Floss?' Now, what would you make of that single five-letter word with a question mark? Ask my friend Freya and the reply might prove pretty near unprintable. Whoa, why shoot abuse at a staccato-small syllable, you're thinking
She isn’t to blame. She’s a mother. A mother of a 16-year-old. A mother of a seemingly clueless 16-year-old. Who sees himself as old enough to date (therefore the frantic 10 pm scramble for dental floss) but unseeing enough to find this ripe-for-romance refresher. Right under his nose as it turned out.
Above all, she’s a mother with a cell phone. Yup, who denies it’s a great way to stay in safe sync with our nearest and dearest. But it equally means being blighted to beeped banalities. Doomed to 24/7 duty, on call round-the-clock to fix the most absurd domestic drama and dilemma.
Not to absolve my own teenagers... Freya and I ran into each other at the interval of a jazz show, with no time to grab more than a minute’s chat. So she was swearing at ‘Floss?’ while I was peering at a trio of trifles lighting up to fill my small screen: ‘Guitar strings?’ ‘Football jersey washed?’ ‘When
‘Go look’ I keyed in, responding to the first pair of inane queries. And the last ought to be my question to them, not the other way round. But we parent in topsy-turvy times. “How helpless they act!” Freya fumed. “Let’s simply ignore, like we never read them.” (Have the temerity to try that and let’s hear what happens at home as a result.)
The husbands rallied around to keep us cool. Actually suggesting we count small mercies. We should be happy to not have semi-literates who spell like cretins like plenty of their peers, it was pointed out. My messages could as easily have been printed: ‘Gitr strgs?’ ‘Ftbal jerc?’ ‘? u hme?’
That’s cold comfort. Spelt intelligently or idiotically, reminders and orders are reminders and orders. Unfair, unwarranted, unnecessary, they interrupt and intrude. Exasperate and exacerbate. Prompt reactions only feed the savage I-can’t-wait selfishness endemic to the young. Besides, we’re stumped why children won’t challenge and check with fathers for a change instead of always appointing us as walking, talking compendiums. “Dad doesn’t know,” they plead, mostly spot-on.
Still. Spare yourself heavy handwringing. Even as you rue this triumph of the trivial, there’s also hope. The tables turned, every kid will someday be dying to disconnect. As surely as night follows morn, this pocket-sized menace will haunt and harangue Gen Next relentlessly. Today’s texting teen is tomorrow’s mobile mom -- in a sense that has nothing to do with the way she moves.
Meanwhile the madness and menace is on full throttle. Yet what bliss to just occasionally decelerate. Maybe forget or misplace the mobile, have it go kaput for a few hours. After the initial panic attack, the fret and frazzle settles soothingly. Distress dissolves to relief and relief to nirvana. The surprise bonus of being beyond contact envelopes and enables you to live in the moment. Shutter down, shunt out.
Home is heavenly miles away. Its demands grow distant, the whining can wait. Dig deep to channel your inner Garbo-meets-Gautama Buddha. Lounge in liberation. Relish the receding clamour, revel in being incommunicado. Make no mistake -- this bliss is the family’s therapy too. Your absence across the air should have them sit up. To take a crack at life as it was lived before the cell invasion. Planned. Purposeful. Peaceful.
Catch you later. Reality strikes in blinding bright colours. I spy a green flash at the top of my phone and oh, oops, a blue blink has joined it in seconds. There’s a buzz and a ping and a ring. Back to cell incarceration. Bail me out, someone!
Meher Marfatia is the author of 10 books for children and two for parents. She has mothered her own kids well past the terrible twos and almost past the troubled teens. Reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org