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Genki des!



parenthood and the pursuit of happiness

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Genki des!
Telus has not yet fixed my land line. It has been shitty for the entire time we’ve lived in this house, so for the better part of four years, we’ve had an annoying intermittent crackle and fizz on all our incoming and outgoing calls. But we have it because OVERSEAS CALLING.

When I was ten, I spent the better part of my evening on the phone with my friends. I knew their phone numbers by heart… in fact, I still know them (7544, 2233…). I guess if you dial a number enough at an impressionable age, it imprints. I bet when I’m 90, I’ll still know these numbers and try to dial them from time to time.

My sons are different.

No shit, you might be saying to yourself, boys are different. I don’t think any of us expects them to spend hours on the phone gabbing to their buddies.

But, the world is different now, too. And it has taken me some time to pinpoint the difference.

The heart of the problem is this: My eldest son asks me to text his friends’ moms for playdates.

Let me repeat that with some added detail.

My 10-year-old son has such limited phone skills that he struggles to figure out dialling. He lacks the confidence to ask his friends for their phone numbers because he’s become so reliant on his mother to arrange everything for him through her cell phone that he no longer thinks he can contact people on his own. He is functionally illiterate in phone calling, for fuck sakes. And maybe a touch lazy.

So, he asks me to text the moms. And then he asks me if they've gotten back to me. And what did they say. And can we do this? That? The other thing? And did they get back to you yet? How about now? And "I want to go over there so can you invite me over to that kid's house?" Sheesh.

Then a few months ago, Ezra’s friend’s mom texted me, saying her son wanted to Facetime with Ezra and could we arrange a time…?

It took me a moment to process that. I had to formulate a response.

Most people would just reply, “sure!” and get on with it, but since I’d already noted the aforementioned illiteracy in the tween, I figured I should attempt to correct it with the middle kid. (Oh, that first kid gets the shit parenting every time, eh?)

How did I reply?

“Ezra doesn’t have his own cellphone yet, but [your son] can call him on the land line at [phone number]. I’m sure he’d love to talk to him!”

Because you know what? This damn cell phone is MY damn cell phone. It is not a family phone. It has personal, individual stuff in it that is not always for children. This whole concept of cellphones being family phones might be fine for some people: you might be comfortable letting an 8-year-old walk off with to their bedrooms with a device they can surf porn on, that has access to all your personal and business contacts, but I am not. Aside from that, I am not letting my child “have” my phone before he can understand the concept of dialling an individual’s phone number.

As I child, would I be comfortable dialling my friend’s mom’s cell phone? Even if she treated it like a family phone?

Oh. Hell. No. But, admittedly, I’m shy and introverted and calling is difficult for me.

An introvert parent, I would awkwardly set up playdates for my non-verbal toddlers and small children semi-willingly. (Can’t we all just stay home?) Texting people I don’t know is not my forte. Okay, I hate it. Befriending other kids’ parents in order to have their numbers makes me anxious.

Now, I realize that I have a very extroverted, social tween that nags me constantly for playdates and trips and events, and everything in between, and this might be unique to my situation. But, when I ask him to get phone numbers for his friends, he comes home saying his friends’ replied: “My mom says just to text her.” I’m sorry, but this unacceptable for 10-year-olds.

It’s creating a barrier for young kids. It helps keep them from creating deep, ongoing social connections. How do you get a BFF if you don’t have enough contact outside school? I do not need to facilitate every single contact my child has. I no longer need to arrange playdates for my tween. He can call, he can arrange, and he can let me know what the plan is. I need awareness that he’s not calling pedophiles, but I don’t need to monitor his Every. Single. Social. Contact. I am not his social secretary.

I’ve started asking my kids’ friends’ moms for their land line numbers, so that Andrew can call when he wants to, and amidst looks of confusion, I usually end up having to explain my existential exhaustion at arranging playdates for tweens that can do it their own damn selves.

And they usually cough up a number, and sometimes two, and in that case, we have to note the custody arrangement between the parents, so that the kid can figure out which fucking number he needs to dial to get to his friend. Sweet Jesus this is complicated.

And no, I don’t think kids need their own personal cellphones. Ugh.

And, I get the lack of desire for a landline (I’ve been waiting a month now for Telus to just fucking fix it), but can people have a phone number that isn’t personal; that isn’t a phone in a parent’s pocket, vibrating at their workplace on a no-school Friday? Whether it’s cell or land is moot, really, just bring back the house phone!

And on that note, has Ezra’s friend ever called?

No, he has not. Not ever.

And that I’ll just contribute to general assholery.

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