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Pop quiz. True or False? My 14 and 12 year olds are the very last tweens on planet earth to get cell phones.
Please tell me the answer is false. I want the answer to be false. Surely there must be other kids in that junior high sans phones. I can’t be the only holdout, right? And if the answer is true, that they are the very last, that means…well, that means…my children are…right.
I was 32 when I finally got an iPhone. Before that, I asked gas station attendants for directions, kept a Thomas Guide in the glove box, and if I said I was going to meet up with someone, I made darn sure I was there and on time. Sure, there were a few awkward moments when I had to ask perfect strangers at Disneyland if I could borrow their cell phones when I got separated from my group, but it was a small price to pay to never be over my minutes.
I get the convenience of a cell phone, I really do. Seven years later, my phone has now evolved into an essential third appendage, connecting (or tethering) me to my loved ones and babysitters. But the convenience comes at a price. The self discipline it takes to unplug or power off a smart phone regularly is herculean. Are my tweens ready for that responsibility? Am I ready for that battle?
I want to hold on to this era before it becomes a bygone era. Right now their self esteem isn’t tied to a number of “likes.” The dinner table is chatty. Their friends have to actually call me in order to contact them. (Talk about knowing where they are!)
I keep clinging to this idea that when a boy wants to call my daughter, he’s supposed to say, “Good evening Mrs. Anderson, is your daughter home?” Then she’s supposed to blush and stretch the long curly cord into a tightrope, tugging it vainly for a shred of privacy. What a great system! With just that short exchange and a little eavesdropping, I’d be able to quickly identify the Eddie Hasckels from the Wally Cleavers of the world and keep a firm finger on the pulse of the house. I know this scenario is as naive and jejune as insisting a spiffy milkman in a bow tie drop off my two-percent every morning, but it’s nice to dream.
Occasionally my dreams do come true. Just last week my 14 year old was ice skating with our youth group when a pretty blonde asked him for his number so they could “text later.” He had no choice but to tell her he didn’t have a phone, but she was welcome to call me, his mother, and that I could patch her straight through. She hasn’t called. How come forward girls never call when they say they will?
But now my tweens are starting to make more money than any of their two-bit lemonade stands ever did. The babysitting and lawn mowing dollars are adding up. By this time next year they will have enough dough to strike out on their own phone plans. Instagram and Twitter feeds will inevitably follow. They always do.
I believe I must accept the coming changes with grace, dignity, and also a few rules, stipulations and provisos. I’ll have to up my own cell phone etiquette too, lest they call out my hypocrisy. On the bright side, at least once they have cell phones, they’ll have something cool I can take away. Because guess what? Here’s one more pop quiz:
True or False? My kids are the only ones left in the entire free world to not own a single video game either.
Read more by Margaret Anderson at www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com.