by Amelia Abreu
My daughter’s father and I have been divorced, living apart for three years, and we communicate most frequently via iMessage, but we also email, talk on the phone, or talk in person.
I think there are definitely appropriate and inappropriate channels for communicating different things with your co-parent, or any other people in your family life, and that making sense of this makes everyone’s life better.
I really dislike emailing with my daughter’s father, unless it is just to document things we’ve already agreed on or follow up with something. (EG: registration information for activities and camps and things). But for actually discussing things? No way. Like, why do we need to email back and forth about vacation dates when we can just have a phone or in-person conversation and sort things out right then and there?
Calendars of All Kinds
My daughter’s father and I have a designated Google calendar for parenting time calendar that we share access to. Basically, I just put the days that he is supposed to have parenting time on the calendar, along with major holidays, school, and activity stuff. He’s supposed to update it when he has conflicts, etc. etc. As a system, I suppose it is “okay”, but I am like anyone else in this regard – I am terrified of changing anything lest the whole house of cards (that is, one’s personal life) comes tumbling down.
I also subscribe to a Jewish holidays calendar, which is helpful for planning family stuff. And lastly, I have a calendar with the Portland Trailblazers schedule, because I love watching basketball but sometimes have to have a reminder. I should also put the Portland Timbers’ calendar on there because my boyfriend is a season ticket holder and plans his life around the season.
With religious holidays, the school calendar, your team’s season, there is a really comforting rhythm. You make plans for where you are going to be and with whom. And then it happens again, every year.
When I think about technology making life work better, I want to think about what the building blocks are, for real life, and how technological solutions can make these blocks fit together. Sports, religion, schools, these are all technologies in that regard, and certainly, there are lots of technological solutions wedged in there, most of them pretty terrible experience-wise and dicey in terms of security and access.
These relationships to technologies are also almost always culturally specific! For instance, I went to a Liga MX fútbol game in Leon, Mexico last month, and there was no clock or scoreboard in the stadium, the way we are accustomed to in the states. You couldn’t watch the clock, which makes watching the game a different experience. But, it was also kind of great to be forced to be in the moment, and knowing that the ref had a timer somewhere.
I think it’s a commonly accepted goal to have a source of truth in both personal life and public, professional life. For me, for most adults around me, that is probably a Google or Outlook calendar, and that is that. I can think of a million ways that this might work better, but at the end of the day, I want whatever technological solution to take up as few resources as possible and be as pleasant as possible. And I don’t want to knock over the cards.
Connecting with Others’ Approaches to Calendars
My daughter uses her own paper, on-the-wall calendar, which makes a big difference because she knows when big days are coming up. I got her a really cute Rillakkumma (http://www.san-x.jp/characters/rilakkuma.html) calendar in Japan last year, which makes me smile whenever I look at and I think delights her a fair amount as well.
My boyfriend is an avid Google calendar user, of the sort who will check to see what he was doing last year that day. My mind does not work that way at all, so it’s always such a revelation to see someone else do that. He is also a heavy-duty Flickr user, and finds nothing more fun than precisely geotagging his photos from traveling. What can I say? There are people who love tending to their own metadata, and people who find it extremely unappealing. I am in the latter category, while my partner is in the former.
As life goes on, I am increasingly aware of how differently my brain works from the power-users of the world, and I’m okay with this. I want less and better technology in my personal life, and I want it all to be as useful, accessible, adaptable (relatively), secure, and shareable as our Rillakkuma wall calendar.
Amelia Abreu by day works with teams to build better technology through understanding humans. By night, she teaches and speaks about the intersections of humanity and technology (and occasionally, basketball).