Ever since we gave our 13-year-old daughter an iPhone three years ago, I’ve had the most intense love-hate relationship with it.
I love it when I can call her and tell her that I’m running late to pick her up or that I can track her on the Find Friends app when she’s at the mall, beach, Disneyland or anywhere else where it’s hard to hear my text coming in.
But on the other hand, nothing makes me loathe this inanimate object more than when we’re running late, and her eyes are glued to her phone. “Hold on, Mom. Let me just finish looking at this video.”
Or when we’re out with family or friends, and she whips it out at the first second of boredom. “But there’s nothing else to talk about or do. Other people have their phones out.”
And, don’t even get me started about how much time is wasted on it when she’s doing homework. “We’re just texting about the assignment. Mom! Relax!”
It’s hard to relax when despite the boundaries and rules I’ve set up, I still seem to always be on phone patrol.
So, when her second iPhone 7 broke last month, and she didn’t like Option A — using a basic Android phone until we got her a new phone for her birthday in November; or Option B — paying and earning enough money to buy her coveted iPhone XR; we eventually came up with Option C — getting a refurbished iPhone 6, where she would pay $50, the difference between the cost of the Android and the iPhone.
But between figuring out the tech specs and finding one online, getting Option C up and running, took a couple of weeks.
That left my teenage daughter phoneless and forced to rely on her WiFi-dependent desktop and iPad to keep her on the grid.
Oh, the eye rolls, the unfairness and cruelty of mom and dad. What was she going to do?
Believe it or not, she figured it out.
When I was late in picking her up, she borrowed her friend’s phone to call me. When she went to a bar mitzvah, she borrowed my phone so she could take pictures of everyone and call or text home if there was a problem.
And when she was in the car, she either read a book or —gasp!— observed her surroundings.
As we were driving down Hawthorne for the umpteenth time, she pointed out for the first time the amazing Catalina and sunset views.
When we were in Downtown Torrance, she took note of an old building that she wanted to visit for an Instagram shot.
And then in the midst of one of her newly appreciated sightseeing outings, she dropped a bomb.
“You know mom, I don’t really need a phone in the car as much as I thought. I like to think or read or just look around. It’s relaxing.”
But just as I thought this might be a turning point, the time she would learn all the local street names and be able to give directions back home without using Waze, and maybe even talk to me about her day, her phone arrived.
And as quickly as a delete swipe on her phone, my fantasies were dashed, and the habits returned.
It wasn’t the longest phone detox.
But it was long enough for me to realize that we can all manage without a phone, and that a regular purge might not be a bad idea.
Just don’t tell my daughter.