“There’s no way she needs a phone before junior high.” Famous last words at Casa de Katie. Gracie struck out for 6th grade (which, in some parts around here is when junior high starts) this week, though, and suddenly the rule was being revisited.
A lot of things weren’t changing: Gracie was going to be in an elementary school setting; she wasn’t walking home; she was in a generally safe and familiar area close(ish) to where her dad and I and Stepmom all work. But some things had changed: she was going to be dropped off in the mornings close to school, but not at the school’s doors. Yes, it was without spitting distance, and yes, there were a lot of kids she was walking with, and yes there is a crossing guard, and yes we could watch her until she walked into the building. She was also going to be a car rider, waiting around outside (with kids and teachers and stuff) until she was collected. No one would leave her unattended, but…still. She’s on her own at a new school. And while Gracie isn’t shy about asking for help, she is rather confident in her ability to hang in the deep end without needing help.
So her dad thought it would be a good idea if he gave Gracie his old phone when he upgraded. And I didn’t disagree if the cost wasn’t unmanageable. Twenty bucks a month (each) meant we could have greater peace of mind. If Gracie wants to join school clubs or orchestra or go to a friend’s house, she has ways to get in touch with us when she’s ready for a ride home or her plans change. You don’t realize how often you rely on your Honors kid wheedling phone time out of the office staff who have been her friends since she was five-years-old until it’s suddenly gone!
There are rules, of course. Especially given the “my child will never…” feelings that were going on just a few weeks ago. Having her own cell phone is a great way for Gracie to learn about responsibility and how to be a person connected to the world in so many potentially dangerous ways. For instance, the cell phone’s purpose is to keep her connected to her parentals for emergency communication, not for chatting with friends. She’s allowed to call us. Except for emergencies, she’s allowed to text only us. And, as we quickly corrected, it’s fine to chat with us after school or once in awhile to check in (let’s promote the bonding while she still wants to, after all), but texting me from her bedroom when I’m ten feet away in the kitchen is maybe taking it a bit far. We reminded her that we can see every text and every web site she opens. And while she’ll eventually learn ways around that, I’m sure, for now the belief that Parents Are Watching is enough. We hope.
It’s a tiny step forward for my baby girl. It’s an opportunity for her to learn how to grown-up…and for us, too. Don’t think we aren’t mindful of the fact that Bee and the Xman are following right behind her; we plan to shake out all the kinks with Gracie-girl, then reapply as necessary. There will be mistakes. We’ll learn to stop caring about all the selfies. She’ll learn a few things the hard way, I’m sure. The contract we made her sign about acceptable behavior will be trotted out as a reminder from time to time. As a whole, though, I feel okay. I like knowing she’s reachable, even if it’s an illusion. I like knowing she has a safety net.
But mostly I’m sitting here going – great googly moogly, I’m the mama to a person old enough to have her own cell phone. How in the world did that happen?