Farhad Manjoo: Goodnight! Be sure and give us a call so we know you’ve made it home.
Emily Yoffee: I’m Emily Yoffe, Slate’s Dear Prudence advice columnist.
Farhad: I’m Slate’s technology columnist, Farhad Manjoo. And this is Manners for the Digital Age.
Today’s question is from a dad who’s perplexed about the etiquette of picking up and dropping off kids in the age of cell phones. He writes, “Dear Emily and Farhad, my wife and I have two daughters. When they have friends over to visit and it’s time for pick up, most parents don’t come to the door. Instead, they pull up outside and text their child to come out to the car. Because of this, our kids have some friends whose parents we have never laid eyes on. Our kids encourage us to text them rather than come to the door, but we feel it is courteous to go to the door to pick up our child and exchange pleasantries with the parents. Or if time is short, we might call in advance so our kid is watching out for us. What’s the best way to handle pick-up time when we’re increasingly relying on texts to communicate?” Signed, Our Door is Always Open.
So, Emily, do you text your daughter when you’re ready to pick her up somewhere?
Emily: I’m feeling really guilty. I’m that mother in the car texting “I’m here,” then 30 seconds later “Hurry up!” Then 15 seconds later, “What’s going on? Get out here.” I’m, as has been well-established, not much of a technology buff, but I do have to say texting has made me very lazy. While I’m sitting there, I am thinking, “I really should go up and ring the bell and say hello and thank you for having my daughter,” but I just want her to get in the car and go.
Farhad: Are there parents of your daughter’s friends that you haven’t met?
Emily: Yes. She has quite a good friend and she keeps saying, “Oh mom, you should talk to my friend Alexis’s dad. He agrees with you about so many things.” I keep thinking, “Okay. Next time, I’m going to go up to the door and say, ‘My daughter says you and I agree about this, that, and the other.’”
But I’m always in a rush so I’m always texting “Here. Come to the car.” But this is making me feel really abashed about this. And although I do it, I think it’s wrong.
Farhad: I guess I’m curious why you’re so guilty about it. I think that you should not do this all the time and you should meet all of your kids’ friends’ parents. But I don’t think this is necessarily bad. You’re in a hurry and you should text that you’re out there. I think in the past people used to just honk, right? What’s the difference?
Emily: Yeah. When we used landlines and stuff like that, in my day, it was, “You be looking out the window” or “You be on the porch and you come run to the car.” So there is something to that.
But as this father is writing, I think there’s a difference between you’re going back and forth between good friends of your kids – you’ve met the parents, you’ve all socialized, you’re in a rush – and the fact that the parents can be faceless to each other, you never meet because this used to be the place that at least you did get a little face time. You step inside the house, see if there are loaded guns lying around and that kind of thing. That’s getting lost and I think that’s too bad.
I think there should be, I’m telling myself, “Mom, park the car and haul your rear end up the steps and say hello and introduce yourself.”
Farhad: You’re kind of assuming, though, that the other parents want to talk to you. Isn’t it possible that this constant texting has turned everyone off to meeting children’s friends’ parents? It seems like you might go to the door and they’ll be like, “What are you doing here? Why didn’t you just text?”