The death of “No”
I’d like to talk about a simple, two-letter word that is rapidly disappearing from the mouths of people everywhere. Once a powerful word, filled with substance, conviction and principle, it has since been demoted into wimpy phrases like “well, maybe”, “Sure, why not?” or, the most popular phrase of all “Ask me later.” If you aren’t sure what I mean by this, let’s take a look at how the word “no” has all but disappeared from parenting terminology. Case in point – cell phones and the teenager.
First, I admit I have a cell phone. I swore I’d never get one myself, using the old, tired phrase “I didn’t own one when I was a teenager and seemed to have survived just fine without it”. But, one day inching home from work, in a heavy snowstorm with limited visibility, I decided “it would be a great idea to have a cell phone ‘just in case’ I end up in a snow bank.” So, I dragged my husband to the local cell phone store and forced him to add me to his account. I wasn’t interested in the latest gadgetry – no need for a flip phone, or taking pictures, fancy buttons and applications, blah blah blah. I just wanted something I could have with me in case I needed to dial 911. So, I went for the “free phone” with the plan addition. I was “good to go”.
Of course this didn’t satisfy me for long. The one thing I couldn’t stand was the phone’s rigidity. Since it was big and bulky, it didn’t fit well in the side of my purse. Every time I picked my purse up and began to carry it, I’d accidentally hit the “auto dial” button and end up calling my husband, or the kids at home. They wouldn’t hear anything on the other end, except for an occasional swish from the movement of my purse. And, it kept running up minutes without my realizing it.
After a year or two of dealing with this, and some prodding from my son about how “flip phones are way better”, I went to a flip phone style – still the cheapest phone on the market, but at least it bends and I can tuck it into my purse without fear of dialing China. I also had the ability to take pictures, which of course my daughter immediately realized and, imagine my surprise, began taking countless pictures of our dog in various poses and places inside our house. Of course this chewed up my phone’s batteries and really began to piss me off. Repeated reminders “STAY AWAY FROM MY PHONE!” fell on deaf ears.
Soon the pleadings began, “Mom, if I can’t use your phone, can’t I just get one of my own?” “No, what does a 10-year old need with a cell phone?” “But maaaaa…If I had my own phone, I wouldn’t need to use your phone’s batteries all up!” Well, that’s true. But, logic and reason overruled, and I quickly countered with “How about you just don’t use my phone AT ALL? Besides, where are you going to be that I am not going to know about – since I drive you there?”
When my son started high school hockey, I briefly reconsidered purchasing him his own cell phone. Not because I wanted him to “join the other twelve million kids with cell phones”, but because of the school bus rides. He had to take the high school’s bus to and from games, and it gave him a chance to call us a few minutes before the bus arrived back at school so we could rush out and meet him back at school. For away games, we could call and find out if his team had won or not. This was one of those moments when I realized my teenager having a cell phone was, in fact, a great idea. At the last minute, however, I decided he could just take my phone with him and call us with that. Problem solved, conscience and principles still intact.
Interestingly enough, I approached him with the idea of letting him purchase his own cell phone. He had proven to be responsible enough with my cell phone (unlike his little sister) and would use it accordingly. Well, two things changed that – one, he himself admitted he would probably run up outrageous text charges (got to admire his honesty for admitting that), and two, he began receiving inappropriate text messages from his friend. That ended THAT idea real quick. He was back to using my phone. Not only that, but I also removed the ability to text from my phone. Hah!
But now, his world is getting bigger. He turns 16 this Sunday, and has begun driving. He is proving to be a very responsible driver – thankfully. We might have to learn how to add a “w” to the word “no”, and give him his own phone to use as he wants. This time, we’ll get unlimited text messaging capabilities.