I have an admission to make: I never answer my phone.
Sometimes, it’s because my phone is lost, buried beneath the copious amounts of crap I carry in my purse, or wedged between two couch cushions — along with errant remotes, unidentifiable “fuzzies,” crumbs, and Cheerios. Lots of Cheerios.
Sometimes it’s because my phone is on silent, and vibrating in a room four walls and an entire floor away.
Sometimes it’s because I am working, and answering would cause me to loose my train of thought. I would become unfocused while writing, and would inevitably run on and on and …
But the main reason I don’t answer my phone is because I have a toddler — a 3-year-old little girl. She is active and loud. Crazy and chaotic. She can get into trouble (or the toilet) in five seconds flat, and she is insanely jealous of anyone or thing that takes away my attention.
“Mommy, what are you doing?”
“Just using the potty, Peanut.”
Um, why? Did she just ask why?!
“Because I have to poop, sweetheart.”
“Because mommy ate a burrito last night and it is working on her system in a bad way.”
(Okay, okay, I didn’t really say that last part but I should have!)
Needless to say, having a conversation — a telephone conversation — with my daughter in the room is nearly impossible, because not only does she want my attention, but she wants the attention of whomever I am speaking.
Seriously. My daughter LOVES the phone.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with being friendly and talkative and “enthusiastic,” but have you had a conversation with a toddler lately? No? Well, if you haven’t, let me fill you in. I can guarantee you it will go something like this: “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away a lollipop went in a car with Darth Vader.” Or this: “I’m hungry. Can we go to the park? I like the park. Mommy took me to the park yesterday and we ran and played in leaves and I rode my tricycle. Do you have a tricycle? Do you have food? I’m hungry.”
Or this: “I FARTED!”
Hilarious? No doubt.
Good background noise for a cell phone conversation? Well no, not unless you called to talk to my daughter — and only my daughter — about Star Wars, food, and/or flatulence.
So while I know you want to talk to me — and, trust me, I want to talk to you, too — please do not be upset if (oh hell, when) I do not answer. Please do not take it personally when you hear the “beep.” When you find yourself speaking to my voicemail. And please do not be offended if I schedule our conversations. If I ask you to call during “off” hours. I just want to be able to be present and give you my full attention.
I want to be able to speak to you — and with you — without yelling in your ear, without being interrupted, and without the fear that five minutes of silence will cost me. (And yes, whether it is markers on the wall, a homemade “ice rink” on our kitchen floor, or a pants-off dance-off party, five minutes of silence always costs me.)
That said, my shitty cell phone etiquette does not mean that I am neglectful. It does not mean I am unreachable. And while I try to avoid having cell phone conversations while caring for my kid, I am accessible. I am readily available through text messages and Facebook messages. Through emails, IMs, PMs, and Google’s instant messenger. And assuming my phone isn’t lost or in another room, I usually respond within five minutes or less.
Is this an adequate replacement for a long-form cell phone conversation? No. Probably not, but if it gives us the chance to talk while keeping poo off of my Peanut, and pants on her — if it gives us the opportunity to catch up while keeping my daughter’s fingers out of the fridge and light sockets and a box full of used kitty litter — I am all for it. Besides, we can have a real conversation in another two years. Maybe three.
Until then, I’m sorry.
I’m really, really sorry.More On