The girls and I have been having some communication issues lately. It’s entirely phone-related and therefore generational.
So, first, we had a mild shoes crisis. M had to dress “professionally” for a school activity. Actually, that’s kind of a story in itself, because she’s doing this Youth Court thing. Basically, if young people in the area get into some sort of minor legal trouble, they have the option of pleading guilty and choosing to go to Youth Court, which is likely to be a bit kinder and gentler than regular court. The Youth Court students attend a training, and then they’re basically on-call until they’re needed, at which point they’re assigned a role, like prosecutor, defense attorney, juror, clerk, or judge, and given a time to show up at town hall. Earlier in the week we’d gotten this notice that M had been assigned to serve on Youth Court on Thursday night. . .Â as a judge. This startled her. Serving as judge seemed hasty, especially since there were plenty of other kids who had actually done Youth Court before, and this would be her very first time. She was a teensy bit panicked. I said, “Well, just do your best to listen and be fair, and remember it’s innocent until proven guilty.”
“No, remember? They have to plead guilty to do Youth Court,” she said.
“Oh, well that’s good!” I said. “So, just try to be fair with the punishment. . . ”
“The jurors decide on the punishment,” she said.
“So. . . you don’t have to decide about guilt or innocence or punishment? It sounds like you’re basically an emcee.”
Yep, that was it. And I think she even had a script. In theory, the judge can overrule the jury and change the punishment, but since it was her first time ever, the chances of that happening were pretty slim. So, really, the biggest challenge of the evening was just looking professional enough to be a judge.
She has outgrown her shoes. She’s also pretty much outgrown my shoes, too. Not that we didn’t try. I rummaged in my closet hunting for black shoes. Unearthed a pair of basic black heels.
“Oh, my gosh, Mom, these are hideous!” said my grateful daughter, who nevertheless squeezed her feet in, Cinderella’s stepsister-style, and began hobbling around my room. “How could you ever want to wear these? I’ve never seen more horrible shoes than—ACK!!”
That little exclamation occurred when she discovered something more awful that the innocuous black heels: loafer-style black heels. She recovered from the shock,Â just barely, but made it abundantly clear that neither pair of shoes would work.
Which is why the Best Mom Ever was trolling Famous Footwear and Target the next day during school. It was a little rough. I knew based on years of shopping for obligatory black flats that her go-to would be the simplest ballet-style flats around. I didn’t see any quite like that. There were the almost ballet pairs at Famous Footwear that screwed things up because they were in velvet and included bows (too prissy):
At Target there were not-ballet-but-basic shoes as well as a style that I knew she liked but couldn’t find in her size in black.
So I texted these pictures and asked her to pick two finalists. It was toward the end of the school day, and I knew she’d have a little time before track practice, so hopefully she’d answer me before I left the shopping center.
She got back to me before I hit the checkout. But then, when I picked her up after track, instead of greeting me in what I’d consider to be the appropriate way (“Thanks for finding me shoes! You’re the best mom ever!”), she told me that I’d really stressed her out. The texts had arrived while she was in class, and she’s not allowed to text in class, but she wanted to respond to me, and she did, but I, the mother, was forcing her to break the rules, and this was really quite terrible of me.
Which is ridiculous because of course she’s not supposed to text in class. I know that. The whole point of texting is that it’s less intrusive than calling, right? Well, that’s what us old people think. My daughters just don’t call people. They pretty much never talk on the phone. In fact, if they’re not texting, they are chatting via video, Jetsons-style. The only time M makes phone calls is when she calls our house to get picked up because she (rightly) doesn’t trust me to check her texts.
So we established that my texts are never urgent, unless I’m either texting her to answer me right away and/or I’m also calling her phone. Which, let’s face it, would be pretty much a useless exercise because her ringer’s always off, but at least if she sees notifications for 5 texts and 1 missed call, she’s more likely to process that information and respond.
M ended up wearing those middle shoes from Target, and apparently the Youth Court was “good.” That’s about all I got out of her, because the whole thing is confidential. I even tried to ask vaguely-worded questions that I thought she could answer without jeopardizing her judicial integrity (like “Do you feel like everyone did a good job?” and “Did the punishment fit the crime?”), but she just kept her lips zipped. I think she appreciated having an official, virtuous reason not to tell her mother a damnthing.
The very next day, I was just finishing up tutoring ESL and chatting with the ESL teacher when my phone started making little text “bings.” Now, generally speaking, if I have a whole big series of text bings on my phone, it’s because there’s some sort of group text going on. Maybe it’s a carpool text or a let’s-go-out-for-drinks text, but it’s pretty much never an urgent text. It’s likely to be a whole bunch of people saying things like “Great!” and “Thanks!” or thumbs up emojis or wine glass emojis. So I finished my 10- or 15-minute chat, then checked my phone. It was J. She had forgotten her lunch and was asking me to please bring it right awa. She had sent a bunch of texts in an effort to get my attention. It apparently hadn’t occurred to her to call me.Â By the time I checked my phone and got within range of the middle school, lunch was over. Apparently the cafeteria ladies will give you food if you forgot your lunch, but J didn’t know, so she didn’t eat anything.
We’ve since discussed phone procedures. The sad truth is that Cute W and I are pretty bad at responding to phone texts and calls, no matter what, but at least in theory the girls know that calls are for urgent matters and texts are for check-ins and emojis. It’s really funny, though, because it feels like phones would put us more in touch than ever, but count on parents and teenagers to always find a way not to communicate.