like they do but it’s just not me, and so instead I feel so old fashioned, with my fully punctualized texted sentences.
Recently my son responded with a single word “Gucci” to a text I had sent him. I had to send him a text back and say “Gucci?” He then texted me “Gucci = good. “How the heck was I supposed to know that? I didn’t even think he knew who Gucci was. Plus, since I was raised in the 60’s and 70’s, Gucci isn’t necessarily a good thing, since to me it represents the essence of excess. See what I mean? My mind doesn’t work in short sound bites.
On the other hand (I’m a Libra, so there’s always another side), I love that technology allows us to keep in touch any day, any time, no matter where they are or what they’re doing. There’s a certain sense of calm I get since I know I can contact them at any time and can usually hear from them within seconds of a message.
It’s reassuring to know that no matter where they are, they can always be in touch. It’s reassuring when they travel and I love getting the occasional picture of their adventures so that I have a sense of what they’re experiencing. I’m sure it will continue to evolve and who knows what form of communication we’ll be utilizing 20 years from now. As long as we’re still communicating, I promise I’ll figure it out.