How Buying My Son His First Phone Broke My Heart A Little Bit
Three garbage bags of toys are sitting on my front doorstep waiting to be picked up for donations. I did not even look in them. (Hubby handled this round of clearing out toy bins and outgrown school uniforms. I know. I’m lucky.) I have been a bit sentimental lately about the boys growing up. I didn’t need to know if the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Van he had wanted “soooo bad” was in there. Or any of the Hot Wheels cars. Or mini action figures. No need.
I was once told to enjoy the constant mess of strewn toys everywhere.
Soon enough…sooner than I could imagine…my living room floor and coffee table would be clear again, I was warned, and they would only be interested in their phones, their tablets, their headphones, their laptops. I would miss stepping barefoot on those Legos, I was promised.
And now here I am…getting my soon-to-be-11-year-old his first phone.
Honestly? He deserves it.
He’s a straight A student. He’s going into 5th grade. He’s honest. He’s responsible. He is, as many people (from strangers to family) have told us, a little old soul.
And we are hard on him.
I like to think that’s why he’s as awesome and reliable as he is…but… who am I kidding? I question myself as a parent constantly. Don’t we all want to credit ourselves when they are turning out good and throw our hands up in the air when they are…well…not so much?
We are hoping, I think, that this will send him a very loud message: we trust you.
I realize most kids these days have phones (and a million other devices and game consoles and whatever else exists out there that my husband and I continue to fight against). In fact, one of his classmates got the iPhone #493 when he was in second grade. But to us, in our home, this is a big deal. We spend hundreds on bikes, skateboards, trips, books, surfboards…but anything that has a screen? I believe we are a complete and total embarrassment to our children. And if we are not yet, we will be in a couple more years…
So, our Ben…I think he gets it.
I hope he gets it.
I remember when he was 2, it was all about the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Good Lord, how many times did we have to get our exhausted, sleep-deprived asses off the couch because he insisted we had to dance (and often, sing) the Hot Dog Dance? He desperately wanted “a Mickey that dances Hot Dog” (and here, he would usually demonstrate the kicking motion he wanted his Mickey to do). We thought: Sure, how hard could it be to find a dancing Mickey? (Did I mention we were first time parents?). Only several hours and $84 dollars later, we found our first son’s precious dancing must-have Mickey.
He used it, like, 4 times.
Then there was the Go, Diego, Go! stage. Everything had to be Diego for this 3rd birthday: the outfit, the cake, the card, every single present. There were little animal figures and Diego’s cousin Dora and Backpack and plastic little trees evvvvverrrrywhere. (“Swiper, no swiping!”)
When we lived in our old big house, we had a cavernous room devoid of furniture but lined with bins literally overflowing with toys. There was a Little Einstein’s table (“Pat…! Pat…! Pat…! Blast offffff!”) that was chronically covered with poorly closed containers of Play-Dough and dried out markers and scribbled, wrinkled drawings that we absolutely could not throw away, apparently, under any circumstances. The giant mess in that giant room drove me crazy.
One of the smaller messes- circa 2009
Photo: Liz Aguerre
Surely, the Universe is laughing at me now: the girl who started a blog because she was so overwhelmed and sometimes miserable raising these babies. Now, that girl is writing about getting that same little boy his first phone as if he were going away to college. WTF?
You mean all those people were right?!? When she would complain about surely never being able to go to the bathroom alone again? When she would complain about feeling like the rest of her life would surely be spent sprawled on the floor pretending to be interested in the Mickey Mouse train that was laying down railroad track and singing “Chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-choooo-chooooooo!”"?
It really is all over before you know it? She really should have enjoyed it more? She really should have stressed less? Damn. Good one, Universe.
Today surely marks a big day for Ben. But probably even more so for me. As a mom, this is definitely one of those days when you can hear the flipping of the pages as one cliched chapter is closed and another is opened. I will have to remind myself to enjoy every question he asks about Instagram and ringtones and apps. I will have to remind myself that this time period, too, will pass and I will miss it and look back and think “Aw, he was so little…only 11 years old…” I will probably chuckle and laugh at myself: “Ha! And I thought that was a big deal back then…?!?”
In the meantime, I think I’m going to dig around his little brother’s toy bins and see if I can find some cool action figures and Hot Wheels cars to tempt Ben with…even if he just wants to take some pictures of them with his new phone.
Elizabeth Suarez Aguerre is a teacher, writer, blogger, mommy, wife, and beach bum. She is the published author of 9 educational books and a contributing writer on The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship.. Her passionately blunt & highly opinionated musings on everything from parenting to traveling can be found on her blog …but then I had kids, which she started in 2009 in an attempt to survive the early days of motherhood.