Way back in 1977, on REO Speedwagon's hit album "Live: You Get What You Played For", vocalist Kevin Cronin famously stated, "If you want to really get through to somebody, you've got to talk to them in their own language." He then proceeded to talk to guitarist Gary Richrath over the phone by imitating the sound of a guitar solo.
And so it is today, with the modern teen. As parents, it is often easiest, and quickest, to talk to them via text messaging. This is why we have unlimited texting on our phone plan. So, while Dianne and I were at Sarah and Tim's house for our monthly group Bible Study, I decided to text a very important message to my daughter, Rebecca.
Gregg (G): How many Dr. Peppers are left?
Rebecca (R): I only have one.
Hmmm, seems she feels a little guilty for constantly swiping my Dr. Peppers. Dr. Pepper is critical to my continued existence. I can NOT run out. If she loved me, she would know that. I really needed to know if I was going to have to pick some up on the way home. Also, it was likely that she had a friend over, which could also indicate that there would be a NUMBER of partially emptied Dr. Pepper cans spread throughout the house. Obviously, "How many Dr. Peppers are left?" was not a clear enough statement as to what information I was looking for. I decided to try again, placing emphasis on the critical parameter.
G: How many are LEFT?
R: I didn't count.
Well, thank goodness I decided to pay for that unlimited texting plan! Clearly, this "conversation" would be costing me some serious money, otherwise. Also, I was now already frustrated. I sent what SEEMED to be a very simple question to my daughter, just to get irrelevant responses back. I was clearly not communicating my question clearly enough. It seems these days, that you must be painstakingly detailed in your requests to teens. I think it has something to do with conservation of momentum. She didn't want to actually move from her current position to find out how many Dr. Peppers were left. A body in rest tends to want to stay in rest, so it takes a LOT of external force to get that body to move. It was time to apply the external force. I got more detailed in my instructions. I wasn't leaving ANYTHING to chance, and tried to close all those teenage loopholes in one more text message.
G: How can I be any clearer? GO COUNT THEM. I am asking how many are left. That may require you to go to the fridge and look. I am 12 miles away. YOU are in the same house as the soda!
Actually, I took a wild stab at the distance. I really had no idea. I was praying (appropriate for being in a Bible study) that she wouldn't go to Google maps and figure out how far away I actually was. She rather do THAT, than go count the Dr. Peppers, I'm guessing. I was terrified that I'd receive a message somewhere along the lines of "You aren't 12 miles away. You are 11.4."
Laugh it up, that is an entirely possible scenario. Minor details like that are just opening yourself up for a rebuttal based on irrelevant facts. I regretted putting the 12 miles statement into the text. Why couldn't I have used a more general statement like "I am a NUMBER of miles away." That statement would be indisputable due to it's all-encompassing scope. Actually, right before I sent the text message, I had the last line as "YOU are 12 FEET away." I came up with 12 FEET because of the correlation to the 12 miles statement, and also because it was probably an accurate average distance she would be from my life blood. I was certain she was either sitting at the computer in the kitchen (distance 4.5 feet to fridge) or on the couch watching television in the living room (distance 19.5 feet to the fridge). Adding that distance would have almost CERTAINLY produced an argument to her actual distance to the fridge rather than an actual answer.
After a significant pause where I began to worry that she had "lost" her phone (this has happened! Usually when I am asking her to do something) to avoid any more annoying messages from me, I got my response.
Great! An actual answer! Plus, I had enough for my evening's requirements. I decided to send her a response, indicating I had received her message. I was hoping she'd catch the slight exasperation and sarcasm in my reply.
G: Thank you.
But Rebecca was not done with me. Oh no. In fact, I'm probably lucky I didn't get THIS response, prior to getting my actual answer.
OK, #1, what did she THINK I was going to do with the Dr. Pepper? Create a moisturizing body wash with it in my home chemistry lab? NO! I was going to drink them! #2, was there any possible answer I would give to "why?" that would eliminate my desire for the answer, or give her a valid reason to NOT answer the question? I don't think so! Resisting the incredible urge to respond with "BECAUSE!" or the more complete parent answer of "Because I asked you!", or even the tempting "Why does this matter to you? I asked you a question, just answer it!", I decided to give her the facts.
G: I NEED at least two of them for Mario Kart.
That's a good reason, right? Yes, of course it is! It's perfectly valid. I figured out long ago that my driving skills are significantly enhanced if I have enough caffeine in my system to keep a class of kindergarten kids awake for an entire day.
I'm pretending there wasn't any sarcasm or frustration in her answer. It's better that way.