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The burden of the pioneer

Staying in touch with children in the cell phone age

The burden of the pioneer


When I was in child-raising mode, my mother phoned periodically. I never phoned her. God has given us sure principles to live by, and one of them is “with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). Now it’s my turn to hear crickets, and to feel that each contact of mine is an interruption. 

Last Easter dinner I made them all watch a comedy skit called “Mother” by Nichols and May. An excerpt:

“Hello, Arthur? This is your mother. … Remember me?”

“Mom, I was just going to call you! Is that a funny thing? Do you know that I had my hand on the phone and …”

“Arthur, you were supposed to call me last Friday…”

“I know, I just didn’t have a second. ...”

“Arthur, I sat by that phone all day Friday. …”

“I was working. ...”

“And all day Saturday …”

“I was in the lab and …”

“And all day Sunday. And your father finally said to me, ‘Phyliss, eat something or you’ll faint.’ I said, ‘No, Harry, no. I don’t want my mouth to be full when my son calls me.’ And you never called.”

“Mom, I was sending up a rocket! I didn’t have a second!”

“Well, it’s always something, isn’t it?”

I thought it was hilarious. I turned around and nobody was laughing. 

The introduction of the cell phone has added a layer of complexity not experienced by pre-baby boomers. I feel that gives my age group the burden of the pioneer, hacking our way through the thicket of new philosophical parenting issues like George Washington at Valley Forge, to blaze a path for future generations. Contact is easier than ever, and there’s the rub.

The introduction of the cell phone has added a layer of complexity not experienced by pre–baby boomers.

In the past, lifting the receiver and dialing 10 slow consecutive circular or semi-circular motions on a heavy stationary German coiled phone entailed more of a physical commitment—as well as more of a face-saving feature for the recipient, who could ignore you without hurting your feelings. He was plausibly away from the house, after all.

I was the last person I know to get a cell phone. I purchased my first on April 28, 2012, which I remember because I got married on April 21, 2012. Before I owned it, I used to ask people why they texted when they could call and speak to a live human. I learned the answer quickly: so as to not speak to a live human. Life is busy; texting is efficient.

A couple of years ago I inquired gingerly of one of my grown progeny: “In your opinion, do parents of adult children tend to overdo it or underdo it in terms of texting their children?” “Overdo it,” she said. Then we both pretended the question had been hypothetical, and moved on.

The “group text” is an instructive phenomenon. On the occasions that I have been included in such a thread, in which the other participants are my children, I have noticed that text comments made by any one of them are instantly responded to by all of the other siblings. My text comments, on the other hand, though as amusing as the others, languish in silence till I grow as embarrassed as Eglon’s servant in Judges 3:24. Which I think I am meant to take note of. But I could just be paranoid.

I know a woman who for decades thought she was “a bother.” That identity affected every action of her day, including phone conversations with her children, which she always cut short before the other person had a chance to do so: “Jump before you’re pushed.” Then she went to Christian counseling and changed her mantra from “I’m a bother” to “I’m a blessing,” on the rightly reasoned notion that a Christian is not an annoyance but an ambassador of light.

I’m glad it worked for Michelle, but I might still be lying low in cyberspace for the most part till I get more positive feedback. This is not so much self-protective as respectful of another Bible verse that comes into play past a certain point in parent-child relations: “a man shall leave his father and mother…” (Genesis 2:24). I wonder how Moses got on with Gershom and Eliezer. 


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  • VolunteerBB
    Posted: Tue, 10/01/2019 04:56 pm

    Texting is very useful and not as intrusive as a phone call.  We got rid of our landline ages ago because of all the political ads.  My family uses Snapchat a lot, and it is helpful when we want to tell several in our group the same thing, coordinate family dinners, etc., and use groupchat.  I used to call my mom and dad once a week, just to check in, nice to do even if you don't have anything overly important to talk about.  Andree seems to be saying she is reaping what she sowed, could be.  Andree - sign up for snapchat and send something once a week to the kiddos, it's also a good way to see cute things the grandkids are doing!