Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Selective Communication

Last month, my son sent over 15,000 text messages. He's in the eighth grade, and when I saw his usage, I knew, instantly, what had to be done: a psych consult. What had I done wrong that my son would send 500 text messages a day?
That's nothing, his friends assured me. Then I heard tales of over 30,000 messages, they reminded me that you have to count messages received, and all the while they were talking, they were texting, and receiving texts. In my day, it was the phone - a constant war waged between me and my parents about my extensive phone usage. They kept asking me why I had to speak to kids I had just left at the bus stop, and they reminded me, over and over, that a phone call is meant to last no longer than 3 minutes. Probably, I would be a 2008 textaholic as well. All teens want to do is talk to each other. So, he 's communicative, I told myself last Friday,a communicative male. Not so bad. What I forgot is they communicate WITH EACH OTHER and not, necessarily, with adults.
Here's the conversation between Philip and I on Friday evening:
Me: I'm taking your sister to her dance recital rehearsal. I'll be back around nine.
Philip: I'm going out. To church.
Me: Tell the truth.
Philip: Youth group meeting.
Me: Stunned silence. Brief image of my long haired son celebrating the Eucharist in ten years.
Philip: Texting.
Me: You are doing this voluntarily?
Philip: This girl asked me.
Me: Silent. ('Cause I get it).
I know and like the folks who run the church youth group, and when he assures me he has a ride there and back (with the girl), I am secretly delighted that he is involved with a group known for their diligent community service.

Fast forward. Ten at night. After going to our church at 9:00, I am told there was no youth group meeting. I go on AIM, send a myspace bulletin, text his friends, drive by our church again, peer at every group of adolescents I see. Philip is not answering his phone or texts I am sending him. I am frantic. If he's not answering his texts, it only means one thing...
The kids get back to me, and give me the phone number (imagine starting a conversation with "the girl who asked him" as the only identifying factor - then imagine the kids knowing who this was).
Turns out, he had gone to the youth group meeting. The youth group went to see a concert in a rented bus and they were not allowed to use their cell phones during the bus ride or the concert.
"Jeez, Mom, why are you so upset?"
"You have to TALK to me more. You went to a Baptist youth group, and we're not Baptists. That was an important piece of information."
"Man," he says, opening his phone to read his new text, "I'm sorry, Mom, but it's like you want to know every single thing about me."

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