What’s wrong with those people who think punching keys on their cell phones counts as communication? How impersonal. How annoying. How ridiculous! That’s how I felt about text messaging—and the people who did it.
Then our son—our youngest—went off to college. I knew becoming an empty nester would change my life, but I never dreamed it would turn me into someone who happily punches away at her cell phone keypad.
It began at Parent Orientation. There was so much to communicate: What time should we meet to buy those last-minute necessities? How had his meeting with his advisor gone? Did he want to come to dinner with us?
“Mom, let me show you how texting works,” my son said, as we were trying to figure out our plans. “Then I can just text you when I’m done.”
How could I refuse him at such a time, even if I did believe texting was the devil’s tool? Even if it meant I had to eat my oh-so judgmental words? Even if, when I went to college, our only means of communication with those outside walking distance were wall telephones or letters?
Maybe those were the good old days, before voicemail and e-mail ate up so much of the day, before Facebook and YouTube and, yes, texting made face-to-face, and even voice-to-voice, communicating seempassé to our teenagers. But I can’t deny thattexting has its advantages. It made Orientation run smoothly, and it also made life so much better once I got back home.
You see, I’d promised myself I wasn’t going to be a clingy helicopter parent. And, much as I miss my son, I still have some sense of appropriateness. What college student wants his mother calling him several times a week? (OK, several times a day.)
Enter the text message. My “How are you’s” are so low key, so unobtrusive. So silent, if his phone is in vibrate mode. He can put off replying until it’s convenient, and texting is so quick and easy, that’s usually only a few minutes later. How reassuring to see my son’s words right there on my phone screen: “I can’t believe I’m actually texting you. Haha. I think I’ve spent more time studying this weekend than any one month in high school.” And “I’m pretty good I guess. I fluctuate between hating this place and not.” And “So I just had my first test in Intro to Recording for Musicians. I got a 96.”
Of course texting can’t replace hearing his voice, and certainly not the sheer joy of seeing his face, which I will get to do at Thanksgiving, and again for Christmas break just a few weeks later (not that I’m counting). But for quick connecting, for knowing he’s surviving and even thriving in his new world, there’s nothing like that beep announcing that a new message has arrived.
Thanks to texting, I can look sane, or—given today’s message is “Do you want to talk? Call me if you want”—even be sane during this time of adjustment to my empty nest. Who knows? Tomorrow I may even try texting someone else.
Award-winning poet and writer Maureen Ryan Griffin, author of Spinning Words into Gold, offers individual coaching and critique, as well as workshops through her business, WordPlay. Find out about her coastal writing retreats and more at wordplaynow.com.