It’s my job as a father to make grossly inflated proclamations about my children. I, like so many other parents, are quick to use superlatives. Never, always, best, ever. For example, my kids are the smartest, cutest, most well behaved kids in the galaxy (I bet you thought your kids were?). As easy as it has been to stand on top of the mountain to make it known how fantastic my children are is as easy as it has been to do the same for my parenting.
Before my oldest was born, I made it known by official decree (which involves telling anyone who would listen), I would never make my daughter eat the vegetables my mother force fed me. I would never answer, ‘…because I said so’ to the question, ‘Why’. My children would never be allowed to sleep in bed with their mom and I. Dating? Never. Driver’s license? It would make me look really good if the driving age got bumped up to 35 in PA. Cell phone? Never before an age which they could pay for it on their own.
The thing about parenting…things change.
The other week, my wife and I bought our 10 year old daughter a cell phone. The initial discussions about buying her a phone started back in the spring. When I was first approached, my answer was ‘no way’. I had to stick to my original statement I made 10 years ago while my daughter was still in the womb. Besides, I had been advocating against it for the 10 years since she exited the womb. How would it look on my reputation as ‘Dad’ if I went back on it?
My wife told me my reputation had teetered on the edge of idiocy for some time; there was no reason to think this issue would change that. She, along with my daughter, had carefully crafted a defense against my ‘never’ judgment. It had to do with a lot of begging, pleading, explaining to me the cost would be negligible (easy for them to say, I pay the bill), and that our daughter is not only responsible but is reaching an age when all of her friends have phones. I countered with, ‘If all of her friends are jumping off bridges should she jump too?’ My wife countered with a look that could have melted a hole in a steel I-beam.
Legitimately, I don’t think just because other kid having a phone is a good enough reason. That becomes a slippery slope when Sweet 16 parties, automobiles, and Spring Break become a part of our discussions. Plus, my thought is a cell phone is a gateway drug. First it is a phone, next it is Facebook, Twitter, clouds, chat rooms, and before we know it, she’s tweeting indecent pictures of herself to some slob on Twitter with a John Cena avatar and his 58 followers (my job as Dad is to over exaggerate and allow my emotions to control my decision making before allowing my brain or my wife to step in).
Of course, after injecting reason and common sense to make an appearance, I realized I was being an idiot. Like most things with parenting, there was fear; the fear of what might happen with a phone and of my little girl taking another step towards not being so little anymore. But like most things with parenting, if I let fear rule me, my kids would never have stepped foot out of the house. It is not a big expense. My daughter is trustworthy. She is very responsible for a 10 year old (she got a key to our house at the beginning of the school year). And, she and her sister both have access to the Internet, our home phone, iPods, YouTube, and 200 channels of cable (although no social media accounts despite many of her classmates regularly posting status updates about cute boys and pop music lyrics already). I monitor her and all of those pieces of technology as closely as I can now. I’m sure, if they haven’t already, at some point she and her sister will be slipping things by both me and their mom. At least with a phone, I can look at the statement and see who she called or texted. Is the phone that big of a deal?
We came up with reasons why it would be good for her to have a phone (which did not include ‘because her friends do’). We talked to her about the dangers of owning a cell phone (careful what you text) and consequently we made up a list of rules she would have to adhere to if she was to get the phone. I pushed to the side the fear I let dictate my decision and the more we talked about it, the less harm I saw in my daughter having a cell phone.
So the other week, when I handed my daughter her new cell phone, I not only handed her a phone but I also handed over the realization that ‘never’, ‘always’, and ‘ever’ don’t seem to last quite as long as I was inclined to believe.
Let’s hear from you. Is 10 years old too young to own a cell phone? If it is, what age is ‘old enough’? And what have you said ‘never’ to that you conceded to?
Join us tomorrow night when we discuss this topic on Twitter in our Live Chat at 6pst/9est using the #DadsRT hashtag.