These days, technology and teenagers seem to go hand in hand. You rarely spot one who isn’t holding a screen of some sort or with ear buds in their ears. You know – the tell-tale white cord dangling down over their shoulders which is a dead giveaway to some sort of MP3 player or a phone underneath their jacket.
And my girl is no different. We rarely see her without those wretched ear plugs in and I have photographic evidence!
We resisted buying into all the electronics and gadgetry for as along as we could but eventually we ended up giving Ella a phone like all the other Mums and Dads did. She won’t be 13 for another 4 months but we decided that she could have it early.
Because even when you’re an adult in your 30s – peer pressure is a killer!
But of course I’m kidding!
A lot of parents of my generation and older moan about how society has forgotten how to communicate effectively and that websites such as Facebook or Twitter have killed off meaningful relationships and yes – I believe that’s true to an extent. But I also think that some of it is just refusal to admit that times are changing and that there is some good to be found when you lay aside personal reservations long enough to search for the good.
I understand the issue that a quick sentence typed online isn’t the same as going to a friend’s house for a coffee and catch up, but the reality is that life today moves so much faster than it ever has done before. So we’ve gotta bear that in mind when we look at how the younger generation operates. This is all they’ve ever known.
Back in the 90’s when I was growing up as a teen, I talked to my parents about everything. And I do mean everything. I was (and still am) a very open person. I pretty much lay it all on the line and what you see is what you get. I don’t really have deep dark secrets – I just don’t do things that need to be hidden in the first place. That’s just me.
I love to communicate via words and my absolute favourite thing in the world to so is to have deep and meaningful conversations with those closest to me. I love to get to know new people and learn as much as I can about them because I have always found people absolutely fascinating! I have the gift of the gab and it’s really hard to shut me up once I get started. Talking is my thing.
So imagine my shock when I discovered that my daughter is the complete opposite to me and really doesn’t communicate a lot at all. (Bearing in mind that talking and communicating are two completely different things). I mean, put her with her school friends and they are a ball of chatter and silliness but you couldn’t extract a meaningful conversation out of her with a crow bar. She is simply not a communicator and doesn’t really offer up any indicators of her current mood, thought pattern or dreams and desires. She would make a fantastic poker player because she never gives anything away and most of the time I end up playing the stupid guessing game.
But I do know that she is a really great child and that she doesn’t do this because she has something to hide, but because she doesn’t know HOW to convey her innermost thoughts and struggles to anyone. I have secretly worried about her for quite a few years now because she is such a closed book, and in the past I have tried a few times to force information out of her with varying levels of success but lately, we have noticed a massive turnaround and I have technology and her school to thank for it.
Because a while ago, she came home with a note from the school saying that the rules had been reviewed and that mobile phones and iPods were now allowed to stay with the students during the school day (previously they had to be handed into the office).But the note stated that they were only to be used during lunch breaks. The kids were now allowed to indulge in the technology that has such a strong pull on them. It was progressive thinking and I think the school was very clever in their methods. They really get teenagers.
So Ella started taking along her iPod and loaded it up with apps like a French Dictionary, music apps and various other useful ones. Every afternoon she would come home and download hundreds of photos that her and her friends had taken during the day. Most of them were selfies or silliness but they were fun to look at and one afternoon as I flicked through the latest assortment, I thought: Wow….it would have been awesome if I had these kind of memories from my school days!
But for me, the real defining moment of my joy in modern technology was the day that I was mopping my kitchen floor and I my phone buzzed on the kitchen bench. I walked over and picked it up to check who had sent me a message and was surprised to see that it was my Ella.
She didn’t just text me to say a quick “Hello”. She was really communicating with me! We chatted for almost her entire lunch break about her friends, what she had done that day at school, her ideas for the weekend and she even opened up about other areas that are usually no-go zones when we’re talking face to face. And it didn’t stop there. My girl trusts me now. She really really TRUSTS me! She has confided in me several times since that very first text and I now look forward to hearing from my girl around 12 noon every other day.
She still climbs in the car each afternoon with barely a glance in my direction, she answers me with one-word answers and isn’t interested in sitting down and opening up her heart to me but that’s ok with me now because my girl has reached out to me!
She has found her medium, she feels safe when her fingers are doing the talking and I am discovering more and more about this beautiful young woman who is flourishing right before my very eyes even if it is in a non-conventional way.
I hold hopes of maybe one day that we can sit in a coffee shop together while I bounce my grandchild on my knee and she tells me all about what’s going on in her life but for now – I’ll take whatever she has to give me.
Oh heck yeah – I’ll take it! Bring it on!