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Parenting is hard work. Like, seriously hard. I’ve had many parenting fails in my time but the biggest, most epic parenting fail in the history of all parenting fails happened when I ignored my maternal instincts and bought my 13-year-old son a phone. Biggest. Freaking. Mistake. Ever.
I didn’t just buy him a Tracfone or flip phone so he could start out with simple talk and text and work his way up to smartphone capabilities. Like my maternal instincts told me to do. Oh Hell Naw. I had to walk into Best Buy, with kid in tow, and get bamboozled by the Sprint sales guy who talked me into an iPhone 6 for my son because it was only $1/month to lease! What a bargain!
I basically handed my kid a mini-computer that opened up the Universe and all its evil right in the palm of his hand. *Smacks forehead. And then beats forehead against the wall for the next two years.*
Get Good Grades and Earn a Phone
I knew all about the dangers of kids getting phones too early. My kids never had phones in elementary school. My older son entered middle school and I still felt he was a bit young. So, I researched my options and decided a Tracfone or something similar would be a good starting point into the world of talk and text for his 7th-grade year. Nothing too fancy. We agreed on some goals he could achieve in 6th grade to earn the privilege of a phone for the following year. A phone is a privilege, not a right.
He had to get good grades (B average and above), set an alarm to get himself up in the morning, fix his own breakfast, do his chores and be nice. His transition from elementary school to middle school was a piece of cake. He had a 3.5 GPA at the end of 6th grade. His teachers loved him. He did everything he was asked to do…with a smile on his face.
Until he didn’t.
Do Smartphones Make You Stupid?
My son reached his goals and got his phone. And then everything went to hell in a handbasket.
This phone, this mini-computer, allowed my kid to play stupid games. Watch ridiculously stupid YouTube videos. Text like it’s a required life skill. Follow stupid, inappropriate Instagrammers. Scour the Internet. Download stupid apps. Be lazy. The list goes on and on.
My kid got a smartphone and got stupid. You can debate whether or not puberty actually made him stupid. But I’m pretty sure it was the phone. Either way, he lost his school mojo. He went from “outstanding performance” and “school work is progressing satisfactorily” in 6th grade to “doesn’t work up to capacity” and “assignments are not completed regularly or on time” in 7th grade. I got calls home from the teachers because he was disruptive in class. His visits to the principal increased. Detention was a regular occurrence.
Now in addition to the 1,563 things I do every day, I had to micromanage his screen time. I had to set parameters and follow up on them. I had to review his browser history and text conversations and Instagram direct messages. UGH. It’s mind-numbing. And, time-consuming.
I put parental controls on questionable websites and search terms. I put limits on his screen time. His phone wasn’t allowed in his bedroom at night. I took away the phone as punishment when necessary.
And things just continued to go downhill.
Realizing My Epic Parenting Fail
The stupidity continued into 8th grade. The emails about his disruptive behavior continued from his teachers. Detentions were still a regular occurrence. I feel like I took his phone away more times than he had it.
Damn this smartphone. I did this. I bought him this mini-computer.
It’s. All. My. Fault.
I wished I could turn back time and start out with the Tracfone like I planned.
But I signed a 2-year lease. I was on the hook for this phone for the foreseeable future.
It’s so easy for me to blame myself for putting the smartphone in his hand, but it’s ultimately his responsibility how he uses it. I set ground rules and I take his phone away as a consequence for his actions. Back and forth. Again and again. Over and over.
I should have stuck with my original plan to keep the phone capabilities at a minimum, to begin with. Starting out with an iPhone was like handing my kid the keys to a Ferrari instead of a Ford Fiesta. He went from 0-60 in 2.5 seconds online. He reached his goal of getting the phone and flat-out stopped trying after his big win.
The summer after 8th grade was a disaster so I took his phone away indefinitely. I bought out the lease. I canceled his plan on my phone carrier. I’m done.
He started high school without a phone. It’s gotta hurt when you’re constantly asking your friends to borrow their phone to call home because you don’t have one.
From this point on, he’ll have to figure out a payment method if he wants another phone. I’m not paying for it. At least not all of it. If he wants a phone he’s going to have to figure out how to fund it IF he ever earns back any phone privileges. He has to follow my parameters whether or not he partially or fully pays for a phone and phone plan.
Widow Wrap Up
Like I said, parenting is hard work. But for those of us doing it alone, without partners to back us up, it’s sheer torture. I second-guess myself constantly. I’ve had many parenting fails but this one was a doozy. This one rocked my world. Now, I just have to look at the situation for what it is. A mistake. One that I can learn from.
It’s not the first parenting mistake I’ve made and it sure as shit won’t be the last.
Next 😐 …
What about you? What are some of your epic parenting fails? I would love to know in the comments if you’re willing to share!