Ahh – good communication skills. Have you noticed how much we tend to throw those three words around? We claim to want them – in our relationships with our spouses, our kids, our friends, our parents, at work.
We even put those words on our resumes:
…I am very organized and possess “good communication skills”… and blah, blah, blah.
And yet – people are communicating less and less. Sure, our Facebook friends like our statuses. Our followers retweet our tweets. Our family members comment on our Instagram photos. And we text each other like texting is our job.
When J. and I were first married, there was no Internet. No texting. Just phone calls and face to face…wait for it…communication. Looking back, I don’t know that it was necessarily good communication. But that’s what happens in the honeymoon phase:
I don’t have to tell him what I want or need because he just knows (yeah, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little).
She doesn’t need me to tell her. After all, she finishes my sentences for me. Um, yeah.
While a lack of communication isn’t the sole reason our marriage broke down, it was certainly a contributing factor. But just because we aren’t together anymore, doesn’t mean we don’t still have to communicate. After all, we still have a son to parent and he is watching us more now than ever before.
Apparently, we have a loooooooong way to go as evidenced by today’s events:
My teenager was set to attend a field trip today, leaving the school at 9:30 am and returning at 5 pm. Because I was supposed to have attended a concert with my parents and wouldn’t be back in time to pick the teen up, I had texted my teen’s dad on Saturday asking him to pick the teen up instead. My text read:
“Can you pick M. up from school tomorrow at 5pm and bring him home? I will be at J’s performance and won’t make it home in time.”
His response (via text of course) was “ok”.
Once I got the response I was looking for, I texted my teenager (who stayed the night at a buddy’s house): “Dad is picking you up from your field trip tomorrow, but I will still drop you off in the morning, ok?”
To which my son, texted “ok”.
Seems pretty straightforward, right? Here’s what really went down.
I took my teen to the bus at 9:30 am. He’d had breakfast, his vitamins and I gave him spending money. What he neglected to tell me until we were walking out of the front door was that his phone charger had broken the day before (at his buddys house), his phone was now dead, and he needed a charger. My charger.
So, of course I gave it to him because you never know when there is an emergency, right?
Fast forward to mid-afternoon. I had been home sick the entire weekend but was relieved that at least the teen’s dad would be picking him up from the field trip so I didn’t have to leave the house again. Wrong.
Teen texted me to say “I’m here”.
Not, “I’ll be at the school in about 15 minutes”.
It was not 5pm. It was 4:10pm.
Problem #1. Why was my son texting me? His dad was supposed to be picking him up. After all, he had texted the words “ok”.
But his dad lives in a town 15 minutes away. Although I was sick, I was home and not at the concert. Easier to just go pick him up.
Problem #2. Because my own phone wasn’t fully charged and I was without my charger, my phone DIED as soon as my son’s text came in. But that shouldn’t matter because I’d be seeing him in 5 minutes anyway and would get my charger back, right? Wrong.
Problem #3. I sat at the school for 20 minutes watching every other kid get into a car. My own kid was nowhere to be found. It occurred to me that my son must have realized that his dad was supposed to have picked him and he texted him instead. So I came home…to find an empty house.
Problem #4. My son did come a few minutes later. One of the other kids gave him a ride home and he was completely oblivious to what had occurred. “But Mom, I texted you “Nvm I got a ride”. Yeah.
Problem #5. I put my phone on MY charger and, as soon as I could, I texted my son’s dad. “Never mind about picking up M. He is already home.”
And do you know what my son’s dad did? Texted me back: “What do you mean? I’m picking him up Monday right?”
See, he actually read the text on SUNDAY. Even though it was delivered on SATURDAY. So, to him, “tomorrow” was Monday. You see where this is going right?
So, I have come to a new understanding of what it means to have “good communication”. Because the message you send isn’t necessarily the message that is received.
And we only have to look at the breakdown of families, the loss of friendships, and the problems in the workplace as proof. Emails have a purpose. Texts can be quick and efficient. Facebook is fun.
But when it comes to good communication...dare I say real communication, word of mouth is best. And even though I’ve been parenting for 25 years (my son is the only one left at home) I have to make some changes myself. Because if I don’t start modeling better communication skills NOW, I’ll be doing a lot of apologizing to my future daughter-in-law later.