Sunday, August 5, 2012

21st Century Family Communication

For parents of adult children who embrace technology and social networking, this is a fabulous time for family communication. Yesterday, as most days, I touched base with all three of my children in one way or another. Sudi texted, Akili phoned, and my girl posted on Facebook and tagged me (fun flurry of comments ensued). And yesterday didn’t even include an email from any of them. Each of my children has their preferred way to communicate.

Sudi is fairly impossible to reach via any method other than texting. So texting it is. And if we need a conversation I text “call me” and he texts back “why mom?” – OY! But then he calls. I rarely use my cell phone (I work at home and there’s a perfectly functional phone on my desk) plus it doesn’t have a keyboard so it’s clunky to use for texting (it’s an old flip phone). However, if I need to reach my youngest I turn the phone on and text. It never ceases to amaze me how swiftly he responds to a text and how slowly he responds to anything else. He never listens to his voice messages so that’s useless.

Akili calls me all the time. Whenever he has dead air in his life, like when he’s stuck in traffic or walking to the grocery store, he calls me. During the four months that he was recovering from his broken ankle in early 2011 he called me every day, often more than once. Then he got a job and he called me every evening at 4:30 when he was stuck in commuter traffic. These days he calls at least four times a week, usually more. He sometimes emails us a link to a funny vid or image, or to a movie trailer. We rarely text unless I’m out of town. He responds if I email him, but I don’t need to do it much since we talk so often.

Then there’s my daughter, who rarely calls. But she emails me often and she frequently communicates via Facebook, where she posts hilarious images and jokes on my wall or her father’s or her own (and we exchange comments). Akili took down his Facebook account last year and Sudi has no personal account. If I text any one of my children, I get a reply immediately. It’s as though they go through life with one eye constantly on the cell phone. Everywhere. Online in the grocery store, at the movies (it vibrates silently), in the dentist chair, restaurants, clubs.

Meanwhile, my husband and I email each other throughout the day. I sometimes feel as though I’m at “family central” here in my study with my computer and cell phone, communicating with everyone. And even though Ron and I live miles away from our children, we remain part of each other’s daily lives as if we lived down the street. It’s good for them because we are not near enough or involved enough to cramp their style or meddle in their affairs, but we remain connected and know right away if something terrific happens or a challenge arises. Good deal.

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