Mom finally gets the (text) message
The tiny little screen on my cell phone taunts me. Millions of teenagers text every day, I remind myself. Most are, right now, texting their way through high school math class. If they can do it, so can I.I am determined not to fall behind in the technology race, but quite frankly I wish it were more of a relay than a sprint. At least that way I could hand off the baton when I got too tired to keep up. I can’t blame it on age, either, though there is something to be said for technology being our kids’ native language. But our parents aren’t exactly intimidated by technological advancement. I recently had dinner with a 67-year-old man who whipped out his Blackberry to show me some family photos, and moments later, checked his calendar on the Blackberry and sent an e-mail from its tiny keypad to confirm a meeting. No, I think it’s really a matter of desire to be part of the information age.Actually, I’m managing to muddle my way through a good portion of the 21st century just fine. Turns out it’s the simplest of devices that stumps me: the cell phone. My eighth-grader has a cell phone, and when we bought the plan I almost opted out of the $4 extra for unlimited text messages. At 10 cents a pop I thought, how many messages can a kid rack up? Turns out, if I hadn’t gone with “the plan” we’d have been making payments on all those texts until he graduates high school. One recent afternoon Nick and I were headed to do some shopping, and in the course of the morning his phone rang so many times I thought there must be something wrong. So I checked through the mass of messages to see what was going on. Turns out, nothing. Nada. Zilch. Here’s how one text exchange went:”hey””whats up””nothin U””eatin lunch””Cya””bye”That’ll be 60 cents, please. I was certain when I scanned the inbox on his phone there were going to be some juicy details, some innermost teenage thoughts revealed on the little screen. Not so much. Unless ” whats up” qualifies as teenage angst, I’m still in the dark. I just don’t get the thrill of staying in constant communication and am certainly annoyed by the expectation that it’s necessarily a good thing. Still, I have to remind myself that it’ll be a very long adolescence if I can’t master this one simple communication technique. I may shelter my kids from a lot of typical American media hype, but I certainly don’t want them at a disadvantage when it comes to living in the world we’ve created. So rather than dismiss something that is obviously a very important part of their culture, I decided to try embracing it.Which leads me to the part of the story where I am staring at a tiny little screen, my not-so-nimble fingers diligently working to text a message to my son. My hope is that we may develop a new way of communicating and, secretly, that he’ll think it’s a little hip that his mom texts him. Then again, he would wince if he actually heard me say “hip.”I laboriously peck through the alphabet (who decided it was a good idea to have numbers and letters on the same little pad anyway?), trying to send one simple text message. Eight minutes and three tries later – this would have taken roughly three seconds for any 14-year-old worth her salt – I confidently push “send,” smiling at my newfound skill. My message reads: “Ridd the Bus hom.” With any luck, he’ll just call me back the old-fashioned way. Charla Belinski writes for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and a variety of publications. She also teaches parenting classes at YouthZone in the Aspen and Basalt area. Contact her at Belinskis@comcast.net.
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