“A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.”
– Arthur Miller
Well, I said that if Sue Shellenbarger didn’t cover all the tips I gave her about texting to your adult kids that I would post them here. And it turns out that indeed, I must. Shellenbarger wrote me a very kind email apologizing because her editors at The Wall Street Journal decided that they wanted her ‘Work and Family’ column today to focus on parents texting to the teens that they live with, sometimes while they are together in the same house, in fact even the same room. So, though she read my book Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest (available on Amazon), she was unable to cover any of the advice and idiosyncrasies I discussed with her in a half hour interview that I prepared for by chatting with my four twenty-something children about texting with parents. Zoë, Cole, Hudson and Lily gave me tips both practical and slightly challenging, but all sensible.
My twenty-seven year-old son, Hudson, said that the ethnography of the millennials is such that texting has become its own language. He says people will text yeah, or nope because yes, or no sound abrasive and formal in text. Growing up in the culture, it becomes second nature to understand the unwritten rules of text, but as boomers we sometimes behave like Jane Goodall. He is right. I still find some of us boomers texting as if we’re engaged in old-school letter writing, instead of going back and forth with messages like the younger set do. My oldest son, Cole, has often advised, “Mom, you can’t send too many texts and they can’t be too long, keep them direct and I’ll get back to you asap.”
What I’ve realized myself though, is that texting is different for each gender. My two daughters will engage in longer text messages quite happily, though both Zoë and Lily agree that with texting being so prevalent phone calls are reserved for their closest friends or family members because calls now seem so intimate.
I’ve learned from communicating via text with my kids that being negative gets me nowhere. As my kids (and I) mature that’s been a positive lesson, of course. Instead of starting with the demanding, Hey, how come blah, blah, blah?… I’ll turn my text around to a positive request.
When all four of our kids were still at home, ours was a noisy, active household, now when it’s quiet and I’m missing that, I’ll send out a text to each one and wait for those little ding-dings of communication back. It lets me imagine them in their world for a minute. We all know that it can be annoying to be with a friend or family member who is texting away to someone else, and to them I think – love the ones you’re with, but with a few text lessons from millennials we can communicate better with the ones we love.