I remember about 6-7 years ago sitting at the park with a group of moms. My friend Emily was there and she got a phone call from one of her boys to come pick them up from wherever they were. I remember being shocked that her son HAD a phone. David must have been close to 6 and Michael would have been 2 years younger. Emily’s son was maybe 13 at the time. Emily told us (most of the moms there had younger children, 6-7 would have probably been the oldest) that her kid needed a phone so that he could call her to come get him from practice, etc. places where there weren’t phones. I remember thinking, my boys won’t have phones until they are much older.
Emily is the mom who I always think about when I don’t know what to do with my boys. Her youngest is about a year and a half older than David. In all she has 4 boys (23, 20, 17 and 14 – I think although I could be off by a year). I have told Emily that I believe her to be a role model and I hope that she doesn’t mind me writing about her. She taught me a lot about parenting and even more about parenting boys. She is still someone I go to when I am lost parenting my boys and need someone to give me good, solid advice. And this is something else she was right about: kids need phones for a lot of reasons.
My boys are now older. They both have phones. They got one that they shared, when we moved to Colorado four years ago, because we didn’t have a land line. David was 8 going on 9 and Michael was 6. That first phone was David’s responsibility most of the time. But one day when the boys were at daycare, Michael had the phone. He had placed it in his lunchbox and then proceeded to throw it in the garbage when he dumped all of the contents of his lunchbox. We didn’t realize the phone was missing for several days. We replaced the phone and decided shortly after that the boys both needed phones. One reason was that they were going in different directions and the other was that they were in different buildings at school and it just didn’t work for them to have to share.
Their first phones were bare-bones basic phones. They could make and receive calls. They weren’t allowed to accept any calls that didn’t come up with a name (meaning that they were numbers Chris or I programmed into their phone) and they weren’t allowed to call anyone who wasn’t already programmed into their phone without permission. People who were programmed into their phone (like their grandparents, Auntie Kathy and a few select friends) they were allowed to call whenever they wanted, within reason.
Around this time, I added texting to my phone. I didn’t really see how I would use it, but a friend texted all the time and convinced me. It didn’t take long for me to decide to go to unlimited texting, as it was such a useful tool! But the boys couldn’t text. Last summer, we added texting to the boys’ phones. We all had upgraded – Chris got a new Droid for work, I got his old Droid, David got a new phone and Michael got my old phone (as Michael had lost another phone and we weren’t going to reward him with a new phone until he showed he could be responsible). Now all the phones had keyboards and Chris and I got internet access, etc. with our phones.
Texting with the boys has been a real treat. They tell me things that they might not talk to me about, like having a bad day at school. And they almost always add an I love you to their texts. They can quickly check in with a text, find me in Super Wal-Mart when we are all heading in different directions, and let me know that they need to be picked up earlier or later than originally thought. They text their friends, rather than call (which is strange to me, but neither boy is much for talking on the phone and it seems to be normal for this generation). They can text their Grandma Kay (she is the only grandparent who has texting) who lives in Illinois and often travels. They text an old friend from Illinois who now lives in Arizona and Michael texts his cousin in Michigan. There is a lot more long distance communication going on than when I was a kid and we timed long distance calls because they were so expensive!
However wonderful and useful texting is, it is the I love you part that always surprises me. The boys are quickly growing up and don’t necessarily want to hug me in public. Sometimes they will hold my hand when we are walking (and I always wait for them to take my hand) or give me a kiss on the cheek. But usually they don’t want to give me a kiss goodbye when I drop them at an activity or at school. And sometimes they are in such a rush that they forget to say I love you back. All of this is as it should be. They are growing up and don’t need me as much as they did.
I am sold on texting and it didn’t take long. I love being able to be in touch with my boys wherever they are and whatever they are doing AND they aren’t embarrassed about it because everyone is doing it. They can and do say I love you and their friends are unaware. Chris was talking last night about needing to upgrade his phone (again) and that we can all upgrade. That would mean that David would get my old Droid. I’m not really sure what a 13-year-old needs with a data package especially when he won’t be able to use his phone at school. And what use is a Droid without a data package? I’m sure that if I asked him, he could give me a hundred reasons why he should have it with the data package, but I think that this is something he will have to wait until he is a bit older for – or the prices go down. I love you, David, but no for now.