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My baby starts middle school in a few weeks. Apart from the normal mom-trauma associated with such a transition, there is this: We promised him a cell phone when he reached this critical point of development. You know, for emergencies. In case he is attacked by some rabid upper-classman or something. Soo…a couple weeks ago my husband took our two boys to the AT&T store to pick out new phones. We have managed to avoid text messaging up until this point. But the youngest would not be denied. They returned from the store with an iPhone for dad (funny how that happens) and three nifty little text-friendly models for me and the boys. Joy. With clumsy thumbs I typed my boys’ numbers into my new contacts folder. That first week, we were a flurry of texting activity--anxious to hone our skills with small keys. I would return to my office after doing rounds at the hospital to find the sweetest of messages from my youngest. I luv U, mom. Maybe this texting thing isn’t so bad, I thought, as I typed in my reply. Replying was no problem. It was when I initiated that I got into trouble. Slugbug, I typed to Youngest one day on the way home from work (while stopped at a red-light, of course). The response was cryptic. A simple question mark. Brush your teeth. When out late one evening. Who R U?? The strange response. Haha, I thought, and ignored my son's silliness. Almost home, I replied. Dude…who…R…U? Again, I ignored my son’s eccentricity. The week went on in much the same way. Each time I sent my son a text he responded with this silly delusion-- maintaining ignorance regarding my identity. It wasn’t until the end of the week that I discovered the error of my ways. We were having lunch with some friends. I was giving the boys’ new cell phone numbers to the young ladies we were dining with. When I gave them my youngest’s number, his brother said, that’s not right. That's not his number. What? Of course it is. I’ve been texting him all week. And then the Aha moment. I put my hand over my mouth. I told a stranger to brush his (or her?) teeth. What else had I texted? As I corrected my contact information I felt…deflated. And here I thought we had established a fun little banter. I was feeling very tech-savvy. And closer to my boy. The whole experience made me ponder. Does texting really bring families closer together? Like all my friends tell me? Or is it some ruse designed to make us feel good about that disappearing gem called family time? In a recent survey of 1,017 teens and 1,049 parents of teens conducted by TRU Research, 90 % of texting parents said they feel closer to their teen as a result of the medium. 58 % of teens said the same about their parents. (Not a bad ratio when one considers that perhaps the other 32% have parents who are accidentally texting strangers.) A similar survey was administered to a smaller sample via Facebook by University of Nebraska Kearney Family Studies major Denise Rice. Her results indicated texting is used to share information and make plans with both family and friends, but rarely is it used to pass time or strengthen relationships with family--though it is used in this manner regularly with friends. Rice concluded the high tendency to build non-family relationships through texting most likely has either no effect or a negative impact on family relationships. I think we’ll see more research on texting and relationships in the future, but I tend to think the truth of the matter falls somewhere between these two extremes. I’m not having deep, meaningful conversations with my boys via texting, but I am communicating with them in the middle of a busy work day for the first time ever. That’s got to be good, right? The newness of texting seems to have worn off in our family, but occasionally I still find something sweet in the inbox from my youngest. These little messages are made sweeter by the time we share together—the moments that give voice to the strange hieroglyphics I sometimes receive in text. Texting may not be the ultimate upgrade to bring a family closer, but it can open some doors for some fun sharing. Especially if your mother is all thumbs. That’s one for the history books. What about you? Is there an "upgrade" your family or circle of friends has made that seems to have changed life in some way? Photo, Text, by Louisa Barber, used with permission. Post by Laura Boggess.
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