Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: A Cautionary Tale … Do You Want to Know Their Every Move? #SOL18
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Slice of Life: A Cautionary Tale … Do You Want to Know Their Every Move? #SOL18

I check my phone again.  Nothing.  It is too early to call.  I am sure he is fine.

I check again.  Nothing.

I will go for a run.  That will distract me.  By the time I get back he will be up.  He will text or call.

Six miles later, no text, no call.

I clean the kitchen. I make coffee. I walk the dog.  I start laundry.

I leave my phone in my office.  Maybe if I stop looking he will text – watched pot and all.

Nothing.

It is now two hours after when he was supposed to leave.  Panic sets in.

I go upstairs.

 

Chris.  Chris!  Wake up.

He rolls over and tries to pry his eyes open. I stare at him thinking it will speed up the process.

What’s wrong?

Jack hasn’t called or texted..  He said he was going to text when they got back last night and he didn’t text.  That is not like him.  He also said they were getting up early today to head back.  They have something for a class.  He said he would text before they left.  He didn’t text. I texted him several times and he did not respond.  He should almost be home if he left when he said they would so it is weird there is no text.  He usually checks in.  Do you think he is ok?  I am worried.  What if they never got home? Why wouldn’t he text?  Even if his phone died he has a charger in the car. 

The words continue to spew from my mouth effortlessly.  I notice his eyes are still not completely open.  It is clear he is not keeping up with my train of thought.

What time is it?

9:00. 

Did you text him?

Of course! Aren’t you listening?

He senses he is not completely following our one-sided conversation.  He tries to sit up.

I’m really worried.

I hear that.  Maybe he is still asleep.

I think you are still asleep.  Aren’t you listening at all? 

I am sure he is fine.  Did you check Find my iPhone?

Silence.

That is the best you have for me.  I have been worrying for three hours.  Don’t you think that occurred to me? 

I just thought…

I would love to use Find my iPhone.  You know it would make me feel better to know where he is.  I had to resist using it … for three hours!

I think it is ok in this circumstance.

Clearly, he wants this and me to go away until his brain catches up with my mouth.

You know I made a decision not to use it.  I think, for me, it will be a slippery slope.  I would track everyone in my life to know they are safe if I could, but that is not healthy.  He is almost 18.  I am not tracking him.  It is not right.

He nods, still struggling to process.

I wait.

He responds, I think it is ok this one time.  You have a good reason.  Just check, you will see he is fine and you will feel better. 

I could have done that three hours ago.  Is that really what you are suggesting?

He gets up and goes downstairs to check his phone.  I wait. The tension is too much.  That little green circle is staring at me.  Taunting me.  Just click it.  Just this once.  My emotions get the best of me and I can’t resist.  I click it.

I wait, watching the buffering circle go round and round.  I wait and wait, quietly singing, “round and round and round it goes … where it stops nobody knows.”

 

AHHHHHH!

 

Chris runs up the stairs. What’s wrong? What happened?

I show him my phone.  He takes it from my hand and regret spreads across his face. This did not go as he had planned.

His phone is in the middle of the ocean and it was last updated at 11:42 pm last night!!  He’s dead!

Now Chris is fully awake and realizing his suggestion may not have been prudent.  He tries to calm me and get in control of the situation he has created.

Let’s call him.  I am sure he is fine. 

As he is dialing, my phone starts to ring.  It is Jack. I answer and a stream of consciousness, as well as a stream of tears, erupts.

Excuse me.  Mrs. Landrigan.  We just want you to know Jack is driving so you were on speaker phone.  I took you off.  Do you want us to pull over so you can talk to Jack?

 They are alive, but now are scared to death and unclear how to handle the crazy in this mom.

No. It’s ok.  I was just scared.  It is raining out there.  Just drive and be really careful.

Chris looks at me sheepishly.

I think I was still asleep when I suggested Find my iPhone.

 

This is a cautionary tale.  In today’s world, it is so easy to connect that it can be unhealthy.  The immediacy allows us to expect we should be able to get in touch with anyone at any moment.  It has caused me to live a life in which I go from someone being late to dead in five minutes.  It is not pretty!

As my son is beginning the natural process of separation, I worry that the connectedness of smartphones, social media and technology may do more harm than good. When I was in college I called home once a week.  I wrote the occasional letter. Otherwise, I was on my own and I think that was an important step in my development.  I learned how to make decisions on my own.  I learned how to seek out other resources.  I learned how to trust and believe in myself.  I created a sense of who I was outside of, but still in a relationship with, my parents.

