My daughters never answer their cell phones. Well, that's not totally true—I can count on one hand how many times they've answered me in the last few months. Their idea of getting in touch or having a conversation (with me, or anyone, really) is texting.
Do I sound like I'm annoyed about this? I guess I am—or was—until I started to examine my thoughts around this issue.
My girls are in touch with me (almost daily) and I know what is happening in their lives—their work, dating and friendships. They post on Facebook and Instagram so I have visual illustrations of what they're up to or what they find interesting (and, I admit, I love seeing their posts). Since my daughters also live together and are still in the same city as me and my husband, I see them pretty often.
So why was it bothering me that my kids (almost) never answered their phones when I called? What thoughts were running around in my head when I would try and reach them and the call immediately went to voicemail? A few went something like this:
What if it was important that I speak to them? Would I have to text first and then have them call me back? This felt like too much of an effort.
Wasn't this a bit of a double standard? I almost always answered my phone when they called me.
Were they sick, hurt or in trouble? This is what I call going to "the worst case scenario" and was most often my "go to" reaction if I called them at night.
In the process of reflecting on these thoughts, I remembered my life when I was their age (pre-cell phones) and had some realizations: I was not available and accessible 24 hours a day. In fact, I could only be “reached” when I was home, right next to my telephone (and I had an answering machine in case I didn’t want to chat).
Yet my daughters have their phones near them all the time (they even sleep with them). They check their texts, Facebook, Instagram, Tinder (or whatever dating app they're on), probably hundreds of times a day—so they always know when people are trying to get in touch with them. Since their lives are constantly interrupted by all of these "intrusions,” one way they can take control and create a boundary is by not answering their phone immediately when someone (like their mother—me) calls.
Once I recognized this, I was able to understand and respect my daughters’ need to have their boundaries—especially with their parents.
And so, when I call them and it goes to voicemail immediately, I get a smile on my face and know they need their space. And that's OK.