01 January 2005

Single...With Children: Communication Can Get Lost In The Translation

Single With Children: Choose your communication methods wisely

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 02/25/04

Maybe I'm just slow, but I sure found out my options for sending information aren't! The other day I was at one of those stores that offer a variety of options for getting things to the other side of the world, when it absolutely has to be there tomorrow. It's not necessarily cheap, but it's also not the cost of a plane ticket either.

It's not only mail and packages we're intent on sending with lightning speed. Not so long ago, it would have been almost impossible to conceive of the ability to send a document or letter to someone who might live in China, Australia or even an astronaut on the space station, with lightning speed. It's now routine to send messages to folks living in virtually every locale on the planet in the mere blink of an eye.

Speaking of lightning-fast communication and accessibility, when is the last time you went anywhere without your cell phone? Have you ever stopped at a busy intersection or stood in a checkout line at a store and noticed how many folks are talking on the phone? It wasn't too many years ago that using a cell phone was for emergency use only. Now, it's nearly as essential as car keys and debit cards. You just don't leave home without it. Though my cell phone bill might not always reflect it, talk is basically cheap.

In this age of high-speed information, one antiquated form of communication still is being used with too much frequency, and it comes with a high emotional price tag. Many ex-, or "soon to be ex," spouses, still employ their children to send messages to one another because they just can't stomach the prospect of directly conversing with their child's mom or dad. All too often, our kids are plucked out of their much-preferred neutral territory to be used as personal couriers simply to alleviate parental discomfort, with little thought as to how this will most probably make the "messenger" feel.

It seems inconceivable that folks who shared a marriage and children, can't create and agree upon a means to painlessly exchange information. If you can't quite manage a private "the kids don't need to hear this" phone call, there are other alternatives: e-mail, voice mail, registered mail and, should none of these work, there are attorneys who can act as liaisons. The latter will cost quite a bit more than the price of a stamp, but not nearly as much as the emotional pain sure to visit a child who has assumed the role of "carrier pigeon."

If you are that fond of high functioning, multitalented birds, buy a parrot. I must warn you though, after having had a couple of them, they do tend to pick up the naughty words first, and it's really quite hard to explain that away when the bird spends all of its time in your possession. They're apt to repeat a few phrases you'd much prefer to keep private, but that's a whole other column.

The next time you're remotely tempted to request that your son or daughter tell Mommy or Daddy that this isn't fair or that isn't nice, or that you need cooperation in rearranging the visitation calendar due to a scheduling conflict, consider clearly the uncomfortable position into which this places your child. Remember that your job is to make things easier and more pleasant. It's not your child's place or business to protect you. Please don't make them believe it is.

The legal decree of divorce results in the prefix of an "ex" in front of the words wife and husband. It dissolves a union and drastically alters a spousal relationship and that's expected.

What it shouldn't dissolve or alter any more than necessary is the relationship between a parent and child. Such an alteration is not only unexpected, but unacceptable.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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