Every time a group of women get together, the topic of children comes up. If there are mothers of young adults present, the conversation always turns to the fact that they never get to actually talk to their kids anymore. They only receive text messages.
Many women claim that their children use texting to avoid having to talk with them. They explain that when they call their daughters or sons, their calls don’t get answered. Instead, shortly after the unanswered call, the parent receives a text message asking them what they wanted. They generally seem hurt by this action.
There are several ways to look at this issue. For most mothers fifty or older, the telephone (actual land line, not cell phone) was the main connector when they were growing up. Long distance calls were expensive, so a phone call to or from a child or relative was planned and special. Many kids called home only once every week or two. It was the time for checking in and catching up. Parents were happy to hear their child’s voice, and they could gauge from the tone and interaction how well things were going.
Mothers in their mid-thirties and forties grew up with cell phones. They were everywhere. Short conversations became more frequent. You were no longer tied to land lines, but could reach people anywhere or anytime as long as they, too, had cell phones. The limiting factors became battery life and the number of monthly minutes in your mobile phone plan. Family plans also became popular, and, instead of a call a week, parents and children could touch base on a daily basis, or even more frequently. The conversations were shorter, but they were still conversations. Parents and kids still talked with one another.
As technology has advanced, communication patterns have changed further still. Texting has replaced the person-to-person vocal conversation. Text messages usually are short, cryptic and devoid of emotion. Parents may receive numerous texts from their kids on a daily basis, but it’s difficult for them to determine what or how well they are doing from a text message.
Unlike the younger generation which finds text messaging sufficient, even desirable, for communication with a large number of friends and acquaintances, many parents feel disenfranchised by it. Perhaps most importantly, they feel emotionally disconnected from their children. They want to hear their kid’s voice and have an actual conversation.
This weekend as we celebrate Mother’s Day, let me make one suggestion. Do not text your mother today. Instead, call her directly and tell her how much she means to you. It will be the best present she receives.
Photo Credit: Michele Ursino