I don’t like to talk on the phone. I can hardly think of anything to say. If I do, after ten minutes, I’ve said all I can think of and squirm in my seat like a kindergartner doing schoolwork. I remember a dozen things I need to get done and try to quietly multitask. My neck gets kinked severely from holding the phone to my ear with my shoulder.
As someone who has always been able to put thoughts into written words more easily than spoken ones, email saves me. I’m a writer. When I have a moment to sit and reflect, I can remember the things that happened over the past two days: My son jumped on his bed instead of brushing his teeth last night after too much birthday celebration. My husband got mad. I quietly giggled.
My daughter melted down over her math homework. She couldn’t make the connection between the last problem and the previous nine. They were all the same. Why was that one different? I began the verge of a meltdown myself while she fussed at me. Sometimes homework really stinks and I want to cry too.
Those are the things I say in emails that I can’t think to say in a phone call that has caught me off guard. When my mom asks what’s been going on, I say, “Not much.” In the moment, I’m put on the spot. Nothing comes to mind. I need a keyboard to help the words flow.
I’ve always found emails to be a quick way to connect during the day. A moment to save if I wanted, not like a good phone call (when I have one) that’s gone as soon you hang up. Those good emails, I keep them to savor.
When my kids do something funny, I shoot my husband an email to brighten his day, like the time my son was cracking up because he heard the phrase “booby trap” and repeated “booby” over and over. Or the day my daughter saw a convertible and said, “Oh cool! That car has no lid!” Or when my son drew marker around his mouth, denied it, and then confessed he wanted to be a clown.
When my niece was born, my sister began emailing me every day, updating me about life with a baby and then life with a toddler who demanded twenty kisses every night before bed. Stories I laughed at and loved. When my son was born two years later, I shared my own: the time I walked by the bathroom and my three-year-old son was washing his hair in the sink, the time my son helped my daughter get dressed, the time my daughter said she didn’t love anybody because she didn’t get a bedtime snack. My sister and I have commiserated over the loneliness and heartache that is motherhood and shared each other’s joys.
Our phone calls to each other now sound more like war zones than a conversation: kids screaming, kids in desperate need of a snack right now, kids who can’t find the toy they haven’t played with in three years. We can’t even finish a sentence. But our emails help us stay connected.
And emails don’t interrupt, like when both kids need me at once and the onions are two seconds away from burning. One child has just fallen and scraped her knee and the other just slammed the door and yelled something, tipping you off that he is the one responsible. The phone always rings at just that time.
Sometimes I’m just better at conversation through email anyway. When I talk on the phone, I’m not always good at witty banter or saying what’s on my mind. I’m tired. There’s no awkward silence in email. My thoughts sound good in my head, but when I say them, I realize maybe I should have gone through a few drafts and revised before I said that out loud. At least typing can be deleted. And after the day I’ve had, I go through a lot of revisions.