Friday, November 20, 2009

Pennsylvania 6-5000

I got my shoes shined up
I got my hair slicked down
'Cause baby I wanna hit the town

According to any non-bill paying child, the need to have a cellphone ranks up there in importance with food and water and unlimited sleeping rights on the weekend.  In reality, it probably ranks higher than both food and water, because "water is gross" and food can always be procured one way or another, often by engaging in the great food bartering system found in any school cafeteria.

The desperate wailings for a cellphone began in middle school.   TeenTuna opted for a double-barreled approach, by combining pathetic pleas with humiliating digs.  I would hear something along the line of "when can I have a cell phone?  I really, really, reeeeeeeeeeaaaaalllly  need a cellphone...." and her whining would be topped off with an icy, "So-and-so has a cellphone and they are in ELEMENTARY SCHOOL."

I rejected out of hand her need to have a cell-phone as a seventh grader.  I scoffed at the mere thought of elementary school kids having cellphones.  And even though I was entirely correct on the first count, and shockingly wrong on the second count, I was undeterred.  The child did NOT need a cellphone.  She didn't drive.  She wasn't a latch-key child.  She didn't have meetings to schedule or bosses to answer to.  Most importantly?  She didn't pay the bills.  Ergo, she didn't need a phone.

Mean mom?  Maybe.  But I was comfortable with the label.

I began to reconsider once high school rolled around.  Despite our best planning, it seemed as if her schedule was changing constantly (Can I stay after school to work on a project?  Can I stay after school for an extra rehearsal?  Can I stay after school to build the float?  Can I stay after school because Drama Club changed their meeting?) and it was making after school pickup a nightmare.  There are no such things as payphones anymore (because everybody has a cellphone, dontcha know) and she was constantly having to go to the office or borrow a friend's phone (after school only, as they are banned during the school day).  I knew I was going to have to reverse my decision, and I wasn't thrilled.

I wanted to lay the groundwork early for the reversal.  I didn't want to appear as if I were caving.  I wanted there to be clear rules and regulations -- part and parcel of the mean mom's handbook.  I began chanting my mantra over and over again in her presence: "A cellphone is a tool, not a toy."  Initially it was met with the rolling of eyes and the deep put-upon sigh of the exasperated.  It eventually mellowed to a resigned, "I know, I know," and I figured at that point that was as good as I was going to get.  So last December, we went to get a cellphone.

Being a normal child attracted to the shiny-pretty, she bee-lined to what was the most expensive phone in the store, and I went directly to the mean mom script:  No. No.  No. ARE YOU SERIOUS?  No.  No.  No. Her suggestions were rejected right and left.  When we finally found a phone in our price range that was sturdy enough to withstand teenage use and still had the most important accouterments she thought she needed, I thought we were set.  Surprisingly, she still wasn't happy.  She wanted that OTHER phone, and her body language, tone of voice and martyred sighs made it clear that this phone would always and forever in her eyes be second-rate.  I shrugged and said fine.  And took her out of the store and went home.  I wasn't about to lay out money and commit to yet another monthly expense when she made it plain she would be so wildly unhappy.  So she could do without.  I think she absolutely could not believe I did that.

This photo for illustrative purposes only.
Actually, this phone would be rejected out of hand.
It doesn't have a QWERTY keyboard.

Never underestimate a mean mom.  We mean business.

It took her exactly 24 hours to entirely change her tune. She wanted that phone.  She loved that phone.  That phone would be perfect.  It was exactly what she wanted, and it would be a great tool (that last part was pure suck-up, but at this point, I didn't mind).  Could we go back and get it that night?  Please?  We did, and she was thrilled.  She loved it and hugged it and petted it and called it George.  And all was good.

I have to admit, she has always been quite good about using the phone, and more importantly, NOT using the phone.  It has indeed come in handy more times than I can count, and has helped immensely in dealing with her constantly changing school and social schedule.  She knows that it is never to be touched during dinner, with family or out in public where she is expected to have her attention on someone or something else.  It goes off for movies and concerts, and we've never had a problem with it.  It has indeed been a very valuable tool.

This past October, her phone was stolen.  I was angry not only because someone went into her belonging and took it, but because now it was gone.  I vowed at that point she was simply going to have to do without her phone for a good long while.  She didn't have one before, and now she didn't have one again . She'd simply have to deal with it. 

Just like the olden days.

My red-hot resolve lasted exactly one week.  We needed that tool back.  So I sucked it up, bought another one, kept her same phone number (evidently beloved above all others) and made sure this time I had insurance put on the dumb thing.  Here's to everybody learning their lesson.  And now we have our tool again, and all is well.

The funny thing is, with all the importance she has heaped upon this little rectangular piece of electronics, if I ask her to use the phone to call somebody she practically turns green.  We have to go over what she is supposed to say.  It's as if she were suddenly allergic to dialing the phone and speaking to people.  This cool, confident, poised teenager morphs into AWKWARD-GIRL when she hits "call".  I suppose I have to take the hit for that one.  Although neither of us possess the talk on the phone for hours gene, we are both experts at interpreting another very important tool:  the Caller ID screen.

So nearly a year later, I'll admit it.  The cellphone was a good idea.  She has used it wisely.

Mission accomplished, mean mom.
Good job, TeenTuna.  

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