The moment I have been dreading is here.
My oldest is starting high school. He will be leaving our neighborhood every day to further his education, end his childhood and begin preparations to leave his loving mother for an independent life. This, while perhaps neurotic, is not the source of my dread.
As far as parenting transitions go, this one is similar to when he started Kindergarten…except he’s taller than I am and a lot more expensive to maintain now. Just when parents think they are about to realize the savings of having all their children out of diapers, poof! The next moment they’re in the middle of a growth spurt. They have to eat every twenty minutes and need bigger clothes every other day. Somehow, that seemed more manageable than being suddenly presented with a teenager who needs a cell phone.
This particular transition requires a major re-think of the household budget.
Sure, there are plenty of reasons why no teenager really needs a cell phone. Generations of young men and women have managed to finish school, get on the bus, stop at the library, the mall or friends’ houses without cell phones. None of them were expected to text their parents at work to tell them where they are and what they are doing every moment between the last bell of the day and the return of parents after office hours.
And then, there is the forgetful clumsiness that comes with adolescence. They misplace their most precious possessions, they trip over their own feet climbing up the stairs, and they wander around in a half-aware daze brought on by a mix of tiredness and a refusal to go to sleep at a decent hour. Teenagers are not people one should instinctively trust with a hundreds of dollars-worth of brand new technology and a monthly connection fee.
“Stereotype much?” my son would say if he were ever to read that last paragraph. In real life, it would be accompanied by an eye roll and a dismissive shrug. Imagining the reaction is enough to make me crave the warmth and distance of a text message composed just for me. Even if it uses emojis instead of words.
I have bought into the “peace of mind” constant connection has sold me. If I know where he is, my thinking goes, he is not doing something dangerous or stupid. If he sends a text to say he’s joining a club or trying out for a team, or even just playing Pokemon Go with some friends, I am still part of his day…even if I’m a work, cooking dinner, or playing Pokemon Go while I walk the dog.
Naturally, my research-mind knows the sense of security a cell phone brings to parents is as mythical as a Mew or MewTwo sighting. Owning a cell phone can actually put teens at greater risk as targets for theft. And, then, there are the risks to health associated with carrying a cell phone on one’s body instead of in a purse or backpack. These are not risks to be dismissed.
But, if he gets into a spot where he needs assistance, I want him to be able to call for it. It’s that simple. If he spots an Articuno across town and calls to tell me, well, that’s just payback for the massive expense a kid’s cell phone entails.