I have a seventeen-year-old daughter, as do many of you. Although I think she is beautiful, talented, intelligent, compassionate, and altogether wonderful, I am not besotted enough to think she is unique in possessing these attributes. No, I’m pretty sure that the only truly unique thing about her is that she was almost sixteen before she expressed interest in having a cell phone or a Facebook account. Truly. It’s not that the hubster and I had been denying her access to electronic media because we’re Stone Age luddites (although you could probably make a case). No, up until mid-way through last year, she had never, ever asked for a phone or Facebook access.
The Times They Are A-changing
With a request on the table for a cell phone, we had the usual parent-teen conversation about who would pony up the money for the phone and the cell plan, and what the limits might be (no phone at meals or after nine o’clock, for example). She was very up front in saying that the reason she wanted a phone was to be able to communicate with her friends, to text. I’m okay with that, partly because I expected the request to come several years ago. (Hubster thinks it’s an expensive way to keep in touch.) Ironically, we gave her a pay-as-you-go phone for Christmas 2013 and it was missing by Valentine’s Day. She didn’t want to spend the money to replace it, so she is still, at seventeen and a half, phoneless. Meanwhile, we okayed the Facebook account and she and two friends set it up during a sleepover. She has friended me and I get a kick out of seeing her posts and her friends’ comments. What I’ve realized, watching her delve into the Facebook world, is that the phone and social media represent another step away from us, the nuclear family, even though I have a small window into her other world. It’s a healthy, necessary step toward independence, toward connecting more with friends. It’s another opportunity (like with the driver’s permit) for me to let go.
Dang, I hate these “opportunities.” Do I want her to share her thoughts and reports on her day only with me, to depend on me alone for counsel and conversation? No. Yes. Truly, no. (It’s wearing, for one thing, to be the recipient of a teen girl’s every angst-laden, emotional outburst.) I want her to enjoy her wide network of friends who cheer her on and cheer her up, support her, laugh with her, and send her stupid YouTube videos. I am humbly grateful that she still talks to me at all, that she shares a large part of her inner life with me. Many of my friends’ daughters don’t. So, we’ll get her another phone (Anyone got an opinion on what carrier/plan is best?) before she leaves for college this fall. (Decision on where still pending.) It may be time for me to get a cell phone, too, and learn how to text. Oh, the possibilities! And any day now, my fifteen-year-old will want a phone . . .