Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Look! Something Shiny!

I did it wrong. Both my kids both needed new cell phones--theirs were outdated, beat up and crashing non stop. Even when I saw the sale I knew I should wait for the weekend, but to be honest, one more echo of "I NEED A NEW PHOOOOONE" was going to send me screaming from the house. So rather than wait, I took my oldest to the mall and bought two new phones. On a Monday.

Then, of course, we needed to get home and make dinner. And Jacob had to shower because he had to leave for a meeting that night right after we ate. And Ben had homework and laundry to do, and I had unfinished work. I thought I'd be OK when Jacob said he'd rather drive home than play with the new phone while *I* drove, that he wasn't as crazy-excited as I thought he'd be.

I was wrong.

Needless to say, I spent the next half hour over the stove cooking while simultaneously yelling, "Get in the shower! Get in the shower! Go do your homework! PUT DOWN THE PHONES!"

I was frustrated, but not surprised because I could totally relate.

The boys are growing up and becoming more responsible, but they're still kids. My generation didn't grow up with technology, surrounded by friends' iPhones and Galaxies. Puma sneakers and Guess? jeans were what I longed for, the costly, pretty things owned by seemingly everyone but me. Those were the shiny baubles I craved. When I finally got my own pair of Guess? jeans, I didn't take them off for a week. So how could I possibly hand my kids brand new phones and tell them to put them away a few minutes later?

True, jeans and sneakers aren't as distracting and fun to play with as a phone that holds the world in games, music, videos and more. But I still get it. So I laid down some rules. If each kid doesn't do what he needs to do before becoming absorbed in his phone at the end of the day, I get it.

The phone, that is. At least until the work is done.

Yes, almost all kids have devices these days, but that doesn't mean parents have to hand over control. I paid for half of each phone. I drove to the mall to get them, and I pay the bill each month. The phones are tools of communication, first and foremost. Yes, they are also entertainment devices, but like any other toy, if they are getting in the way of work that needs doing, they get taken away.

Sure, the boys are growing up. But they are still kids, and I'm still the parent. While it would be easy to let them do their own thing so I could do mine, on my shiny device, it won't help them when they're in college and choosing to play video games over going to class or doing homework. Better to teach them now how it should work, even if leading by example is really hard for this shiny-toy-loving mom.