Family Practice: Are you there world? It’s me, LaneyWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Not to be outdone by Thomas Edison’s “Mary had a little lamb,” my daughter Laney’s first text message via the Kindle Fire she purchased with her birthday money was “<3;);)<3;);)<3” (i.e., heart, winky face, winky face, heart, winky face, winky face, heart). Um, not sure if I’m ready for this. Eight minutes later she followed it up with “I love you mom,” which was followed three minutes later by “I love you sooooooo much.” Punctuation malfunctions aside, I suppose this whole thing could grow on me.
As with most novelties, the texting blitz went on most of the morning, throughout the day and into the night. I received messages of “marry Christmas,” “Happy thanksgiving,” “Its almost Christmas :P” and “I am happy” (followed by 13 smiley faces in lieu of a period). Ten messages in two hours 20 minutes and that was just the very beginning.
By 11:15 am she had gone beyond texting friendly, passing comments and moved into more practical utilization. “Can we go now” (no question mark). By 6:30 pm we entered silly territory as she pretended that our dog, Rex, was the one texting. “Hello mom love you this is rex” (Rex apparently has the same punctuation issues, capitalization missteps and love for his mother as Laney). At 7:16 pm, via text, I even received the good news that I’m the best mom ever, a much higher honor than anything Pulitzer or Nobel has to offer if you ask me.
Despite some pretty incessant beeping, it wasn’t long before I began to realize that Laney’s discovery of a new, often-criticized communication tool really wasn’t much of a bad thing. To my surprise, her “written” language was much more focused, succinct and heartfelt than I have known her spoken language to be. She had even taken on a more happy-go-lucky persona in texting form than I think of her in regular, everyday, face-to-face life.
Part of me was concerned. How could my child show such a different side of herself in writing than she shows in daily verbal conversation? I suppose I might as well be asking the same question of myself. I’m not necessarily a different person in writing than I am in conversation, but it is much, much easier to express myself in such a manner.
In fact, things like email, texting and especially social media are a huge boon for people who think more clearly when their fingers do the talking, me very much included. My daughter is articulate but can become easily frustrated when thoughts in her head don’t roll quite as smoothly off of her tongue (I think that’s what’s happening anyway). She tends to either lash out, flake out, enter silly mode or shut down altogether when her mouth doesn’t match her mind. I can completely relate.
I suppose I could worry about the disconnect as a deficiency, but I’ve grown rather tired of everyone’s idiosyncrasies being considered obstacles to be hurdled rather than strengths to be honed. If you write better than you speak, great. If speak better than you write, fantastic. Either way, you’re lucky enough to have a communication channel that suits you.
Of course, with all pluses come some minuses. The cute mini love letters Laney was sending me via text turned into a few pleas to know where I was and when I would be home when I slipped out to do some Christmas shopping. “My mommys the best” became “Are you ther yet” and “Pleeeeeeeeaaaaaaaasss come home.” My 7-year-old little girl suddenly became a 47-year-old mother whose 16-year-old hadn’t returned home with the car. Apparently, cell phones are as much for keeping track of parents as they are for keeping track of children.
Laney learned from the best. A rare night out with just my husband generated a text from our 9-year-old that pleaded, “Mom it’s jack can you get back in like 10 minutes.” My response as to why resulted in a short and sweet “I’m tired.”
Still, the positives seem to definitely outweigh the negatives at this point. My kids’ texts have allowed me to quickly pinpoint their grammar and punctuation hiccups, and they seem much more receptive to correcting texts than to correcting homework. It has also helped me identify their strengths. Laney’s inaugural text, for instance, proved that she knows her way around a pattern, be it hearts and/or winky faces. Most of all, though, it seems to give them a confident voice for those moments, or even entire phases of childhood, when they’re just not sure how to say it out loud
Shannon and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.