I've been somewhat hesitant to admit to the Internets that this Christmas I got TeenTuna a cellphone. It wasn't a surprise by any means. We had had discussion after discussion about cell phones. She knew I was unmoved by the "but even 3rd graders have one!" argument. I knew her nods were merely polite head-bobs and were in no way a signal of agreement when when I launched into my "phones are tools not toys" lecture. We constantly discussed the fine difference between needs and wants. But because her high school isn't close by and her schedule is becoming increasingly insane, I thought it was time to have that tool at her disposal. After many discussions about what she could and could not, and should and should not do with the phone,
we went together to look.
FYI: All of humanity goes to look at cellphones seven days before Christmas. I don't particularly recommend it.
We looked around the store and she instantly went for fancy, fancy and fancier. I walked behind her shooting down phone after phone, AKA ruining her life. Too expensive. Too fragile. It's a tool, it doesn't need to make you coffee. After showing her several options, she finally looked at one and said, "Well, I guess I could live with this one...."
I looked at her, managed not to blow my top in the middle of the store, and said, "Well, considering this is a gift, and a very generous gift at that, if the best we can find is something you could LIVE with...then we're just not ready to get a phone." And with that -- much to her extreme surprise and chagrin -- we left.
It's amazing what 24 hours will do. The next day the song had suddenly changed from "I guess I could live with this one" to "I would really like that phone." Success. So, back we went. We found the same salesman, explained that yes, we were ready to make our selection, and he told her what a great choice it was. She was very excited, and as much as I was pleased that she really did make a good choice, I gave her a hug and said, "You aren't any more special now than you were yesterday, and I love you just the same. No more. No less." Mean mom? Not really. We had talked about this very concept several times previously.
Her cousin also got a phone over the holidays. I was gratified to hear that my older brother was as mean of a parent as I was, and had gone so far as to draw up a contract with my neice. I had done much the same with TeenTuna, minus the paperwork formalities. This weekend we got the first bill, and I made her sit down with me and go over it. Unsurprisingly, she had a whopping 3 minutes in phone calls. Why? They don't TALK on the phone. My child hates TALKING on the phone. She will only make a call if she has no other options. No, her phone is used to text. K? LOL. G2G. BBL. BIBI. Barf. On Christmas day the two of them were multitasking princesses, simultaneously playing on the Wii with one hand, and reading text messages with the other. The ambidextrous thumb work alone was impressive.
Last weekend we were in the parking lot at Target. The weather was horrible and there were a lot of cars everywhere because it was the day after Christmas. We passed a dad and four kids walking towards the store. Every kid had a cellphone out and at the ready, and all four of them were walking with the heads down, thumbs flying, paying zero attention to anything else. The dad said, "Hey, do you think you could stop texting while we're in the parking lot so you could, you know, look out for cars and not get run over?" I gave TeenTuna a big elbow nudge and said, "SEE? SEE? SEE?" Even she was appalled. Huzzah!
Already she has eased up on the whole opening it up every 15 seconds to see if someone has sent her a text. She has even turned it off without argument when I ask her to do so. No phones at dinner. No phones at rehearsal. No phones at the movies. Mean mom? I hope so. But I always back it up with a reason why. That's my responsibility in this age of electronics. Teach them the hows, whens and whys of when it is and isn't appropriate, and let them have the responsibility to show you they understand. Even 3rd graders can do that!