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Musing for Meaning

Talking Without Speaking

Talking Without Speaking

 Email

I feel way too young, and yet way too old, to be dealing with teenagers. One is full-blown, another one preteen; but just as my children started the “terrible twos” at one, teenagehood seems to be setting in early.

The other day, they were complaining that I have favorites. Of course, I favor everyone except for the one who is complaining at the time. But, interestingly enough, they all got together and voted on it. They decided that I love my youngest the most, followed by the next youngest, and then the second-to-oldest and then the oldest. They didn’t even realize that they went in order.

I will admit, at times, I don’t like them all the sameWhat I didn’t try to point out to them was that not only was this the order of their ages, it was also a perfect ranking by attitude: smallest to largest. And while every good parent will say, and most definitely put in print, “I love all my children equally,” I will admit, at times, I don’t like them all the same. And yes, it is a lot easier to speak sweetly to my little girl who thinks I am the best thing on the planet than to the one who sometimes wishes I wasn’t even on it.

As I write this blog, it is almost one in the morning. Not that this is particularly late (or early?) for me, but what is making this moment unique is that I am getting nonstop e‑mails from one of my darling daughters. She is angry at me, and won’t go to sleep. But she doesn’t want to talk. So instead, she is sending me e‑mail after e‑mail depicting in great detail what I have done wrong, along with pictures of me that she manipulated in some program to make me look oh-so-beautiful.

While I do not want to deal with the waking of my sure-to-be little monster in the morning, for now I am greatly enjoying our exchange.

Because there is a distance between us and she doesn’t see me, she can be more open. She is also actually reading my responses, whereas she would most likely not be willing to listen to my words. And, as angry as she is pretending to be, she is loving the attention she is getting and the back-and-forth we have going. You see, she is saying things that she honestly wouldn’t dare say to my face: no doubt, smart thinking on her part. But because it is in e‑mail, I am finding it funny rather than insulting as she intends. Even more so, I am able to write what I wouldn’t have the patience to say. I definitely believe that when we least feel like saying “I love you” is exactly when it needs to be heard the most. So, for every e‑mail I am getting (and I have received another five since my last paragraph), I am able to write back telling her how much I love her, how sorry I am she feels this way, and how I will try harder next time.

And guess what is happening?

No matter how hard she throws her punches, I’m not going anywhereShe is calming down, starting to joke around, and realizing that no matter how hard she throws her punches, I’m not going anywhere. Specifically because we are not talking, we are actually communicating. If we were having this conversation face to face, she would have been sent to her room a while ago, angry and upset, and I would have been frustrated. Instead, she has been able to unload what is bothering her, get my attention (albeit through the keyboard) and receive love notes for every bit of anger mail that she sent. Whether or not she wants to believe it, she is reading it. And every time I tell her how much she means to me, it goes somewhere into that brain and little body of hers and plants a seed.

Well, after 27 e‑mails, it appears she has forgotten why she was so mad at me in the first place. Now if only I could get her to go to sleep . . .


Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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ruth housman marshfield, ma June 17, 2012

I find I can resolve my feelings often by writing and through email and that words spoken aloud can sometimes in the passion of the moment be misinterpreted. In writing, itself an emotional release I can slow down, re think, reword, erase without being seen.

I just had 'words' with my daughter and in retrospect email would have been better.
It was silly. She was involved in her 'stuff' and did not yet ask about our trip so miffed I remarked on her omission and miffed she said she was going to ask. Better to sit on it or write it out first and maybe that haste would not introduce the hurt. Reply

naomi yavetz June 14, 2012

Your a great Mom , continue to see the positive things in life and your children. Reply

Chana Silberstein Ithaca, NY June 14, 2012

While I agree that when face-to-face conversation is difficult, e-mail can allow for better communication, it is the job of the parent to set ground rules and limits. Parents and children are not peers or equals. Part of our responsibility in educating our children to Torah is letting them know that it is never appropriate for them to communicate disrespectfully to a parent, whether verbally or in writing. Reply

Ken Brown Los Angeles, CA June 14, 2012

Firstly, great article! Secondly...for anyone wondering if communication through the written word is valid...perhaps reflect on the fact that G-d gave us both an ORAL Torah and a WRITTEN Torah, as both modes of communication were necessary and compliment one another. Yasher Koach Sara Esther and I look forward to your next piece... Reply

Sheleen Beira, Mozambique June 14, 2012

I loved your article. I find emailing or writing letters about how I feel about something or someone so much easier then trying to talk about the problem face to face. Its not that I am trying to hide or anything, its because I have realised the emotions of the moment can lead to your saying or doing things you sincerely regret later. My family does not believe in this but also never talk and sort problems out, consequently we have reached a stage in our lives where there is a lot of animosity between all of us siblings and my parents hate it and try and stay away from all of us.
I thought it was because of my inability to articulate properly but now I realise that perhaps my written word brought out more truths then they all wanted to face. Reply

Kadyja Brealey SAN JOSE, IL June 12, 2012

I read the article and ejoyed it a lot. I have 3 children on Earth and one in heaven. sometimes I feel like they are punching me everywhere! but you are right no matter how hard they punch me I am not going anywhere! Reply

Yocheved Seattle, WA June 12, 2012

My ex husband and I had a very contentious divorce, but we were determined to never fight in front of our daughter, who was 2 at the time. We felt silly emailing each other when we were one room apart, but it let us both air our issues and come to conclusions in a way that I think was much faster and easier than trying to "talk it out".

