The secret language of parents

By on September 1, 2011
Photo © Elena Derevtsova
It was pretty darn close to my little guy’s bedtime. Actually, I just wished it were. Hubby and I were exhausted after a long day of chasing him up and down the street as he biked à la Lance Armstrong. I picked up my iPhone and typed: Think he’d notice if we told him it was bedtime RIGHT NOW? I texted the message to my husband, sprawled on the sofa all of three feet away. Ping! He read my text, burst out laughing and shook his head. “Nice try,” he said.

And just like that, I discovered the perfect way to communicate when I wanted to stay incognito. Spelling has always been out of the question; hubby’s not a great speller. Speaking French used to work like a charm when we had private things to say to each other, but now that our son is learning the language, that method wouldn’t fly for long.

Welcome to the digital age
Social media strategist and mom of two Lisa McKenzie says today’s parents, faced with increasingly curious children, need to find new ways to connect with each other, out of range of tiny little ‘big ears’ that hang on to our every word.

McKenzie often texts her husband when the two of them are in the same house. “We do this all the time, and I think parents that have a handle on technology will use it for any shortcuts,” says McKenzie, the co-author of the Facebook Guide for Parents. “If I ask my daughters to leave the room because Mommy and Daddy want to talk, they’ll be listening in, because they know that if they can’t be privy to it, then it’s so juicy that they need to know.”

After her girls learned to speak French, McKenzie and her husband switched to pig Latin, but “my older daughter is too wise; if you listen attentively, you can still figure out what people are saying. Now, we speak in code and use eye signals.”

They’re smarter than we are
McKenzie adds that for really private conversations, including romantic ones, texting is a great option if you’re the parent of a techno-whiz. But it’s not kid-proof. “Technology does work, but my nine-year old can navigate an iPhone like nobody’s business. Last week, we got caught. My husband was in New York for the week, and I’d been texting him ideas for what he could buy the girls. My daughter asked to borrow my iPhone; I thought she was playing games, but she was reading our texts,” she recalls. “The key is to use an app, and not instant text messaging. If your message is hidden behind an app, you’re rocking. You could also use personal messaging on Facebook, but I wouldn’t want to be writing sexy messages to my husband on Facebook. You don’t know where that’s going to land, and it’s your digital footprint. You have to be extremely careful.”

It’s practical, too!
Pat Ramos, a father of three kids, aged 13, eight and five, has been texting since he bought his first smart phone three years ago. Ramos loves that texting is “instant and fun. You can easily multitask: have a conversation and text at the same time. I’ll text my 13-year-old daughter to come down for dinner, do her chores and even to turn the music down,” he notes. “One time, she left her dinner plate on the table, so I took a picture of it with my phone and sent it to her as an instant message, as a gentle reminder. The plate made it to the dishwasher shortly thereafter. Texting is a great tool for parents.”

While Ramos and his wife Sjona don’t rely on text messaging when they’re both at home, “We do have friends who use texting and Facebook to communicate with each other while they’re in the same building.”  

Kerry Meegan and her husband Julio, parents of two kids with another on the way, have been doing so since 2007, because “it’s fast and direct; most people carry their cells on them. I text my hubby or he texts me while we’re in the same place, if one of us is stepping out of the house and the other person is busy with the kids,” she says.

Old-fashioned talking
Still craving some real face time with your honey far away from your little ones’ ears? McKenzie praises play areas for kids. “They’re the best place to have conversations, because your kids don’t want to be with you when they can play on those gigantic structures,” she explains. “I’ve met people who say it’s the only place where they can talk; they go at least once a week.”

Oh, and don’t forget that if your child is learning to read, like mine is, he’ll be sure to scroll through your texts.

“Mommy, what does C-A-N’-T W-A-I-T T-I-L-L K-I-D G-O-E-S T-O B-E-D mean? Is that about me?”

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