I recall the very first text message I received from my Dad. It was significant because my sister and I had feverishly been working to educate him on how to use this feature on his flashy new iPhone that was solely his, rather than sharing the phone of our step mom. We explained to him that it would save him minutes on his phone plan, thus lowering his bill. In actuality, we were trying to save ourselves. As thoughtful and wonderfully genuine as his routine Sunday night phone calls were, they had begun to get a bit too routine. So once again, on Sunday night, about halfway through Entourage, my phone lit up, but there was no ring this time. I heard just a single “PING.” I reached, and smiled. Mission Accomplished! The pop-up read, New message from Dad –
All caps, no punctuation. It was a process, but he quickly gained confidence in this newly discovered medium and as he honed his skills, the frequency of our communication began to increase. We were soon chatting at least 2 to 3 times per week. When baseball season started, it doubled to 4 to 5 times per week. And the best thing about it was that I welcomed his messages and was eager to respond. I couldn’t quite say the same for our cumbersome phone converstions.
Let’s face it, men. We’re not great communicators, especially in comparison to our higher evolved female counterparts. If it’s not in regard to sport or basic necessities such as food, beverage and arguably sex, we don’t have much to say. We speak our minds to the extent that these needs are met and leave the elaboration to our beloved women.
For these reasons, I proclaim text messaging to be the best thing that has ever happened to a father/son relationship and these 6 reasons are proof. If I’ve missed something, feel free to leave a comment.
- It’s Simple – If Dad has thumbs, he can probably pull it off. He might have to adjust the font to a size befitting a billboard, but he’ll squint through it.
- It’s Commitment Free – And you know how we feel about commitment. It’s an ordeal to make a phone call these days, am I right? You have to set aside time. There is planning and scheduling involved. Phone calls have recently become afternoons. “Sorry, this afternoon just won’t work. I have a call.” No scheduling required with a text message. Fire away.
- It’s Result Driven – And that’s what men want, right? We want results. We drink to get results, we date to get results, we work-out to get results, we eat to get… wait, that’s the only exception. We eat because we like to eat, but we communicate to get results and text messaging is the best way to facilitate. If we want answers, we don’t want deal with the associated small talk that’s required with a phone call. Results only.
- It’s efficient – Parents tend to get long-winded and text messaging is a definitive way of removing the guesswork that preceded previous forms of parental communication. By guesswork, I mean an unexpected Q and A about something entirely trivial and completely unrelated to the subject at hand. My Dad isn’t a rambler, but he does tend to get sidetracked with his favorites subject, my employment status. My dad is of the belief that if you’re not clocked in, literally punched into a time clock, that you’re wasting your time. I can understand this, I’m pretty sure he was carrying milk cases before he could walk. My grandfather was the milkman. What a wonderfully nostalgic occupation, right? Grandpa LaBoube is still alive and quite mobile at 90, but doesn’t hear so well. Someone should teach him to text message.
- Text Messaging Expands Communication – It allows us to talk about things that we’re too lazy to pick up the phone and say. I’ll explain this with an example. My Dad and I don’t have much in common, but one thing we share, is undying passion for St. Louis Cardinal baseball. In fact, I drank my first beer and puffed my first cigar with my Dad on October 20th, 1982. I didn’t chug and crush the can on my head, but I had a sip and a puff. The point is, we bond over Cardinal baseball. Unless there is something truly extraordinary taking place, such as the annual Braunshcweiger Ball organized by my step mom, he’s usually tuned in, and so am I. Prior to text messaging, unless it was the playoffs, I never would have picked up the phone to ask my Dad what he though of Tony LaRussa’s decision to leave Jason Insringhousen in the game to blow another save. That’s the beauty of texting. It keeps us connected and allows us to share the trivial things that matter to us. God forbid anyone call Cardinal baseball trivial, but you know what I mean.
I recent’y moved to Jakarta Indonesia and even though we’re 10,000 miles and 12 hour time change apart, the comradery we share for Cardinal baseball has more life than the right arm of Carlos Martinez. We use an app called WhatsApp. It’s amazing. You can text, send pics and video, even voice memos. And best of all, it’s entirely free. And you know how much Dad’s love free stuff.
- Text Messaging Allows Us to Say Things We Might Find Difficult to Say Face to Face – Sentimentality is not our thing. We have trouble speaking from our hearts, but behind the pocket sized curtain of our phones, we can elaborate without fear of exposing our sensitive side. Here’s another example, I’m currently trying to re-invent myself as a writer. I published my weight loss book a couple of years ago, and I’ve since been maintaining a health and wellness blog , but this new adventure in writing is something entirely different. My health and wellness blog is like writing a research paper, it’s boring. However, the information has value, so even if the delivery is poor, those in need of the information will read. A lifestyle blog is more complicated in the sense that you actually have to deliver your content in a way that will not only educate your readers, but also entertain them. As a result, you want to know if what you write is any good and finding the right person to do the critique-ing has proven difficult, so I muscled up the courage to ask my son via WhatsApp.
For a 20 year old, Isaac is very well read, which is more of the reason I wanted to reach out to him. I wanted his professional opinion. He once read one of my favorite novels in a single sitting. Yeah, a 350 page piece of literature (not an Emily Giffin beach read), in a single sitting, pretty impressive for a 15 year old. So given his affinity for the written word, I thought he’d be the perfect would-be editor to critique my How to Run blog. However, and I’m sure other writers will agree, it’s difficult to share your work. It’s very intimate and the fear of failure and/or embarrassment looms large. As a result, I likely wouldn’t have asked him to oblige me in this odd request had we been in a face to face situation. But again, behind the curtain, I was able to open up. His response makes me tear up as I type, just as it did the afternoon I received it…
I was at my office in Jakarta and I had to excuse myself to a treatment room. It made me think of all of the hours Isaac and I sat next to each other in the car making the triangle between Dogtown, O’Fallon and WashMo. Sure, we talked. We talked business. We talked about school and grades and the latest South Park episode, but it was as though we had a giant wall between us, shrouded in a thick ivy of foolish masculinity, preventing us from sharing our thoughts and feelings, all of the things that really matter. We often sat in silence, when all I really wanted to do was get to know him a better, but didn’t know how to ask the questions.
Asking questions is what Isaac’s Mom does. I always loved the time I spent with Isaac and Wendy. She’s brilliant at chatting him up and getting him talking. Moms are generally good like that with their boys. I always learned so much about Isaac in those moments with Wendy, that naturally became few and far between when she married. I certainly don’t hold any grudges, but its upsetting that I missed out on so much of the playful banter that passed so effortlessly between the two of them, especially as Isaac grew older. I can’t get that back, but I can work to improve upon it in the future using all relevant and contemporary tools available to me.
Communication is more than just functionality. It’s about insight and understanding. Women get that, but we’re a bit behind the times, guys. Keep that in mind when you reach out to your Dad today. Think beyond the results. Ask him about his childhood. Ask him details of his father. Tell him you love him. And if you can’t say it, send him a text. A better relationship is, quite literally, at your fingertips.