Call Me Never

Children have a preternatural sense for when their parent is not paying perfect attention to them. A friend of mine says that even when they are asleep, if she dares to pick up the telephone, her boys wake up. I picture them as Shakespearean figures, popping their tiny bodies out of bed, announcing, “Lo! I quicken! The one who hath borne me hath spake to another!”

A new friend asked me what was the best way to get in touch with me. “Oh, I’m easy to communicate with. Text, email, Facebook message, G-chat, carrier pigeon, telegram, Instant Message, snail mail, Blog comment, Skype, Cyrano de Bergerac me at my window… JUST DON’T EVER CALL ME.” Since she has two children, she totally understood where I was coming from. Parents of young kids need the ability to write you back at lightning speed, between the diaper changes, top speed chases after toddlers out into traffic, and near-constant doling out of snacks that make up our day-to-day lives, at the end of which we usually collapse.

My friends who don’t have children, or who had them so long ago they have forgotten this phenomenon, are always calling me and becoming chagrined at how I can’t listen to their engrossing story about their boyfriend’s new job or how much sand they got in their hair at the beach yesterday.  BELIEVE me, I want to know about that new sexual position you’re trying out, but can you please either tell me in scintillating email form so I can read it in absolute silence while my child naps, or over cocktails once her father is home so I can zip out to meet you and pretend I am a normal person?

When I was a young teenager, I used to write out notes of what I would talk about when I called boys I really liked.  The topics were actually quite dull and embarrassing, about who won the basketball game and lame jokes about how Mrs. Hamilton’s hair looked like Rockadoodle.  I would cross out each item as I managed to work it into the conversation — when I was out of topics, I’d say goodbye.  Now, even though I feel a little sorry for those boys who didn’t know I was working off a script, I cannot imagine bringing that much foresight into a telephone conversation.  I’m lucky enough if I can blurt out “Let’s meet at the park in 15 minutes!” before Olive imperiously asks, “My turn?  MY TURN!!”

“No phone for Mama. It’s always Olive’s turn!”

Of course her Grandmother and Aunt don’t mind these interruptions to talk to their beloved little family member, and they also don’t judge me for turning on Sesame Street when I really need to talk to them with my full attention for once.  So, they are basically the only people I call.  My friendships that rely on telephone conversations consist of a perennial game of tag, of which I tire immensely.  If you are reading this and I have EVER called you, especially in the past 2 years, please know that that is the highest form of regard I can mete out.  It means I am taking the few seconds when I could possibly be peeing alone, or having a complex thought, or picking up my disaster of a house attempting to call you instead.

I don’t think this difficulty with telephone conversations has been created by the digital age.  I distinctly remember ignoring my mom for hours on end while she was gardening, cooking, or reading a book, but the SECOND she picked up the phone to call one her friends, I’d decide that I needed her help with my homework, or to ask if my best friend could sleep over, or just generally annoy her so she’d lose her cool on the phone.  “But when are you getting OFF?”, I’d whine, becoming boneless at her feet while entangling myself in the phone cord like a feisty kitten that you want to throw against the wall.  I also had an unrelenting campaign to get “my own phone” — not just a phone in my room, because I could stretch the cord from my sister’s room to my own, but, as I unconvincingly told my parents, “I need my own LINE.  All the girls at my school have their own phone number!”  My parents were not the kind of people to be swayed by what everyone else in town was doing.  So, before we got “call-waiting”, I’d interrupt my mother’s phone calls all the time so that I wouldn’t miss a very important call inviting me to a pizza party or asking me to the 5th grade dance.  I don’t think my mother had an uninterrupted phone conversation for 2 decades, and she managed to have many thriving friendships!

Parents of the world, I know you can relate.  If we need to get together, you know we’ll work it out, even if it means showing up at each other’s doorstep.  In the meantime, don’t call me, I won’t call you.

5 thoughts on “Call Me Never

  1. I am not a parent, but I TOTALLY get this, sadly because I remember doing this to my own mother. The reason I remember this is because at one point there was a hard, fast rule that we were simply not allowed to talk when my mother was on the phone. For any reason whatsoever. If we did, the wrath of God would pour out on us later. I don’t know what she did when we were toddlers though – my sincerest good luck to you!
    PS – I’m sure my future children will take out generational revenge on me later.

  2. I am SO with you. I just got in “trouble” with my uncle who loves to call just to chat and check in. He lives in the east bay. My mom does the same from SoMA. I love’em and I want to chat but TEXT ME! I also think that the phone thing is a hugely generational thing. It used to be the only direct means of communication so it made perfect sense, but now, when you call someone, you are basically saying “stop whatever else you are doing and answer your phone to deal with me right now.” It makes sense in certain situations but get with the times, people.

  3. This is so true, yet so sad!! I found out a good friend was separated from her hubby on facebook (and not from a personal message she sent to me). I’ve also had some intense emails sent to me and I wish when it comes to deep stuff, people would pick up the phone, I promise to find the time to talk. But throw in a time difference and its true, email and text is the way to go. I’m so glad we’re in the same neighborhood, so we can get a lot of quality face time!

  4. I don’t have children but I hate the telephone. I never had a telephone phase, I’ve always hated them. Because I work at home, my family, especially, thinks it’s fine to call me four times a day. I have a friend who calls me while she’s doing errands. Like I want to listen while she goes through Walmart. It’s infuriating but I’m terrible about boundaries and making up a reason to get off the phone when it’s really because I want to kill myself. It is a total waste of my time and if there is something important, text or email. I’ll answer that. I’m tempted to just never answer my phone again. But, they all know I’m home. And, when was the last time someone asked if this was a good time to call? Never. Be glad, Rhea, that you have Olive as an excuse to get off the phone or you would never be able to pee or clean your house. Hey, that’s my new excuse for why my house is such a disaster – people won’t stop calling me! 🙂

  5. I can’t wait to repost this!
    Also, thank you for the reader appreciation award. I need to somehow figure out a time to write again:(

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