I am not feeling right about my 5th grade girl owning a smart phone just yet, even though she often reminds me that most of her classmates own one! After reading this thought-provoking post, I can see, though, that when the timing is right, I will approach my girl’s milestone with my eyes wide open.
Guest post by Catherine Nichols:
Many years ago, I worked in an office while putting myself through college. I was not yet married and didn’t have any kids. One of the female engineers had a daughter, and for an entire month or so, that daughter was at work with us from the moment her high school let out until it was time for her parents to go home.
While the daughter was imprisoned at the office penitentiary, I got to know her better. And being a curious type of person, I asked her why she was at work with us. I wanted to know her crime. Her mother, Rosie, chimed in right away and said that her daughter pretended she was going to be spending the night with a friend, but instead, was at a party with 100 other kids. Rosie said she had to call numerous parents and many of her daughter’s friends to find her, but she tracked her down like a predator searching for her prey.
Who doesn’t remember doing this very same thing? I recall the outright lies I told my mom so well. I’d tell her that I was sleeping at Pam’s and Pam would say she was at Suzy’s, and Suzy would say she was at Hillary’s but we were all over at Steve’s with a whole group of other kids while his parents were out of town.
What impressed me the most about Rosie was that she had followed up with the other parents to make sure her daughter was where she said she was going to be. This was foreign to me. Through no fault of her own, my mom never checked up on me. She was a single mother working as a nurse so there were many, many 7-3 and then 3-11 shifts, and I know she trusted me. I looked like an angel in my turtlenecks and conservative sweaters, but well, like many of my spirited friends, I enjoyed a good party.
Rosie told me that she always verified her daughter’s story to keep her daughter safe, and I remembered this bit of insight when my oldest daughter was old enough to get into her own brand of trouble. While out with my friends way back in the day, I never considered that what I was doing would put me in any danger—I was simply having fun. I am sure all kids think this way.
Despite the groaning, the whining, numerous angry outbursts, and feigning embarrassment, I called every single parent and verified my daughter’s plans every single time.
During her four years of high school, not one single parent called me over the 200 weekends. Not one. The funny thing is that every parent told me they also called to follow-up on their child’s story. Uh-huh.
There were times I was still not convinced my daughter was being completely honest, so I would then ask her to take a specific picture on her phone, and text it to me; there was never an opportunity for her to plan ahead and take generic photos to send because my requests were very specific, “Stand next to Amy’s bookcase in her room with her Golden Retriever on your right.” I never made the same request twice.
Two months after my daughter graduated from high school, we were driving back from a quick trip to my mom’s house in San Francisco; she confessed that I had thwarted her alternative (more fun) plans numerous times. She said that she had hoped I would get bored with calling other parents but because I never did, she never had the opportunity to get into any real trouble. She asked me why I was so persistent, and I replied with a knowing smile, “Because I was young once, too.”
Kids are going to try their very best to do whatever kids do these days, but from my experience, it is always a good idea to verify their whereabouts. Take a minute to use your smart phone to call the other parents, and make sure they know the kids’ plans. If you’re still not convinced, suggest a photo your child can take and send to you. If you’re not yet satisfied, be willing to hop in the car and go pick your kid up. Your teens may be unhappy, but you’ll have peace of mind, and that is worth every groan and eye-roll you’ll get!
Catherine Nichols is a freelance author who blogs and tweets as Bloggoneit. She has written for The Parent Connection, and travel guide, Milliver’s Travels. As a mother to three teenage girls who are severely reducing the number of hairs left on her head, she focuses on today’s parenting issues, tourism, and reviews of local service providers and products.