Parental Phone Tag (No Takesy-Backsies)

I love my parents.  Let’s get that on the table before I start the griping.  Not really griping.  Good-natured ribbing.  I hope they won’t disown me for writing this.  Then again, they’re on vacation for a week, so they may not even read this.

Like many thirty-somethings, I’ve got that time in my past when I sort of fell out of touch with my parents for a while.  Never estranged or anything like that, but there were times in my twenties when I’d go a month or so without speaking to them.  Not even necessarily on purpose.  I was just too cool for school.  Well, having kids changes all that, and these days it’s rare for me to go more than a few days without speaking to my folks.

Partly it’s because I now sort of appreciate the biological need for a parent to have his nose one hundred percent lodged in the kid’s business, and that’s literal as well as figurative (see this post which is not about giving enemas to a toddler).  Partly because frankly my wife and I need a little bit of backup every now and then and the grandparents are the best source of free childcare currently in operation.  Partly because all my wife and I have to talk about anymore is the kids, and it takes a blood relative to listen to all that sharknado.  But calling my parents particularly has its own set of hassles associated with it.  For example, every time I call my parents, I have to call twice.

No, let’s get this right.  Every time I call my parents, six or more phone calls are involved.

First, I call my dad, who’s a retired schoolteacher and now works more-or-less full-time as a math tutor, making enough money to make me want to get certified to teach Math instead of English.  To put it bluntly, he stays busy and is always driving around, so the odds of picking him up the phone are about as likely as a tornado opening up in my kitchen, the toddler notwithstanding.  For some reason, I can never remember those odds before I ring him up, so the call goes through and rings and rings and rings and then I get his voicemail.  Well, I’m not leaving him a voicemail (what is it, 2003?), so I hang up and remember that the smart play is calling my mother.  (That was call #1, by the way.)

Call #2 is to my mom, who is also an employee in the school system (but not a teacher – she’s a middle school counselor, so, y’know, god help her).  There’s something really odd going on with her, though, because she seems to love her job and therefore stays late almost every day, and her phone gets worse service in her building than my phone gets in mine, which is to say, I’ve got a better chance of finding my cats cleaning the kitchen than of reaching my mom at work.  Again I connect to voicemail, and again I hang up without leaving a message.

Let’s detour and note that the leaving of a message or lack of the leaving of a message is entirely inconsequential.  I could leave a detailed message with cross references and a works cited page, and I’d still get called back to see what the message was about.

Call #3 is from my mom to me. She’s returning my call, but she invariably calls when I’ve got the sprout in the tub or I’m putting the sprout to bed or I’ve got my hands full of raw chicken from dinner preparations or the sprout has hidden my phone inside of a cat.  Half the time she leaves a message which I will not check and which therefore throws notifications at my phone for about a week and a half after.  Call #4 is me to my mom and this is usually when we finally connect to establish plans for the weekend or give her an update on the toddler’s bowel movements (true story) or whatever other riveting developments have developed at Casa de Pav in the couple of days since we last spoke.

Call #5 is from my dad, usually within the first hour after I’ve spoken to my mother, but sometimes as much as six hours after on the weekend.  Just like my mother, he’s unnaturally gifted at ringing me when I’m wrist-deep in infant poop or my fourth load of dishes that day, so I miss this call.  Calls #6-9 are exchanged between my dad being on the road from one tutoring gig to the next and me being embroiled in one toddler emergency or another (“Want chocolate milk!”  *pours chocolate milk*  “Don’t want chocolate milk!”  *puts chocolate milk away in the fridge for later* “WANT CHOCOLATE MILK!”) before we finally connect and cover the exact same ground I covered with my mother an hour or six before.

Under no circumstances do my parents communicate with one another in the meantime.  I wonder if after 30+ years of marriage they’ve discovered that the secret to success is to simply avoid one another as much as possible.  At any rate, I have to have the same conversation with them both, sometimes as quickly one to the next as fifteen minutes.

The latest iteration was not a few hours ago.  My parents are going on a cruise (at a ridiculously good price, damn them) and they wanted an update before they left on how the sprout’s doctor’s appointment today went before they shoved off at 5pm.  I had a faculty meeting keeping me at school until about that time.  Now, my wife had graciously contacted my dad (unbeknowst to me) to let him know that things went pretty much fine while I was at work.  Not knowing that, I frantically tried to call first my dad (call #1) and my mom (call #2).  Neither picked up, so I figured I missed them and they were well on their way to the Bahamas or whatever.  Fifteen minutes later, my dad calls.  He’s at some drawing on board trying to win a free cruise and we can barely hear one another, but I give him the highlights and wish him a good trip.  Five minutes after that, my mother calls.  She’s elsewhere on the same boat trying to win spa giveaways and can’t talk right now (why did you call me?) and can she call me back in ten minutes?

Look, you get the point.  And you know, for having the grandparents involved and a part of our kids’ lives, a few extra phone calls are a small price to pay.  Mom and dad, I love you.  But seriously.  Maybe a little communication on your end.

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