Covert Calling

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When the kids were living at home, we never picked up the phone. Ever. It wasn’t even a screening situation, we just didn’t pick up. Now that they’re gone, we screen, but only because we’re hoping it’s one of them calling. (As if)

Marital discord followed this shift in phone behavior. When one of the kids finally called, we got on the phone together. Big mistake.  She hated it when I interrupted to make boy-centric cracks. I hated having to hold the reciever away from my ear when she spoke.  Bickering and changes in sleeping arrangements followed.

As mature parents do, we moved on to a new communication modality, talking to the caller separately, one after the other. The problem here was that the first one to the phone got an animated conversation, fresh and full of detail. The second one got Carl from “Sling Blade”, begrudgingly repeating the same details in monotone, or, worse, got blown off entirely with “I gotta go. Mom will tell you everything.”

So, I’m done. No more racing across the house to get to the phone first. No more wrestling my partner for the receiver. From now on, I’m going with covert calling. Shut the office door. Dial up the offspring and have a lengthy and fulfilling conversation that I can gloat about over dinner.

Now all I have to do is figure out a way to get the kids to pick up…

23 thoughts on “Covert Calling

  1. I can totally relate! I have come to dread the group skype. Aidan talks over phil and I, then phil and tim start talking endlessly about some sports crap, then I just sneak out. Now I just call Tim from my office.

  2. That is so funny. I throw something about the Chicago Bears (our team), Anna wants to stay on point about classwork, and expenditures. Then Anna or I say “This is my call!”, then it all goes south.

  3. One word: Google Hangouts. Oh wait, that’s two words.
    But it rocks. You can both talk, both hear everything. And it’s free, and more reliable that Skype. What’s not to love?
    Karen (who does not work for Google. Seriously)

  4. Your boys are so fortunate to have you guys as parents – another piece of brilliant writing Sam!
    It is IDEAL if you can be ’emptynesters’ together – Congratulations Anna Darling and Sam Darling too , for making it through! XFi

  5. “Ok”,….
    ( briefly she rubs her hands together, interlaces her fingers, inverts her hands, and with  palms facing out, arms stretched forward, cracks her knuckles):

    …”You might want to take notes.”

    1) Freshman year it was all about reinventing yourself, creating a New Nest, sleeping non-stop the first days home on break, then being irritable because you have gone cold turkey from ready access to friends 24/7 .

    Parenting tips: Send any monthly allowance allotted for expenses ON TIME, send care packages, send handwritten letters, visit to take offspring and key friends out to dinner and decline any reluctant invitations to join the party afterwards. Let them sleep when they are home.  Deep breathe.
    (Start giving offspring a key cooking utensil and home owner’s tool each birthday and significant holiday).
    (Put some money aside for future reference)

    2) Sophomore year it was all about questioning the value of a college education (“Wouldn’t I be better off shucking the confines of classroom protocols and trekking the Himalayas instead?”).

    Parenting tips: Send any monthly allowance allotted for expenses ON TIME, send care packages, send handwritten letters, and encourage offspring to explore summer “mission trips” that offer college credit. And this is key: LISTEN but do not offer advice unless they are begging and screaming for it.
    (Give offspring a key cooking utensil and home owner’s tool each birthday and significant holiday).
    (Put some money aside for future reference)

    3) Junior year was all about reevaluating core beliefs, nurturing meaningful relationships, and discovering the joy of producing excellent work in upper level classes.

    Parenting tips: Send any monthly allowance allotted ON TIME, send care packages, send handwritten letters, visit to take offspring and key friends out to dinner and accept the heartfelt invitations to join the party afterwards. Do NOT ask offspring or friends about their career plans. 
    Start sharing your best techniques re life skills via a computer document: budgets, insurance, how to save for major purchases and expenses…intersperse with humor but Do Not lecture.
    (Give offspring a key cooking utensil and home owner’s tool each birthday and significant holiday).
    (Put some money aside for future reference)

    4) Senior year it was all about feeling on top of the world and terrified of the world, feeling nostalgic and full of promises to stay connected with friends yet feeling like a lone ship about to set sail out on a vast ocean.  

    Parenting tips: Send any monthly allowance allotted for expenses PLUS an occasional bonus ON TIME, send care packages, send handwritten letters, offer to visit but do not be offended if the offer is declined (every last moment with friends and favorite professors is gold to them). Be prepared to drop whatever you are doing to help offspring move out of the dorm and into his/her first apartment or shared home after graduation.
    (Take the money that you put aside all these years for future reference and use it to assist offspring with deposit for apartment, deposit for utilities, etc.)

    Post graduation:
    Do not cave to knee jerk reactions when offspring call in a panic to tell you they are broke, lonely, disheartened, or clueless as to how they should proceed. LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN and reassure them that they are competent and resourceful, that no matter how difficult it seems, no matter how small the steps they take to move forward, they will succeed. Reassure them that in the event of a job loss, a need to evacuate a home due to flooding or eviction, or if they are ever in need of tender loving care in the midst of a major health crisis, they  are always welcome to come home TEMPORARILY to recover.

    Addendum (phone advice):

    1)Call separately no more than once a week and leave a short message if no one answers. Ex. “Hi, Can you believe the score on that game?” ; ” Hey there, thought of you when I made brownies today!” ; “Hey, Mom and I (Dad and I ) had a great time hiking…seeing a new movie…learning to tango…” 

    2) When offspring call, take turns answering the phone first. 

    • this is the best!!! We are in the sophomore year part, and deep into the questioning of the value of college education. I will print this out and save for future reference. A touchstone for sure.

      • Hahaha, thanks. Wish I had thought of the practical gifts on holidays a bit sooner with my girls. Really wish I had learned “life skills” in college myself!

      • Tim is actually quite a good cook and he called yesterday to tell me that he’s taking a personal finance class in May term. Be still my heart.

    • Wow, Maria. I had no idea what an amateur I was until I read your comment! Awesome advice, though I’ve never been terrific about the care packages. Going to have to hone my baking skills.

      • Sam, hahaha, I was not always as clear and focused throughout the girls’ recent college years! I do believe kids need a chance to struggle and sort things out on their own as much as safely possible though.
        Care packages don’t have to include food 🙂
        Ex. Lauren missed the change in seasons down in Florida. She liked a box filled with autumn leaves, pussy willows, pine cones…
        You could send a bag of beach sand, sagebrush (or whatever grows on your mountains), a placemat or menu from their favorite hometown restaurant…

  6. Pingback: Boys become men… | Greetings from the Empty Nest

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