After much reminding that, "Cara got a phone when she was in the sixth grade," Ryan is now the relatively happy owner of a cell phone.
I say "relatively" because he really wanted a phone that looked suspiciously like a Nintendo DS. He also floated the idea of procuring an iPhone.
Cara: "He wants a phone with a data plan?! I had to wait until I was 16 before I got a data plan!"
I almost wept thinking about how sad it is to be a Salfino kid. I, on the other hand, somehow made it to the far side of my 40s before obtaining a phone with a data plan.
I didn't get my kids phones until sixth grade because I am always dropping them off, picking them up and generally aware of where they are all the time. Unlike when I was a kid and pretty much every kid in the U.S. was told to turn off the "Mr. Ed" reruns, get out of the house, and not come back until lunch, dinner or "until I call you." And when the moms called for you, they literally just started yelling from the front door. If you didn't hear her because you were indoors, or wandering aimlessly in the woods, a park or a strange neighborhood, you maybe got lucky if some other kid passed and muttered, "I think I heard your mom."
These days, kids are dropped at school or the bus stop and picked up at the same spot. They're dropped at their after-school sport or activity, where parents often sit, watch and wait -- both because they feel guilty that they're not more a part of their kids lives, and because car pools are such a hassle to work out, it's somehow easier to suffer through driving their kids both ways. If kids are actually dropped off at the venue, parents have emails and schedules that tell them exactly when to return.
Which brings me back to my point: if the kids aren't ever left alone, why do they need phones with unlimited talk and texting, never mind a data plan? Obviously, because they need to keep up with the Joneses. God, Mom!
A couple of people over the years commended me on not getting Ryan a phone. "You're raising a normal kid," they'd say. Actually, I was a) just too cheap to buy him a phone in the first place, b) loathe go on search-and-find missions for a phone he'd undoubtedly lose on a daily basis and c) averse to replacing phones he'd undoubtedly leave somewhere.
But I'd just smile and nod. What was I going to say? "Why would I get that #%! boy a phone?! He had a DS stolen when he left it at a Five Guys for seven minutes before he realized he didn't have it. He loses DS games and chargers on a regular basis! He HAD an iPod that went missing for five months, and the only thing that bothered him about not having it was that he was forced to listen to Mike's old iPod that's loaded with Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. Did I mention headphones are as disposable as water bottles to this kid!"
But my son persevered with his phone aspirations.
Ryan: "I'll be able to walk home from school and you won't have to worry about me. When I'm at track, you won't have to wait for me -- and I can call you if we end early. If I'm in town with a friend, I can call you so you know where I am. And you can drop me off at the gym and I'll just call you when I'm done. "
I always had a quick "Negatory" response for all those arguments. Yet today, he has a phone. As usual, it was not me who bought it for him. He appealed to his tech happy dad while they were junking an old TiVo at Best Buy.
He sent his first text to me as he was exiting school, where I was waiting to pick him up: "Can I skip the gym today?"
...And there ya have it.