Providing a cell phone for your kid isn't really considered an extravagance anymore, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be appreciated by the child. I admit that we equipped the 11-year-old with a phone a couple years ago for my own selfish reasons; I was sick of waiting in the car for kids that were running late, I didn't want to hear him say: "Why did Zach get a phone? When am I getting a phone? I need a phone!" for the next two years, and a carrier pigeon seemed kind of impractical.
As convenient as it has been, I wonder sometimes if maybe it was the dumbest thing I've ever done. It has been two years of me saying: "Hey Charlie, did you bring your phone? Where is your phone? Is your phone charged? Is the ringer on in case I actually call you? Don't tell me you forgot your phone again. You left your phone in the car. Go get your phone out of your tennis bag!" and on and on. Zach was responsible from the very beginning, using it for it's intended purposes, and he now is able to organize group meetings for science projects, get important information about homework, and send/receive more than 5000 texts per month.
Monday evening, after orchestra rehearsal, Charlie was getting a ride home with a friend. I reminded him (yet again) to bring his phone in case of an emergency, like a zombie attack. Shortly after he got home, we had to get back in the car for piano lessons, and the answer is yes, there are some days that I spend more time in my minivan than the house, which makes me grateful for my cell phone.
"Hey, who has a phone with him in case I'm running late?"
"I do." Zach never goes anywhere without the thing.
Charlie started muttering, "I, um, I don't...hmmm, that's weird," while frantically patting various parts of his body over and over again, waiting for the phone to magically appear in one of the pockets.
Not only was there was no phone, but there was no recollection of where the phone might have been left, or which pocket it was actually in before it wandered off. At least a carrier pigeon is too big to fit into a pocket and would have flown home on it's own.
After a couple phone calls and violently-typed emails, there was still no sign of his phone. I made it very clear to Charlie in a not-so-quiet voice that he obviously wasn't responsible enough to have the thing, and it wasn't going to be instantly replaced, unless he defines "instantly" as 365 days. He fought back tears, and knew I was right. Why should we continue to pay for something to nag the kid about when there are so many things that I can be pissed off about for free?
Yesterday I made one last call to the out-of-the-way school (of course the rehearsal wasn't at our own one-mile-away school) to see if a cell phone had miraculously appeared, and almost fell over when the secretary told me that, "Yes, one of the janitors found a green phone on the floor of the gym." I resisted the temptation to say, "just drop it in the garbage" and instead scraped together enough niceness to drive there and pick it up.
Have I told Charlie that his phone was found? Absolutely not. I'm going to let him squirm and continue to think it's missing. I'll probably give it back to him today, on the way to his violin lesson. Sometimes his teacher doesn't let him out on time, and I'm sick of waiting in the car.