I don’t know if they miss us, but they sure like to text us while we’re away.
My wife and I recently went on an overnight mini-vacation to celebrate her birthday. Because we have four kids, we don’t do this very often. Even the most loving and devoted grandparents must limit exposure to four children to short periods of time. For health reasons.
At least one child usually struggles with our absence. This time, our 8-year-old daughter called us crying not long after we left. That’s unusual for her, as she usually relishes the opportunity to ignore all those pesky parent rules. After all, Grandma doesn’t know the Halloween candy limit policy of the house.
Of course I didn’t mind taking her Zoom call. Poor thing just wanted a little reassurance that everything would be OK. Plus I told her she could have extra candy. Problem solved.
My oldest daughter, however, soon got hold of the “family cellphone.” It’s the phone we keep at home in place of a land line, and while it has limited access to the internet and games, the messenger app can send texts to Mom and Dad’s phones.
I started receiving texts from this phone (aptly named “Team Wilson”) early in the evening. The first seven were “Team Wilson has shared their score with you.” Somebody managed to load a game onto the phone, and that same someone doesn’t understand how to turn off notifications.
Next up, a simple two-word text I knew originated from my oldest daughter: “Ello mate.” She occasionally tries to talk with an Australian accent, likely because of our family’s adoration for “Bluey.” It’s not a very good accent, but just reading the text reminds me of what an Australian accent should sound like, so I guess she should consider it a success. Anyway, I chose to ignore the “Ello mate” text and all the multiple re-attempts.
Later, a few messages rolled in that were a bit more concerning:
Team Wilson: “The battery in the van is dead. Light left on.”
OK, great, what’s the context? Are they home? Are they stranded on the side of the road?
Team Wilson: “It’s OK. We’ll jump it later. Going to go in Grandma’s car.”
This was enough for me to assume everything was fine. Nobody stranded. Best not to ask any questions.
The messages went dark for a long period of time… almost too long. What happened that they didn’t want to tell us? No, it’s fine. I’m sure it’s fine. They’d call in an actual emergency. Hopefully.
A text at 10:47 p.m.: “Are you awake?”
Yes, kid, but no. Not going to respond to that one.
In the morning, as we prepared to head home, my wife and I again started to receive numerous messages, only now accompanied with pictures.
Team Wilson: “The microwave isn’t working.” (picture of the microwave with no display).
Common problem in our kitchen. Someone simply needs to flip the breaker. We didn’t get a chance to tell her because the messages kept coming.
I next received a picture of the stove that showed the illuminated clock in the display. Apparently it’s working? No context to the picture at all.
Two minutes later I received a picture from the inside of the microwave. The light wasn’t on, but the inside looked filthy. It was probably filthy before we left, but with this picture evidence we can blame the mess on Grandma and the kids and pretend we aren’t slob parents.
A minute passes. Then, another picture from the inside of the filthy microwave, this time with the light on.
Team Wilson: “Fixed the microwave!”
Hopefully Grandma flipped the breakers before the kids attempted any minor electrical work.
Finally, just before we were about to leave our (mostly) kid-free getaway:
Team Wilson: “When are you coming home? Will you message when you’re leaving so we know to expect you soon?”
Now why would they want such a warning? What do they need to clean up? How worried should I be to walk through my own front door?
Another minute passes, then another text: “Are you leaving soon?”
Some parents might receive that kind of text and rush straight home. My wife and I went to breakfast and a bookstore. Best to give those kids time to put out the fire or do whatever they’ve got to do to cover their tracks.
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Tyler Wilson is a freelance writer, full-time student and parent to four kids, ages 6-12. He is grateful that Grandma has patience for an overnight with those wild and crazy little people. He can be reached at [email protected].