I want my son to have that same opportunity.  I know I am going to miss him, but I don’t want to want to hear from him every day.  There are things I don’t need to know anymore.  I want him to have the privilege of discovering himself outside of me – without a sense of guilt. The guilt that comes because it is now so easy to connect that the expectations have changed.  I am thinking about this a lot about because I want to send him off next year with a healthy expectation of communication for both of us.

For me, find my iPhone – that ability to know everything about them – was the first signal for me to slow down and really think about the adult relationship I wanted with my kids.  I was initially so attracted to the sense of comfort this app could provide but quickly realized this was not what I wanted in the long run.  I don’t want to know their every move before they choose to tell me.  I don’t want to intrude on their life without invitation.  I don’t want them wondering if they are being tracked.  I don’t want to be thinking about them all day every day.  I want to separate from them so they can separate from me.  I want them to live their own life and I think that is difficult to do if you think someone is watching your every move.

So… in case you are on the fence … this is my cautionary tale.

Clare

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDebMelanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every day in March and on Tuesdays throughout the year

11 Comments
  • Karen Szymusiak
    Posted at 12:44h, 11 March Reply

    Oh, the worry! I’ve been there. My children are well into adulthood and I still worry. But our kids need time and space to grow up. The worry is just a part of loving them.

  • Amanda Potts
    Posted at 13:02h, 11 March Reply

    Oh, I love how vividly you recount your worry – and I love your “cautionary tale”. My two are still young, and already I can feel how hard this is going to be in an era of constant connection. When I was growing up, my mother often said, “no news is good news” when we forgot to call. She said that people pretty much always find a way to get in touch in an emergency, so no news was more likely to mean we were immersed in a good time. I repeat this often, but my brain still goes to “dead in the middle of the ocean”. I love that you are aware of your son’s need to separate and that you honor him and his growth by pulling back – even when it’s hard.

  • Carrie Cahill
    Posted at 13:03h, 11 March Reply

    Not having children I can’t completely relate to this slice, but I do have parents. My father died when I was young, so I can only imagine what my mother went through when I began separating from her. I also know what it is like to worry about a loved one. You had a difficult situation on your hands. Cut yourself some slack. You are only human and this is hard stuff. If it wasn’t “Find my phone” there would be some other way to stalk your son – and equally difficult to resist!!!

  • Susan Kennedy
    Posted at 14:14h, 11 March Reply

    So honest so truthful. It’s a hard place that separation. Even at 30and 26, I sometimes struggle. I agree about the technology.

  • Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 14:43h, 11 March Reply

    Well, my friend, I believe there are real benefits to being a Luddite!
    You are trying so hard to deal with all the separation anxiety and the worry when our children, usually so responsible, fail to deliver. I know your worry, Clare, and I have had similar moments myself. It was easier when my kids went to college. Phone calls (on a prepaid calling card) once a week (boy, when those calls didn’t come!). No Email.
    You will get through this and will celebrate.

  • Deb Frazier
    Posted at 15:33h, 11 March Reply

    I could feel the tension in your post! And as I was reading I was waiting for a text from my daughter. She was driving herself to the airport (an hour and a half drive, in an older car, all alone)for her “girls spring break” in Miami! What? She’s 21 what can I say other than offering good old mom advice. I will be a ball of nerves all week! I am sure these feelings will find their way into a slice.

  • Rose Cappelli
    Posted at 15:51h, 11 March Reply

    You took me through every emotion, Clare! It is so hard to let go. I have been there many times with both of my kids. Somehow, you will get through it all.

  • Peggy Bruno
    Posted at 16:46h, 11 March Reply

    The emotion throughout this piece is so real. I was right along with you the entire time… from the avoidance to the frustration to the downright fear,. Your cautionary tale is one I think of often. Thanks for a beautiful piece.

  • Karen Terlecky
    Posted at 01:40h, 12 March Reply

    You are such a multi-talented writer — you have infused both your worry, along with some of the humor you noticed after the fact. That’s so hard to do when the topic is such a difficult one. You captured the emotions being all over the place so well.
    Best of luck during this “letting go” phase of life. I still don’t have it all figured out.

  • Elisabeth Ellington
    Posted at 22:19h, 12 March Reply

    Such a thoughtful and provocative post! The balance of story and reflection here is very powerful. You are a wise mother, and this is a post I’m going to return to in the years to come as I try to navigate this path with my son.

  • Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 01:36h, 13 March Reply

    Wow. You had a rough morning. I love the staccato pace of your writing, as it definitely added to the tension and the stress you were feeling. We were there with you. And no, I don’t use that app to find my kids. I’m honestly not sure I know how. They use it on my when I lose my phone. LOL.

    You’ll be okay. Great, even. You. are. a . great. mom. Really, really, really.

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