How did our parents know where we were, what we needed, or if we had a ride home? The answer: They didn’t!
The advent of smart phones has created an immediate connection between children and parents. It works well and is a useful tool when it imparts exciting information or important information. It can be stressful when you start feeling like an air traffic controller fielding incoming planes at a busy airport. This phenomenon occurs when you are not only getting texts from your children, but also from work and friends simultaneously. This is when your ability to triage becomes crucial.
In the past week, I received some important texts. One daughter was still at school because there was a carpool miscommunication and needed a ride. In another instance, she was accepted into her student leadership group, which she was very excited about. My other daughter needed me to pick up food for a class party.
But, in between all of those important texts, there were also questions about what we’re having for dinner, when I’m coming home, where a certain item of clothing can be located and can I make sure I pick up milk and cereal on my way home from work. Mixed in between, there is news about a sick relative, photographs sent from my co-worker from the courtroom during a murder trial, an ongoing logistical thread with the babysitter, and notes to myself about items I need to put on our home calendar and errands that I need to run. (Yes, I routinely add to the pandemonium).
So, how do we triage our children’s need for an immediate response from us in our immediate gratification world? My rule of thumb is that I always take my children’s calls and read their emails and texts as soon as I see them. I remember my mother, who was a busy attorney, always taking my calls even when she was in a meeting with a client.
“Mom?” I said tentatively as I could tell I was on her speaker phone.
“Yes, Amanda, I’m here with a client, but I have a moment,” she would say cheerfully.
“Never mind,” I responded embarrassed.
“What is it?”
“Well, I was looking at the Pottery Barn catalog at that rug we were talking about …”
You get the idea.
Sometimes, I have to tell my kids I’m on deadline and can’t talk, or I have to make a quick response in a few words to their digital communications to tell them basically the same thing. This is accepted with a varying degrees of understanding. If it is a situation that needs immediate attention, and I am not in a position to help, I tell them to call their father.
Regardless, I always try to respond with love, the actual word “love”, or a the corny heart emoji. They often tell me they love me too in their electronic communications, an unsolicited reward of what many believe is an impersonal digital connection. The bottom line is that no matter how we communicate with our children, the fact that we are communicating with them is key.
As parents, we will all make mistakes. Chances are our children when they grow up will recall that we were at times distracted, not available, not present, not always engaged. But hopefully, they will remember they were, and always are, loved …
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.