There are many times as a parent when an experience leaves you wondering. Depending on the age of your offspring you have probably been faced with some kind of technological challenge – or rather – a debate. Most of the conversations I have as a Father are not unique. If you are anything like me, in most cases you can recall vividly being on the other side of the exact same conversation. I’ve had several of these recently with my own Son – and expect plenty more – but my revelation on this one was fairly profound….
“Hi Daddy” he says. I know I’m in trouble when he uses my full name… Daddy. “I need a cell phone.”
Not want, or could use- need. The seas will dry up, the land will crumble…. unless my offspring holds in his hand the ultimate vehicle of immediate gratification.
“Really”, I reply. “So life as we know it will stop unless you have a phone?”
“Yes.” Grand pause. “So….can I have one?”
“No”, I said. Quickly followed by: “Why? When you get a girl’s number at a bar, you shouldn’t call her right away anyway”.
My Son is 10.
Being used to my age inappropriate banter, he cocks his head sideways like a Collie – but only for a moment. Then he shrugs it off…”Dad. Seriously.”
“Oh, seriously… Well then.” His ears perked up. “Ah, no.” I repeated.
My Son has thankfully learned over time that any conversation with me will end abruptly if his antics that surround not getting what he wants at all resemble the end of the world or the decline of western civilization. However, I am not above hearing a compelling argument…
“What if I’m out alone and need to call you or Mom?”
My Son is 10. If he’s out alone he needs an Amber alert, not a cell phone.
With a straight face he then adds, “I’m just saying – if I had a cell phone at overnight camp, I could call you to say goodnight”. He clearly hasn’t learned to address the pain points of his audience…or has me confused with his Mother.
We went back and forth like this for a short while before I ended the conversation with the now infamous; “Listen Pal, we will see. OK?” Not crushing his dreams but in no way making a commitment, however abstract, that can be taken out of context & used against me in the immediate future.
This really got me thinking though – why am I saying no?
I’ve watched friends with now older kids struggle with this question, but for years it was purely a financial issue that trumped all others. It was simply cost prohibitive. It also wasn’t all that safe to be flashing the latest parent / carrier subsidized cell phone while walking down the street. In the days when kids were getting mugged for Air Jordans, waiving around a cell phone just made you a target. A big deal when we were kids was having your own phone line… How many of you even have a home phone line now? It is indeed a brave new world.
These days the “all you can eat” family plans really negate the cost factor. And being able to track your kids through the GPS in the phone is a mandatory option for any teenager. I certainly wouldn’t mind not having to channel my Father when the phone rings. I can still see him reading the newspaper in one hand & answering the phone with the other- not saying anything to the person on the other end at all, simply holding it in the air and yelling my name.
I refuse to be one of those cliché’ old people that simply does things the way they have been always done, if for no other reason than it’s what I know. I didn’t have a cell phone at his age because they weren’t invented yet. We live in a different world then our children do, and as such owe it to them to benefit from the technology of the age.
“Hey Bubba…” I call to him, prompting a look of recognition from both him and the dog. “Listen. I think at some point very soon we will let you have a cell phone. ‘When’ will be determined by your ability to be responsible for it. I’m not saying you are not responsible, I’m saying we will work together to take it up a notch.” His look confirms the disappointment of having lost this round but is filled with the promise of potential the future may offer. My Son who often returns from school missing a sweatshirt, a book bag or the occasional sock (single, not plural) is simply not ready for a cell phone right now- and he knows it.
In addition to instilling in my child the need to create & present a compelling argument, it’s not entirely fair to hold his lack of experienced fact gathering against him. The reality is, there are many reasons why at his age one can find good reason for the latest gadget Apple has to offer (or hand-me-down from yours truly). On this day, with this child – not so much.
Life is one big grey area – try to add color where you can.