Parenting is a Journey
An Adventure of Discovery Not Only of our Children But of Ourselves as Well
By Tony Hicks
Adults love—and I mean love—griping about their kids and their darned overuse of texttweetyfacetagram on their phones, which are now legally mandated to be surgically connected to the hand of the child’s choice by the time they turn five years old.
Or at least that’s how we old people see it. It’s the modern equivalent of our parents’ and grandparents’ stories of walking 12 miles to school in the snow, uphill ... both ways.
But I’ve got some news for you: It’s not such a bad thing at all.
I mean, at the risk of being tossed from the CPU (Curmudgeonly Parents Union), I say there are some serious benefits to technology when one must parent from a distance.
When my first wife and I divorced, my now 16-year-old daughter was four. And trying to explain, while dealing with her emotions, was easily the worst part of the whole deal.
Guilt, love, obligation, history ... all were factors in my determination to keep my relationship with her alive and well.
But, ironically enough, our relationship got better pretty easily. The same went for my connection with her older sister. I don’t know if it was my doing, good luck, plain old circumstance or the money I was slipping them on the side to be nice to me.
But it wasn’t easy, especially with the younger one. This was 2006, when there was that internet thing they still talk about, and cell phones fifty times the size they are now, and the beginnings of social media (poor MySpace—whatever happened to Tom, the guy who was everyone’s first friend?).
But four year olds were different then. They still played with real toys. They weren’t submitting resumes to NASA before they could dress themselves.
We still used something called a (not “smart” or “I”) telephone, on which we’d push numbers and a live human being would appear on the other end of the line. Then we’d talk. Like, with our voices and everything.
So, being that I was trying to be the world’s greatest father while in the middle of a divorce, I would call my poor kid ... every night. Here she is, four, five, six years old, and she’s got this guy on the horn who can’t think of more than to ask her what her stuffed animals had for breakfast.
Have you ever tried talking to a little kid on the phone on a consistent basis? It’s God-awful. They’re watching TV, or eating crackers, or pulling the dog’s left ear, and they just can’t care about much you have to say.
A dozen years later, I’m going through a similar situation, and thank God—well, that’s not exactly how I should put it, because it’s no fun whatsoever—we now have texting. So when I feel guilty I’m no longer seeing my 9-year-old enough, we text. Short and concise conversations that can be continued at one’s leisure. No awkward pauses. No sadness over why the child would rather smear food on the cat than talk to daddy.
Texting has become a miracle to single parents. It prompts kids to communicate with us. This is a biggie. I don’t think I used any word with more than a single syllable to my parents between the ages of 13 and 18. And the awkwardness of actual, real human verbal interaction is virtually eliminated. Well, as much as is realistically possible. With multisyllable words, even.
Tony Hicks is a newswpaper columnist and the father of four daughters.