Today’s question comes from a longtime reader who lives in the Adirondacks. She asks:
Please help me! My 22-year old son hasn’t called me in weeks. I’ve left messages on his cellphone, and even resorted to messages on his Facebook page, begging him to call his poor, old, grey-haired mother at least once more before I die, but all I’m getting back is silence. What can I do to get my son to call me?
I Breastfed Until My Nipples Fell Off And Now I Can’t Get A Lousy Phone Call?
First, let me congratulate you on your great momming achievement. YOUR SON ISN’T LIVING IN YOUR BASEMENT!!! That right there should entitle you to a parade down Main Street.
Sadly, I know that even a parade, attended by everyone in the world, will not make up for the lack of one measly phone call from your kid, so I am here to help.
Let me begin by reassuring you that you aren’t alone. All of us moms whose children have left home have experienced The Silence at one time or another. And it hurts. It hurts real bad. But let’s take a moment to consider the matter from your son’s point of view.
Realize that your young adult child has a constant, as in 24/7, tape recording of your voice running through his head. He’s heard you yammer on for YEARS about every topic under the sun. He knows without asking what you think about this or how you feel about that. And part of being a young adult is learning to turn off your voice so he can hear himself think.
The reality of this constant playback of our nagging voices in our kids’ heads cannot be over-estimated.
Remember Kunta Kinte in Roots and how he needed to go live in his own hut after he became a man? That’s what is happening with your son right now. He’s like Kunta Kinte.
Unfortunately, you and I both know that Kunta Kinte was an idiot and, while off looking for parts to build his new drum, he was kidnapped and sold into slavery by evil doers. You’d like a freaking phone call once in a while reassuring you that your son isn’t being held against his will by modern-day evil doers somewhere!
How hard could that be!?!
Now, how to get that phone call.
Knowing that just the sound of your voice is laden with emotions for the young adult, you want to find ways to connect that reduce all that angst for your child. Especially if your child is doing something they know you’ll disapprove of–which, by the way, they probably are.
Facebook is a terrible way to connect. Kids do not want to see their parents on Facebook! It makes them feel sick inside. So whatever you do, DO NOT post requests for a phone call on Facebook.
Calling directly on the phone or leaving voice messages is also a terrible way to try to connect to your young adult if your kid is in a silent phase. Don’t even bother. It would be better to write a short letter and snail mail it instead, preferably with a $20 bill folded inside.
Texting is the best way to connect. Most people check their texts several times a day, and since texting is the least emotional means of connection, that’s where you’ll have your best shot getting some response back.
No matter what method you try, ABSTAIN FROM ANY GUILT-MONGERING IN YOUR MESSAGE.
Do not mention how long it has been since you last spoke. Do not mention that you don’t have much longer to live. Do not mention that you are worried they’ve been kidnapped by slavers.
Keep it short. Keep it sweet. Something like,
“Hey, I just drove by our favorite ice cream shop and was thinking of you. Hope your day is terrific!”
“Stumbled across your old Good Charlotte CD today. Good times! I love you! Hope you are having a good day.”
Messages that bring up pleasant memories the two of you shared along with a short message that you simply love them are best.
And leave it at that.
Then go out to lunch with your girlfriends, or go take a walk. It is unlikely that your child has been abducted by slavers or killed in a gang-land shoot-out. They are just very busy learning to live without you.
They’ll be back.
You are the stupidest, uncoolest person in the world until your young adult child hits about 25. Before you know it you’ll be getting smarter by the day. I promise.