Michelle Martin

Spare the phone

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Let’s start with this: Years ago, I never thought I’d be the kind of parent who provided my kids with mobile phones, let alone smart phones. I never even thought I’d carry one myself.

But man (or mother) plans, and God laughs, and we live in a family where everyone except the 4-year-old has their own iPhone. And Teresa is lobbying for one — or at least her own iPad.

I can justify it any number of ways: Our older kids now spend more time out of the house without supervision, and they need to be able to get in touch should an emergency arise. You can go blocks without finding a working pay phone anymore.

Even in non-emergencies, the kids need to keep in touch. Caroline and Frank like to stop after school for a snack with friends, or to watch one of their schools’ teams play a game, or to meet with a teacher. That’s all fine, but if they are going to be late, I’d like to know.

As much as I want them to be able to reach me, I want to be able to reach them. I’m going to be a few minutes later than I thought to pick them up? Or I’ve been waiting in the parking lot for 10 minutes and we need to leave now? A quick text does the trick.

So when Frank’s phone stopped working last week, teaching him a lesson by making him go without a phone wasn’t really on the table. For one thing, I don’t know that he did anything in the immediate past to break it. All I know is that it wouldn’t charge when it was plugged in, apparently because of corrosion on the pins in the charger port. That might have been an after-effect of when he got the phone wet months ago when he threw it in a bag with a not-quitesealed water bottle. At the time, we were able to get the phone dried out, although the battery never really held a charge very well after that.

The back of the phone was also cracked, apparently having been dropped when it wasn’t nestled into a protective case, but that had also been that way for weeks.

In any case, the phone was insured, so we paid the deductible and got him a new one. The model he had, now three generations old, wasn’t available anymore, so he ended up with a brand new phone, an iPhone 5C, the best phone in the household.

When the assistant at the store explained that to my husband, he thought we’d be thrilled. “Sweet!” was the term he used. No, my husband said. We’re essentially rewarding a 13- year-old for not taking care of his phone. But the alternative — to switch phones around so he ends up with one of our old ones — was too headache-inducing to contemplate.

Proverbs 13:24 says, “Whoever spares the rod hates the child, but whoever loves will apply discipline.” I’m not sure where this leaves us, even though it leaves Frank with a new phone.


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