That title is a text from my son. I know, I’ve heard it all. You’re supposed to keep the blue-light radiation from their eyes and the EMF from their brains. Kids brains are using less energy on screens than when their sleeping. Constant stimulation can cause attention deficit disorders. Screens are anti-social. If you believe everything out there written about the evils of screens you’d never go near modern technology again. And maybe you’d be right to; we don’t actually know what the long term effects of some of this technology are. But I discovered a wonderful way to connect with my children this week: texting.
As I’m sure you’ve gathered, I’ve been away from home a lot lately. When I’m home, I like to think I’m a pretty good dad. I’ve fostered tight bonds with my kids. As a pro, this means they are very affectionate, love when I’m around and still want stories, songs and snuggles. As a con, this means they are heartbroken every time I’m gone longer than a night. Sometimes, when I’ve been away, we’ve used technologies like FaceTime and Skype to connect. But I’m usually in meetings until odd hours and it’s not like the kids don’t have their own hectic schedules. My people and their people have trouble scheduling us time. But partly that’s because video conference is synchronous. We both have to be present and engaged at the same time. Texting, though, can maintain that connection, but with less stress and scheduling.
You see, my kids aren’t actually old enough to text. They don’t have their own phones. For the most part, at least in the smaller one’s case, they aren’t really old enough to write. But the eldest does have an iPod and we have a household iPad. As far as they are concerned, there really isn’t a difference between the green bubbles of SMS and the blue bubbles of an iMessage, so for all intents and purposes, those devices can text. But why, you ask, would a 6 and an 8 year old be texting? In this latest jaunt, I was 3 timezones ahead. The logical breaks during my day mostly fell during school. The logical breaks during theirs mostly fell during evening events. This was also the last of a long string of travelling for me, so the kids were particularly upset when I left this time. So I decided to try to make this trip as much an adventure for them as for me. Every morning, I got up and did my usual workout routine. But I took my phone along. I took a picture of something I’d discovered and texted it to the kids. I took my phone to my meetings and took pictures of the event so they could see what I did all day. When the kids woke up, they had a little piece of dad waiting for them, and they responded in kind. When I finished my meetings I had pictures of drawings, painted toenails and teddy bears along with short, often misspelled notes of love.
When I came home this time, they weren’t overwhelmed with emotion at reconnecting because we’d been connected all along. Don’t get me wrong, the personal connection was better. After all, we weren’t all sitting around the luggage carousel texting each other. But the messages sent back and forth over the week helped all of us balance our emotions while we were apart. So the next time you see someone texting and think a derogatory thought about getting real-live friends, don’t. If something as silly as “Words with friends” can connect a mother and daughter across continents, a real, if digital, conversation might just be the most important emotional bridge that person has.