Mom of 3, television journalist, entrepreneur, founder whereparentstalk.com, healthcare communications
We flirted with fairness recently, opting to buy our daughter, the third of our three children, a cell phone for her 12th birthday. It was the only thing she asked for, and had been asking for quietly for at least a year — and likely longer.
We had previously bought cellphones for each of our boys when they were in grade 7 — because each was taking public transit to get to school.
(Despite that strong reason to purchase a cellphone, it was still something my husband and I grappled with mightily for a host of reasons, still not understanding why children need a mobile phone device on their person during the waking hours of each day.)
Our daughter got a cellphone in grade 6. It came on the heels of consistent outstanding achievements academically, athletically, artistically and elsewhere. The rationale and body of work made the decision a little easier to justify — only a little.
Needless to say she was elated when she opened the gift on her birthday. We all watched — parents, brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins — as she carefully peeled back that final strip of birthday wrapping paper to reveal an iPhone (chosen only because it made sense with our family’s other Apple devices).
She was absolutely overcome. And with the pure innocence of a young girl covered her eyes and held her face for several seconds, as the tears began to flow. It was a raw, sweet moment that we will likely never forget.
One thing I didn’t give much thought to with this purchase and what has become a happy cellphone circumstance is getting to know my daughter even more — thanks to texting.
Let me stop here for a moment and declare that despite watching history unfold through our eyes every day when it comes to the type, range and quality of communications vehicles at our disposal — never before seen in the history of the world — many of us have a long way to go when it comes to the quality of our interactions.
I know plenty of people who hide behind emails, voice mails, call display — you name it and they’ve found new and annoying ways to avoid human contact.
I will go on the record as sounding happily old-fashioned when I say that face-to-face contact, conversation, interaction is something I value and will seek, wherever possible — except perhaps with people who like to hear their own voices, those who slip off onto wild tangents or those who either cannot submit a reasonable meeting agenda or stick to one (in the workplace environment).
There are plenty of valid reasons to be wary of social media, even have a healthy fear of it, if you are a parent. We all know what they are and we should continue to be vigilant. One of the positives is what you learn about your child through succinct, rapid-fire messages called texts.
The text is enabling a whole new level of understanding of each other (my daughter and I), and for now it could not be more fantastic!
In our particular case, she has an incredibly sharp wit, so you can find me peering down at my phone from time to time (usually after 3 p.m.) and laughing out loud when she recounts her school day in 10 words or less. It’s hilarious, quite frankly. That is ONLY if she did not have a day where she was “bored out of my eyeballs,” as she puts it!
In its own unique, almost unorthodox way, texting forces kids to focus on their message, get to the point, be clear about what they are communicating, ensure no confusion or else they might be stranded at the wrong movie theatre for longer than expected.
TRY to remember proper spelling (one can always hope, can’t one?). Even manners and politeness become part of this equation. When all of these things happen, you end up with a message that is more often than not a small little nugget of truth.
I would submit that you also get a glimpse into how a child thinks, reasons, plans, makes decisions, organizes themselves — all behaviours that many parents will argue they wonder about these days —- in the era of mass, reckless helicopter (overprotective) parenting and other curious parenting practices.
If my daughter or sons send me a text laden with mystery or intrigue or unanswered questions, I will check the time (if it’s a school day) and promptly call them to get clarification. It’s amazing what you may hear in that moment.
As a communications professional, I’m generally always fascinated by messaging, no matter who crafts it, how it is formed and what vehicle it is transmitted in. I find texting with my children, in a word, nothing short of — riveting.
With two older teenage sons, my husband and I continue to have the experience of learning about our boys through texts. I have to admit that with all three of them, my favourite texts are the sometimes unexpected ones that say “thanks Mom” or include some other message of gratitude.
Now with our daughter’s thumbs doing the talking, it’s a whole new and different world!
My understanding of emojis/emoticons, abbreviations/acronyms and text-speak have also expanded quite nicely, TY and LOL!
While never intended to replace conversation, a chat or discussion in our house, texting has proven to provide interesting insight into our kids, their character and personalities, and inevitably into how we parent, by deepening our understanding of what makes our kids tick in different situations and how they go about thinking their way through it — all by themselves.