When my kids left for college, I had many moments of panic that we would soon be down to the obligatory once a week phone call where we would engage in 10 minutes of small talk, and I would be more or less disconnected from their lives as they grew into their lives as adults. I knew that we would chat and visit occasionally, but I readied myself for the painful process of letting go of my babies.
But then this started happening:
My daughter: How long do you boil an egg?
Me: Far too detailed explanation about the proper way to make a hard-boiled egg.
Her: Thanks moomsy!
Me: yw – love you!
Or this start of a conversation with my twenty-two year old son:
These micro conversations have become the main way I stay connected with my kids. They spent years learning to speak my language, and now I am returning the gesture. Sometimes it’s just a check in, sometimes funny memes back and forth in a group text, sometimes making plans, or details about paperwork and forms, or where to find the soy milk in the grocery store. Other times it’s a mini crisis for which they need advice or help, but it’s not convenient to call: Does this sentence need a comma? I can’t sleep. I miss the pets. I can’t login to Netflix.
And sometimes it’s the big life questions that guide us and help us grow into adulthood while still having the safe haven of the ones who love us the most: How do you know which job offer to take? When did you realize what you wanted to do with your life? What do you do when you can’t stop worrying about something? What if I don’t get into the program I want? How do you know how to be a parent?
I struggle with deleting texts from my kids. These mini conversations about the mundane, the heart wrenching, the struggles, and the hilarious have become a record of our relationship during one of the hardest times in life for all of us – them letting go of home and childhood, and me letting go of them.
We still talk on the phone sometimes — we call when it’s long-winded, when we really need to talk something through, or when we just need to hear each other’s voices. But the texts keep us connected on a level I never would have imagined or hoped for. We have short conversations about every day things, and we have deep conversations about life, making me feel fortunate that I am able to do what I can to guide them through their fears and problems while also being in awe of their courage, their tenacity, and their personal growth.
I had some late night conversations with my parents when I was in college and when I was starting out in my new roles as young wife, young mother, and young teacher. They were amazing and supportive, but part of me wishes we would have had texting. It’s not easy for some of us to name our vulnerabilities out loud – to call our moms and say, “I’m scared to grow up,” or our dads to say, “You inspire me to be a better person.” Our kids don’t always hear us when we tell them how proud we are, that they will be okay, that we were kids once too, that we love them. Texting provides a record – a written mini message that they can read and “hear” my voice when they need it, whether to seek advice about life’s dilemmas or just ask if brown rice is really healthier than white rice.
And yes, I googled it. It is.