Me: Hi sweetheart, how is your day?
Me: Are you ready for your birthday? I can’t believe you’re going to be 5!!!
Allie: Gwygegeyeu Bhhdydhsydhdydh
Me: I love you, Princess. XOXO
Allie: I. Love. You. Daddy
And that is roughly what 99% of my text message communications with my daughter look like.Typically just a string of nonsensical characters, only rarely forming any word you’d find in the English language, let alone a complete thought (although occasionally she transcribes to someone else to type her thoughts for her, makes for an easier flow of conversation, but much less personal). She’s getting better though. As you can see, she does know how to read/write some words, including those most important to me, I, Love, You and Daddy.
I have many instances where I feel that although what she sends is gibberish, it’s some of the most important and reflective sentiments that I’ll hear from anyone all day. After all, it’s not the sequence or selection of characters that she chooses to send me (one could argue that some of my messages are just as incoherent at times), it’s that she sends me anything at all that melts my heart; that she’s thinking of me. It’s those unexpected, unsolicited messages that pop up out of nowhere that light up my face no matter where I am or what I’m doing. And even if I’m in the midst of some important meeting or a pressing issue, I always make it a point to send her something back as soon as I can (you never know how long she’ll wait for a reply before she moves on to iCarly or playing with her Barbies).
So, you may ask, “Hang on a second, she’s 5?” Yep, just turned five years old last week and I couldn’t be prouder, no matter how much I’d like to stop the clock and keep her as my little Princess forever. She will occasionally text me from her Mom’s phone, but for her birthday, her half-brother gave her his old iPod Touch (he’d since upgraded), which includes an app to text over Wi-fi. So, as far as she’s concerned, she has her own “phone” now, and is very proud of how well she takes care of it and uses it to keep in contact. I’ve even convinced her to text her grandmother, something that absolutely made my Mom’s day, maybe even her year.
If you read back through some of my older entries, you’ll see the anguish of a man who struggles to figure out how to keep in contact with a little girl whose interest in phone calls with her old man ranks just a notch above immunization shots. I still hate every single day that I try to call her and get only voicemail and my success rate hasn’t improved measurably. Text messages, in any form or fashion, from her let me know that she’s thinking about me, even if she doesn’t want to talk on the phone, or video chat.
I had the fortune of going to visit my daughter for a long weekend, to celebrate the great milestone of turning the big oh-five (we even had our own little mini-party), and we had an absolute blast together, as we always do. Also, as typical, it was immensely difficult to say goodbye, and turn her back over to her typical day-to-day life before I had to run to the airport and catch my plane. Not minutes after dropping her off at yet another birthday party for her, my phone vibrated in my pocket, to signal a message waiting for me. As if my overpriced tether to complete round-the-clock accessibility could tell exactly what I needed to hear in that moment, I read “Allie: I. Love. You” As much as I sometimes bemoan all of the surge of technology and my general inability to keep up (and I’m only in my 30’s it’s gonna get worse!), I have to say that something so simple as real-time text communication helps on those days when I’m struggling with being a long distance Daddy. I don’t know if whoever invented the text message (Al Gore?) was a long distance Daddy, but I owe him a big “Thank you”, nonetheless. Maybe I’ll Wikipedia him then send him a Facebook friend request.