I am the mother. I think things through clearly. I do not go back on my word. My “yes” is my yes and my “no” is my no and this is why my kids respect me so much.
Well I recently learned a little lesson myself and had to tell my kids I was wrong.
For Christmas this year, my husband and I were plum out of ideas for what to give our 12-year-old son. He has it all! He really didn’t have anything on his list and the basics (clothes, shoes and soccer gear) were covered.
He made honor roll this past trimester and, as a reward, we gave him my husband’s old iphone. It had no service plan on it, so calling was disabled and it only worked on wifi, so essentially an ipod touch. A really old ipod touch, the 3g, with missing buttons and slow-as-molasses response time. My son was thrilled and we were so happy to be able to reward his efforts in school.
After a few weeks, he started to notice that the volume didn’t work and that he couldn’t access new apps very quickly; I mean in the technology world, this thing was a dinosaur!
Right before Christmas my husband started hinting that he wanted to get our son the new iphone. With our service plan we were able to get it for $10 a month and the phone was less than $100…it’s a no brainer! Now we can call him when he is at a friend’s house! Hmmmm. I stewed on it for a bit. Something felt weird about it. A 12-year-old with the new iphone. Hmmm. I reasoned, well its only costing us $99. Certainly I’ve spent more than that on bikes and other exciting gifts. Not wanting to be Debbie Downer, I obliged. After all, I know most of his classmates have an iphone. I’d hate to have him left out.
Well don’t stop me there. I apparently got so caught up in the gift-giving spirit, I then suggested we give the old dinosaur ipod to my daughter, who is 8. “She will love taking pictures and texting with her Grammy!” I thought this was a great plan! I bought a Hello Kitty case for it.
Christmas morning came and my children were elated. I mean cloud 9. Yay! Mommy loves to see her kids so happy!
Then came the afternoon. I found my children both sitting completely quiet, faces glued to the screens of their new devices. “Hey guys, you should go play with some of your new toys!”. They barely noticed me.
Driving in the car on the way home from time with cousins, “Hey guys! How was the time with your cousins?!” Their faces lit up by the screens of their phones, “good”, they replied and continued to play whatever they were playing. My three year old filled in all the gaps by talking the entire drive home. I couldn’t help but stare in the rearview and feel sad looking at my big kids.
So this went on for the rest of Christmas break. I lamented to my husband. “Its all they do! We’ve made a huge mistake!” He assured me it would wear off. Once school began they would lose interest. It still didn’t sit right with me. I allowed the technology obsession to continue. I watched my daughter constantly “check” her phone…ummm, who are you expecting to hear from? YOUR’E EIGHT!!!
New Years day I told my daughter, I’m thinking we are going to take a break from your phone. From now on it’s only going to be allowed on the weekends. She seemed disappointed but didn’t fight me.
She woke up Saturday morning, “Mom, can I have my phone?” With regret, I handed it over. Again I watched these kids remain glued to their phones all weekend. It really saddened me. In fact I felt bad for them. What a tether technology has become. Now I’m watching my two kids be shackled with the same cuffs as so many adults. I took the phones Sunday night and told the kids I needed to think about some things.
I slept on the whole “phone-gate” debacle; it was a restless night for me. I woke up and knew what I needed to do.
That evening, I sat my 2 children down and told them, “Mommy has made a big mistake.” They seemed shocked. I told them I made a bad judgment call in letting them have phones for Christmas. My oldest looked nervous. I explained they had their whole lives to use electronics and technology but such a short precious time to be children and run and play and use their imagination. I told them I was doing them a disservice by allowing it, and even though I know it is super disappointing, I’m going to have to take their phones away. I saw hearts sink and hit the floor. “We can make exceptions for road trips, airplane rides or other events where they might come in handy, but as for everyday, they are gone.” They stared at the floor. I offered to host an iphone funeral. No one has taken me up on it yet.
I learned some very valuable lessons this Christmas. The first, which I’ve always known, but somehow ignored: always trust your gut. Always. My gut instinct is always right. It felt wrong, and ultimately for us, it was wrong.
The second: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I reasoned with myself that because the phone was financially accessible, it wasn’t as luxurious as it sounded. I am blessed with the means to provide it, but that doesn’t mean I should provide it.
I know with my oldest being a tween, I am right on the cusp of so many issues and the old, “everyone is allowed to but me!”. I am thankful for this experience reminding me that I have the most important job of all: I am shaping and molding human lives here. I might not be “coolest mom of the year” or “most favorite friend ever” but, if I do this thing right, I just might turn out some amazing people…and that, that would be the best reward of them all.