Digital Manners: Parents Never Come to The Door To Pick Up Their Kids From Our House—They Just Text.

Navigating the intersection of etiquette and technology.
March 13 2012 1:42 PM

Drive-By Texting (Transcript)

Parents never come to the door to pick up their kids from our house—they just text.

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?”

Emily:  I have to say that when parents come and pick my daughter’s friends up, I do like to meet them once or so, but there are some parents who come in every time – and you will not believe how slow teenagers are at putting their shoes on. It’s like having kindergarteners. So you’re standing there, “Hey, how are you…” thinking, “Kids, please hurry up.”

Once you’ve already met, if you’re not pursuing a friendship, you’re not social friends, then when my daughter has a group over, usually it’s one by one the parents come, they send a text, the kid goes out the door and that’s just fine with everyone. But I do think that it is important to have established at least one or twice some face time.

Farhad:  I agree with that. I think that you should meet them at least once. I think expecting it more often or all the time, that’s too much.

Emily:  But Farhad, you’re the parent of a young child. I know, for me, now my daughter is a teenager so I’m not really making new friends out of the parents of her classmates even though she went to a new high school. But when she was little, a lot of my dearest friends now I met through my young daughter. To totally lose that would be really sad.

Farhad:  Yeah. But my son is not old enough to understand text, so it wouldn’t really work.

Emily:  Right. But I’m saying as he does get older. There is something really sweet about those years when you do make connections with other parents who are in the same situation you are.

Farhad, my bottom line is get my bottom up out of the car seat and, at least the first time, go to the door. I think the letter writer is right.

Farhad:  I agree with that. I just don’t think you should feel guilty if you don’t go all the time.

Emily: Send us your questions about shifting etiquette in the online age. Our address is digitalmanners@slate.com

Farhad:  You can also join our Facebook page where we carry on the conversation throughout the week.  Go to www.Facebook.com/digitalmanners.

Emily:  And we’ll talk to you next time on Manners for the Digital Age.

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