photo: Palo Coleman
For those of us who don't see our adult children on a daily or weekly basis, whose children don't live in the same city, time zone or country, communication can be a challenge.
There's texting. Short and to the point, it's good for details--"I'm de-planing. Meet you at baggage claim in 10 minutes;" "Dad's birthday is tmw--I'm just saying." An emoji--a happy face, rainbow or birthday cake--can add a little flavor, charm or even humor. But texting is not a fulsome means of discussing anything that needs nuance or explaining.
E-mail is a longer form of texting. It feels like there's more space and time to write something meaningful. But like texting, it's flat and tone deaf. Stick in what you think is a witty line or a line of humor and it may come across as a scold.
There have been times when Paterfamilias and I have looked at an email or text from one of our kids and thought, "They're keeping their distance." It ain't necessarily so.
Facebook comments are a form of communication. But here it's parent beware: You may enjoy reading about what your kids are doing and thinking--and of advice they're seeking. But they are seeking it from their peers. There are some adult children who enjoy having their parents join in a discussion, but before you hit that comment box, bear in mind that most adult kids don't want to know their parents are reading along--or feel their parents are monitoring their lives.
That leaves the old-fashioned way: the telephone.
We're told by the experts (generally people younger than we are) that our grown children--whether in their 20s, 30s or 40s--do not answer their phones, preferring to hear messages or texts. We can verify. This is true. But one East Coast dad tells me he pre-arranges phone calls with his West Coast son via text-based appointment. As in, he'll send a text: "Can we talk tmw?" and he'll get a one-liner back setting a time.
The calls--whether it's a straight call, Skype or Facetime--do not lack for emotional tone on your part or theirs (unless one of you is a fine actor). But there are frustrations, especially when both the mom and dad are speaker-phoned on the line or sitting together in front of the Skype or Facetime screen.
Three-ways are a problem. You think you're going down one road with a conversation--maybe you even have an agenda or an issue you want to raise--but then the other parent horns in with a question or comment that takes the conversation in a different direction.
Our East Coast friend says that's the point of the pre-arranged call. It is a one-on-one. His son is calling him and only him. He and his wife--the mom--have a rule that only one parent at a time talks to their son or daughter. It leads to more satisfying conversations and feeling of closeness.
There is one hitch to the East Coast dad's system. Sometimes his West Coast son calls at the pre-arranged time and his wife--the mom--picks up and has a long, lovely conversation with her son while the dad taps his toe in frustration. The rule of the house is sometimes a harsh master.