My daughter sat on the couch, her phone never leaving her side. Every now and then it would vibrate. Like clockwork, she would flip it open, read it, then send back a quick reply. This wasn’t just going on for a short time, this had been going on all day long. I asked her who she was texting, and after many retorts of how little business it was of mine, she finally told me it was a boy at her school. The fact that she was texting a boy was not alarming. Most of her friends are guys, and she and one of her longest known guy friends texted each other often. Most of their texts consisted of “Sup”, or “LOL”, or “My brother’s a dweeb”. Nothing to write home about. And definitely nothing that raised my eyebrows (except to roll my eyes at how lame it was). But this was different, this was a boy I had never heard of. And with the way they were texting each other for hours on end, it was obvious that this was not just some friend.
This had to be a boyfriend.
Of course, she denied it. Nevermind that she had been hunched over the keypad of that phone all night. Nevermind that she had been guarding it so that no one saw what she had been texting. Nevermind the silly grin that was escaping from her usually blank stare when nothing that amusing was going on in real life.
“Come on DQ,” I said. “Admit it. He’s your boyfriend.”
“He’s not my boyfriend!” she exclaimed.
“Why don’t you just call him?” Mr. W asked her as she furiously typed in some letters and hit send.
“Talking on the phone is so old-fashioned,” she explained to us ignorant old fogies. “Besides, you can’t take back words when you say them, but you can always hit delete before you send a text.”
My daughter has played the love game before. The experimentation with adult things like love is a common game in the elementary years. Two kids decide they like each other. They decide to “go out”. They might talk occasionally while at school, but more likely than not they’ll avoid each other like the plague. The relationship might last a long two or three days, or go for even longer by lasting a couple weeks. Then one member of this coupledom will decide that they actually have a crush on someone else they hadn’t really noticed before (usually after the crushee expresses interest), and the relationship ends.
“DQ” has had boyfriends, but somehow, now it’s different. She’s 12, almost in Jr. High. Having a boyfriend is getting closer and closer (if it’s not here already) to extending past ignoring each other and the occasional awkward glances. It’s a little nervewracking to even think about. Not only that, kids are more available to each other now, and DQ is no different. Why? Because now she has a phone.
Giving her a phone was not a choice I took lightly. I had been hemming and hawing over it for well over a year. It was true that many of her classmates were now getting phones, but I was not about to let that be my deciding factor. If her classmates were all getting Shetland Ponies, our imaginary corral would still be empty. The decision was solely based on how available I needed her to be. And because she was old enough to be staying home alone, and because I needed to be able to reach her when she was waiting to be picked up or over at her father’s house, I finally came to the decision that a phone was a necessity.
When she got her phone, ground rules were set up. Phone curfew was at 9 pm sharp. (Side note here. This was a rule my parents set up for my sisters and me when we were kids regarding the old-fashioned rotary telephone. Of course, it was lame. I mean, who goes to bed at 9 pm? Now I know. What parent wants their phone ringing at all hours of the night? 9 pm is a PERFECT cut off point.) At 9 pm, the phone is to be turned off and plugged in to charge. During school hours, the phone stays off. Talking time on the phone was ordered to be kept to a minimum, since I was not about to raise my minutes on our shared plan. And there was not to be any internet access at all on the phone (something I made sure of with my nerdish technical capabilities of disarming them). If she broke any of these rules, the phone would be confiscated – no questions asked. But to be realistic, I was allowing her unlimited texting (before 9 pm, of course). After all, she was a tween.
DQ has been really good about following these rules. Every night she plugs in the phone, and every morning she goes through it to see what she’s missed. The phone has basically become an extension of herself, and the best way for her to keep in touch with her friends outside of school. But best of all, it has made it incredibly convenient for me to be able to locate her when she texts me from a friend’s house, or when I’m searching through a crowd of students when picking her up at school.
On the day in question, the phone never left her lap. We watched some Survivor, and she glanced at the TV in between a fast typing conversation. The show ended and I instructed her to plug it in before bed. I went to kiss her goodnight, and she was being a little jumpy.
“Where’s your phone?” I asked her.
“It’s downstairs, plugged in, just like you asked me to do,” she answered matter-of-factly.
I wasn’t buying it.
“Alright, where? I’m going to go check,” I said, looking her straight in the eye.
“Go ahead,” she countered, challenging my threat, her gaze never leaving mine. (Seriously, cue some Good, Bad, and the Ugly music here)
“Alright,” I said, and started to leave the room.
“Wait Mom!” she called. I turned and smiled, holding out my hand. She sheepishly went into her backpack and pulled out the lime green instrument.
“Good thing you caught me,” I told her. “You almost lost your phone.”
The next day I wouldn’t let her have her phone back until after church. I admit it, it was to torture her. I knew that she was waiting to get that phone back with baited breath to find out if her “just a friend” had texted her back. She finally did get it back, and away she went to leave the real world and enter the land of “LOLs” and “BRBs”. We were leaving the grocery store and on our way home when I drilled her again.
“I don’t know why you don’t just admit it,” I said. “Obviously he’s your boyfriend. I wasn’t just born yesterday.”
“Mom, he’s not my boyfriend. He’s just a friend.” And she hunched back over her keypad. We were just entering our complex when my phone dinged. I checked to see who had sent me a text. It was from DQ.
“I’m pretty sure my mom figured it out.”
With the advances of technology, you can send a friend a note in seconds flat. You can tell them you’ll be late meeting them. You can let them know you are thinking of them. You can find out what they are wearing to the latest party, or if that person you were avoiding happens to be there. Or you can hit the wrong button and send a text that was meant for your BOYFRIEND accidentally to your own mother.
Yes folks, the jig is up. And the only thing I can do with this little snafu is place it in the giant book of AWESOME.