My son is 12 years old (to be fair, he will be 13 in November, but I will keep him out of the teenage realm as long as I possibly can) and will be heading into 8th grade come September. He wants a cell phone. And not just any old free from AT&T cell phone, but the Galaxy 4 or the iPhone 5 so he can download apps and text and surf and play and be incessantly bombarded with attention grabbing stimuli. Have any of you seen the movie “Up?” There is this scene where the dog, Dug, is talking to Russell and Carl and is momentarily distracted looking for a squirrel. This is what I think is always happening to us now — we can’t completely focus on any one task because so many other things are vying for (maybe successfully, maybe not) our attention. But that’s not my point.
So of course, my first reaction to his increasingly frustrating pleas for a cell phone is similar to that of my mother when I used to ask for things (like a TV for my bedroom,) “Christopher, you can have a phone when you can afford to pay the monthly bill.” To which he responds, “But mom, all my friends have one and they don’t have to pay for it. And besides, I am too young to get a real job.”
If your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bride, etc., etc. Yes, I hear myself becoming THAT mother. The one I swore I would never become.
OK, my boy, let’s look at some of the options:
1) Do extra chores around the house for allowance. (My viewpoint is that since we are the only two inhabitants of the house — human ones, anyway — he has to do a certain amount of chores just to live there. I need help to run the house. Extra chores, which will be defined, do justify payment.)
2) Do extra landscaping work for neighbors and get paid (I LOVE my neighbors — they are the nicest.)
3) Save money you get for birthday, Christmas, etc. and use it monthly to pay the bill.
*Please note: “ask your dad” was not on this list. : )
Now, I am aware that many of you will agree with some of my friends (but few family members) who claim that I am a mean mommy. Maybe I am strict, but I have my reasons. And I am VERY secure in them. Some of them include promoting a sense of independence, instilling self-confidence, managing money and working hard. A small part of me also wants to protect him from being “always available,” an unfortunate disease that results in fuzziness of the line between work and play. When we are young, school work is interrupted by play. As we become adults play is interrupted by work. Either way, balance is elusive at best. Cell phones make it that much harder.
I understand the “safety” point of being able to get in touch with my son at any moment. The fact that phones have GPS and I can know where he is (assuming it is on). That if something happens at school, I can easily find out if he is affected. I get it — and being an admittedly worry-wart of a mom, it is all very shiny and attractive.
Having realized that: I am ready to (possibly) reconsider my position on his case for a cell phone. I would like for the rAVe readers to explain to me the best defense of a 13 year old boy having a cell phone paid for by his mom. Convince me… be creative, all you technology lovers. There’s got to be some really awesome reason that will firmly plant me on your side of the fence.
I also open it up to those readers who are with me on this, and don’t believe a 13 year old should have a cell – why do you feel this way?
Oh, and just getting back to my TV for my bedroom — my sister and I (twins who always shared a room) pooled our money when we were 13, went to a garage sale, bought a 13-inch TV without a remote — with the twisty dial (no, I am NOT that old) and were perfectly content — not only proud of our purchase, but happy that my parents couldn’t take control over something that we bought with our own hard earned money. An early sense of freedom.