Monday, May 5, 2008

If You Give a Boy a Cell Phone ...

Blake had been hinting around it for weeks. A few months ago, Brett got a new BlackBerry phone through work. His old cell phone has been sitting on the counter collecting dust, stray coffee ground particles, and whatever else may float in the Arizona air.

Every once in a while Blake will pick up the phone, look up at me as if he's trying to deliver a telepathic message, make small talk or ask questions about it -- like where you find the phone numbers -- and then quietly put the phone back down. He also sheepishly asked a couple times if he could have "Dad's old phone," to which I gave him uncommitted answers -- "Yea, maybe" or "We'll see."

Lately he's taken to riding his bike in the wash, the Arizona term for the patches of undeveloped land that are strategically located throughout the neighborhoods around here. He and his friends make jumps, ride the jumps, and then come home with scrapes all over their legs and arms.

There are several washes around our house. I always make him come tell me exactly where he'll be if he plans on changing locations. So one day he casually says, "Why don't I just take Dad's old phone, then I can call you and let you know where I am." He quickly follows this up with "You know, it would be good for when I'm at soccer practice, too, and something happens or you need to pick me up early."

For some reason, I've been trying to delay the "My kid has a cell phone" phenomenon for as long as possible. Sometimes I see really young kids, 6 or 7, with cell phones and I think it's just ridiculous. Or the pre-teen girls who are out shopping with their moms, hands clutched around a cell phone while their fingers furiously type text messages.

So now Blake was asking. When I was his age, the big question was "When can I get my ears pierced." I think that finally happened in sixth grade.

So, with the safety issues winning us over, we gave the cell phone to Blake. I pictured a phone call here and there.

"OK ... how do I add phone numbers?" and "How do I get rid of Dad's old numbers?" were his first questions.

So over the first Saturday of his cell phone possession, Blake went out riding bikes with his friends. Our phone rings. I look out back and can see him. "Mom, we're going to go to the park up by the school." OK, I tell him. OK -- don't be up there more than about 30 minutes. The phone has a clock on it, I remind him. Oh, yea, he says excitedly, relieved he doesn't have to estimate the elapsed time. 20 minutes later. "Mom, we're going in Trenten's back yard." OK. Another 20 minutes or so later, I'm going up to the grass area at the end of the street. All told, 5 calls in 3 hours.

On Friday night we went to the community park, meeting some friends for a music in the park event. At one point in the evening, Blake was sitting on the grass casually, kind of twirling his phone around. To anyone else, he looked like any kid. But to me, his mother, he was saying, "Look at me, I have a cell phone."

As the weekend went on, I looked on the phone and saw he quickly picked up the ins and outs of cell phone use -- he already had several friends' numbers in his address book and had already dialed and received several calls from them. I remind him that we have a limited number of minutes each month -- and that text messages cost extra. "OK," he shrugs.

So on Sunday morning, Blake had an 8:30 a.m. soccer game. We decided that instead of dragging all the kids from their early morning routine (and Nicky out of bed), that Brett would take him this time.

After the game, the phone rings, but I don't catch it in time. Blake leaves a message. I call him back and get his voicemail. I leave a message. He immediately calls back. "Hi Mom. I'm sorry I missed your call. I didn't have the volume turned up loud enough." So cute.

He continues to tell me, "Mom, we tied 4 to 4 -- I made all four goals," he tells me. "We only had 6 players this week with no subs. The other team had 15 players!" Blake was jazzed and giving me a detailed play-by-play of each of his goals. Much more chatty than he would have been had he waited until he got home, lost some of his zeal and described it face-to-face after the exhaustion of playing indoor soccer 48 minutes straight set in.

Later in the day we're at Waterworld for Brett's company picnic. Blake had slipped "his" phone into the beach bag. He pulls it out at one point to find he has a voicemail message. He quickly retrieves it, which impresses me because it took me weeks to figure out how to do the same thing. One of the neighbor kids tells him he saw a rattlesnake in the wash. Good thing to know.

And my mind keeps going back to the soccer game conversation and now I have my answer. Perhaps it's selfish, but if it takes a phone to entice him to chat up his Mom more often, I'm all for it.

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