Just Answer My Text! Why Radio Silence From Teens Drives Parents Crazy



Mom: Melissa Fenton

Pay phones. Remember them? I sure do.

I remember knowing the exact location of the pay phones in and around my high school, and the one that stood at the end of the hall in my freshman college dormitory. It’s where I would stop after a late-night high school party and call my mom, letting her know I was on my way home. It’s where every few days at college I would call home “collect” and check in with the parents.

How lucky are we as parents not to have to depend on pay phones to stay in contact with our kids? Well, lucky—you bet.

But also slightly traumatized? Oh my word, YES. Why is that? Because when I call my son, I think that he should answer his phone the second it rings. And that same kid should answer my text like the country’s national security depends on it.

Sadly, I’ve learned none of that actually happens. You see, teens love their cellphones. They just don’t love them attached to the other end of their parents’ cellphones. For a typical mom like me who worries about the whereabouts of my teens when they’re away from home and on the road, cellphones seem like a lifesaver.

Answer My Text!

But to the average teenager? They are a massive nuisance. Having been told never to text and drive, my teens keep their phones turned off and in their backpacks on the drive to and from school. This means that when I call and get no answer, my mind instantly goes to images of them crashed into a tree.

“Mom, you said never to use our cellphones while driving, so it’s off. Now which is it? You want to talk to me, or you want me to drive?”

Sometimes they are wise beyond their years. The constant connection, with the expectation that teens be instantly responsive to calls and texts from their parents, is too big a burden for them. I need to constantly remind myself (and my panicked brain) of that.

It makes me almost want to go back to pre-cellphone times—and ironically, my son will agree with me on that!

Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct faculty librarian. She is a mother of four sons and writes about modern motherhood and parenting teenagers. Find her at 4boysmother.com.