Just a few weeks ago my son, The Boy, went away on a mission trip. On this trip, they could not take their phones nor communicate back home in any way. They left on a Sunday morning and by Thursday, I was willing to fly, drive, swim or make smoke signals just to hear from him. I picked up my phone to text him a hundred times and then sighed and put it back down.
Let me digress by saying that The Boy and I are not in the best of places. He’s been my sweet and snuggly child since birth. Never any trouble, affable, effortless popular with his peers and a certified chick magnet. My house has always been the place where his friends gather and I am close to them as well. About the time he was fifteen and a half, he left for school and a demon came home wearing his body. “Hi! How was school? I missed you!” I chirped when he came in the door, my arms flung wide for a hug, and something reptilian moved behind his eyes and he snarled and slunk to his room. A sullen, entitled changeling snuggled beneath the sheets on which I had used extra lavender scented fabric softener. A demon sighed every time I asked it where it was going when it headed to its car (that I gave it). In its eyes, I ceased to be cool, which I know is not the case in reality, so I can only assume that The Boy had been possessed.
From that day forward, I’ve seen glimpses of my darling boy, sometimes weeks of sweetness, and then the monster gets control again.
I should have expected this. Cricket went through the same thing, only her great rebellion was black eyeliner, screaming music and an attitude that caused her to be nicknamed “Black Heart”. She popped right out of that at about 17 and has been the sweet dream she was most of her life since then.
I never thought it would happen to The Boy, though, the happiest child on Earth. No matter how much his monster is in control, we still do a fair amount of texting during the day and even that manages to convey a devilish snippiness. A sampling of a recent conversation:
Me: Hey! Where are you?
Boy: In my room?
Me: Is that in question or are you confused about punctuation?
Me: Could you call me please?
Boy: I can’t, my phone is broken
Brilliant response, oh bright one.
Being out of contact made me realize just how much I communicate with my family. Those experts who say that family communication is dead are just wrong.
Cricket and I send approximately 2,000,000 text daily. She texts me about what everyone is wearing in her class, whether it rained when she was walking to her building and what cute boys were at the gym. Then, we discuss people we know. I tell her I just used Soft Scrub on the sink and removed a troubling stain. I tell her I’m at the carwash. I tell her when I am mad at The Goose and why. She backs me up. Next, I tell her all is well and she agrees that he’s the best dad ever. I tell her what her brother wore to school, what I think about the girl he’s dating, the fact that I had to stop for gas and my current calorie count for the day. She texts me that her hair is frizzy and she’s not happy with her shoes.
The Goose texts me his demands for the day. Have I taken the trash to the street? Are his shirts back from the cleaners? Did I call the gas company about a problem? He tells me who he saw at Matthew’s Cafeteria at lunch. He texts me links to news stories in which he knows I have no interest. He texts me to come upstairs to his office. On the way up, I get a text that he needs a Mountain Dew and while going back downstairs to get it, another that he needs his glasses. When he goes to the lake without me, he usually imbibes, out of loneliness from missing me I guess, and drunk texts me silly teenage type declarations of love that cause me to blush and giggle.
The Goose talked with his mother daily. I called it the “Giant Umbilical Cord”. I kinda regret this now that my kids are almost grown because I can’t imagine how often I’ll contact them during the day once I don’t actually see them every day.
My point is, we communicate A LOT.
The Boy got a phone in the 5th grade. Those of you without sin, just get over it. He then proceeded to send 6 consecutive phones through the washing machine, in the pockets of his pants. He would take his allowance and go right back out to Target and plunk down another $12.99 for a new one. I kept waiting for the lesson to sink in. Since then, he has continued to destroy phones, one after another, and our family’s DRAWER OF TECHNOLOGY SHAME is overflowing. I confess that we have all contributed to this. All just to stay connected.
(I know, it’s embarrassing, our drawer of shame)
Here’s the thing. Several days into the week, I had forgotten all the things about The Boy that have gotten on my nerves. I remembered that he really is sweet most of the time, is a great kid, stays out of trouble, mostly, and chooses to bring his friends home instead of roaming the streets with hookers and drugs. He actually does hug me often, even if it is the bone crunching, rib breaking kind. He pokes me, punches my arm and stands next to me, commenting on my height, a teenage boy’s way of showing love. He was on a mission trip, not lying on a beach in PC wondering where his pants got to last night. He is a moral, funny, loyal young man who would be there for any of us in a minute. Some of his friends stayed at my house, having chosen not to go home but to just wait out the week here, and I overheard them, lounging in their pajamas every morning, talking about how much they missed him and counting the days until he came home. There is a FB page where they posted daily pictures of the trip and we scoured each one until we found him, looking cute in a straw hat. At no point did I fume about the state of his closet or glower over the glasses and chip bags left in the basement.
Maybe there is something to “absence makes the heart grow fonder” because I arrived to pick him up an hour early, straining my ears for the sound of his bus and the sight of his tan, sleep deprived self almost brought me to tears. If a week can do this for a teenage boy, maybe we’re all TOO connected? Possibly this is why kids come home from college, husbands come home from business trips, even soldiers come home from oversees and seem all new and shiny, seemingly without their demons in tow. It is conceivable that we just communicate too much and should go back to a time when communication was just face to face? Nah, LOL. TTYL.