Some parents complain about the “texting” era that our children are growing up in. I, too, have my complaints, like when a teenager of mine won’t lift his head up from his phone because he’s too busy texting to talk to me on the car ride home from school. Yeah, that doesn’t fly with me. I have no problem telling my kids “put the phone away” or “let me have your phone” so that I can have their full attention. It happens all the time over here.
We have the typical “no phone at the dinner table” rule, and the “no phone while you are doing homework” rule, and the “no phone in your bedroom when it’s bedtime” rule — but for the most part, I’m okay with texting. And here’s why: I, myself, love texting. I have always been a “writer” of sorts, and communicating with words is my thing.
Texting is also convenient when you don’t want to get sucked into a long phone conversation. I love when my husband sends me a quick text that says, “Thinking of you. Love you.” while he’s at work. This shows me that he might not have time for a phone conversation, but he’s still thinking of me. It’s like sending a kiss through the phone.
I don’t complain that my adult children do not call me often. For the most part, they rarely call me. Instead, what I get is better, I think. I get many random texts throughout the day; to tell me something, to show me something, or to ask me something. These can be quick interactions, or they can go on and be a full conversation via text.
My college daughter might not call me often, but she sends me text messages all the time. The one below was sent from the library while she was studying. It’s especially meaningful to me because this particular daughter has a hard time talking about Baby Aaron. I let her lead when she wants to talk about her baby brother’s condition, and there have only been a handful of times that she has brought it up. On this day, her studies from nursing school made her think of her baby brother, and me, and she took the time to let me know.
My oldest son (24) texts me jokes and will send me funny videos that he knows will make me laugh. He will also send me photos of what he’s doing “right now” and will make me guess where he is.
While some parents might get upset or insulted that their adult children do not “call” them, I try to look at it a different way. This is the era that we are in. Why fight it? Texting is the “thing” and hey, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Texts don’t bother me. I’m just happy that they think of me. These are grown children out of the house who are busy doing their own thing, so if they send me a random text every other day, or engage with me in conversation through texting, that makes me happy. Communication is communication, either written or spoken out loud.
With the minor children living at home with me, I obviously talk to them face to face on a daily basis, but I also have what I like to call our “interactive journals” — one for each child.
I bought these journals over the summer. There is a window on the front cover where you can insert a photo, so I put a photo of each child in each journal so that way I will know just from looking at it who it belongs to.
This journal is for me and the child. It’s interactive. I write in it, and then I leave it on their bed or under their pillow. Then they read it, and they write back to me. Then they put it on my bedroom nightstand so that I can read it and respond.
Here’s one of Aislynn’s entries, age 10.
And one of Aria’s, age 7
And Andrew, age 9
Some entries are longer than others. Some are silly thoughts and some are more serious thoughts, like if their feelings were hurt or if they feel an injustice was done to them by a sibling, or even by me. Some kids write out their thoughts and feelings better than they speak them. Writing things down is a good way to get your thoughts organized so when you do speak them, there’s a better chance that the words will come out correctly. I encourage writing the same way that I encourage reading. I think it’s an important skill to have.
If you are going to start an interactive journal with your child, here are a few suggestions:
- Never make it something they “have” to do. Let it be up to them if they participate or not. When forced, this will not work. Even if you have to write to them a few times before they respond, that’s okay. I find that children, even if reluctant to write back at first, still really appreciate that mom is taking time out to write to them. Sooner or later, they will respond.
- Make sure you establish a rule that no one is allowed to read a journal that is not theirs. Period. All thoughts inside should be confidential between you and the child, not for a sibling to read.
- Have no rule about how much they need to write. It can be a sentence or two, or a full paragraph or two pages. Whatever the child wants to write, in any length, should be welcomed by you.
- Make it a “rule” that there is no “rule” to when you have to write back. The last thing I need as a busy mom of ten is to have “pressure” on me to “write back soon!” Sometimes it takes a day or two for me to read what they have written to me and to respond back. Sometimes it might take a week. When we first started this, they would write to me and then pester me all day long, “Mom…did you write back yet?” I knew they were just excited to start, so I anticipated they would be like that. I had to establish the “rule” that there is no “rule” to when you had to respond. You do it when you have time or when you feel like it. It’s not a “have to” type of thing. That would take the fun out of it.
- Never ever, ever correct their spelling or their grammar. That is SO uncool. That’s a sure fire way to get them to stop writing to you! Just don’t do it, no matter how much you may want to.
- When buying a journal, look for the kind that have no imprinted dates at the top. Also, try to buy the kind that has no space to write in a date. It’s best just to have line paper. That way, an entry can be long or short, and you can just continue where they left off, instead of feeling like you have to start on a new page that has a place for the new date. I got my journals on Amazon.
- And yes…try to guide them to write in the date at the top of each entry. It’s always nice to know when a child wrote so that you can look back one day and know how old they were, or what might have been going on in the family at that time. Dates are important (to me, at least!) These journals will be great keepsakes one day.
And this isn’t really a rule that they have to do, but I have told the kids to try to end each entry with a question for me, and I will do the same for them. This prompts the writing process and gives the other person something to start off with, just in case they have writer’s block.
Anyway, I know that nothing beats the face to face conversations we have with our children, but I do believe that writing has it’s place and it’s benefits. The most important thing with children is keeping the lines of communication OPEN, and if their form of communication is coming to you face to face with a conversation, then great! But if their way is with the written word, whether that be through letters, journaling, or text message…then why fight it? Just go with the flow, take their lead, and enjoy the fact that they are sharing their thoughts with you!