To this day, our daughter has no idea that we ever fought, and now I can even say that my ex and I are good friends and a great parenting team.

I recommend email communication to anyone who needs help expressing themselves. The internet is a great neutral mediator! Reply

angela June 12, 2012

So timely... thank you. From a mother to a mother... very good!

*;-) Reply

chayawsilv W Hartford, CT June 12, 2012

Yeah. An advantage to Internet. Reply

devastated silicon valley, CA June 12, 2012

I am going through a very contentious divorce and my 2 older kids are mad at me (even though their father is the one that decided to end the marriage). They are living with their father and not communicating with me. But I am sending them a text a day, telling them that no matter how long they stay angry, I will still love them forever. They can delete the text but I'm hoping they are reading it before deleting it.
Thank you for giving me some hope. Reply

Melissa Jarquin Aventura, FL June 12, 2012

I always love your articles and this is not different! With two little ones far, or so I think, from teenage years I do get a chuckle out of what attitudes will emerge when they are going through that time of their life. Especially nowadays with our society as a whole being online with web based personas it's good that our kids can find an outlet to express themselves. It's great that you embrace that and find a way to connect as well instead of shutting that window of opportunity! Reply

darlene fort irwin, CA June 12, 2012

i used to write letters to my parents when i was upset at them or when i felt i needed to apologize. i was very mouthy and sassy (my whole family was and things could heat up very quickly!) and writing things on paper calmed me and helped me be more rational when i explained "what i thought my parents had done wrong" and helped me express my repentance more when i was sorry for my wrongs. i would set the paper on the telephone table folded closed with "Mom and Dad" written on the top. My sister read a few and made fun of me about not being able to talk and then i just didn't even try anymore. People are different and need to try different forms of communication to see how to center themselves and handle situations. Teens need practice! That was in the '80's but nowadays e-mail is just like a letter - you just get it there faster. thank you for all of your lovely articles and HaShem bless you for all your encouragment and sharing. HaShem bless your whole family! Reply

Rabbi Yossi Lew Atlanta, GA June 12, 2012

It was not your writing - which is always clear, down to earth, and "readable".

It was not the funny-ness of it - and I laughed heartily through much of it.

It was not the outcome of the story - which, Thank G-d, was good.

It was not that you chose to say "I love you" to a teenager who can't - and, from experience, won't - appreciate what this means until her child does something similar.

It was how you talked to the root, to the essence of what it is: Communication was still open, despite it being closed.

And this is not just a miracle of a mother-child, but of the internet and email.

It was truly a beautiful piece! Reply

Anonymous Melbourne, VIC June 11, 2012

This is a very cute article and its amazing that you are getting through to your duaghter in this way..
But isn't a little dangerous that we hide behnd our phones, laptops, etc to be able to express to others how we truly feel?
Will the art of communication and real sharing of emotions be completely lost if the only way to say "i love you" is through text?
I'm worried that it cheapens relationships if its so easy to write what you feel and if it comes out wrong just add a smiley or wink face and all is good..
I'm a victim of this as well and have even developed beautiful meaningful friendships through text but i question how true and real it really is.. Reply

m.s.g from NY June 11, 2012

i felt offended for her, as C.S. wrote, but also embarassed for you... at 1 am after 27 emails or during them, one's perspective isn't the same. you could have been less -- or completely non-anecdotal and shared your insight into 'writing may be easier'/ good use of modern media, etc, but instead you demonstrated your inability to communicate 'person to person', betray the trust and possibly commit loshon hara. Lastly, unlik CS, i say, writing style can be compromised by the content and the article was not funny. May G-d bless you and your family. May He bring you to forge a deep Torah-based relationship with your loved-ones and yourself as well. Reply

Leah ny, ny June 11, 2012

Curious. Do you ask your daughter's permission before writing about her? Reply

H. Aber North Miami Beach, Florida June 10, 2012

I often prefer to write rather than talk since it gives me time to think before I speak. It is always good to tell them 'I love you" as no one gets tired of hearing it. Love your articles. Reply

Risa Mendelson Roswell, GA June 10, 2012

SaraEster,
It was wonderful meeting you at Chabad of Cobb and you never cease to amaze me in your terrific insight. I have a 26 year old son who still lives at home and I agree with you about the electronic communication!!I shared it with him on facebook. Now I hope he reads it. Reply

C. S. June 10, 2012

I like this article, it's funny real and well written, but I hope your daughter does not mind that poeple all around the world, whom she has never heard of, are reading about her personal life and she might see this as an invasion of her privacy? Maybe not, but if she is upset, you might get a whole lot more angry emails...but good luck and keep up your amazing and inspirational writing! Reply

R Narz Saskatoon June 10, 2012

One of my friends tells of growing up in a family where the nine children were often at loggerheads and for how many years she was not talking to this one or that one.
I find it a little hard to identify with this as I had only one brother and was often not talking with him. Oh well, we live and learn.
Nice article! Reply

Every situation we find ourselves in is a lesson waiting to be learned. That is what this blog is about. From the people I meet, the places I go and the experiences I have, stories emerge, each teaching me something that I hope you will find useful for your life as well.
Sara Esther CrispeSara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.