A 6-year-old girl on my daughter’s swim team has a cell phone, which she proudly showcases to everyone who is willing to look. She’ll even allow you to play with her games, if you look admiringly at her toy. This has created a negative buzz among other parents, who think that a 6-year-old shouldn’t have a cell phone.
When another parent asked me when I thought my daughters would have a cell phone, I realized that this thought hadn’t crossed my mind. This parent went on to share the ages at which her two girls would be allowed to put on make up, go on dates, drive a car, even have plastic surgery. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about this last one, because with five daughters I won’t have enough money to afford any kind of cosmetic procedure. But, so accurate was this parent — I was surprised she didn’t just pull out a spreadsheet — that I wondered if I was too clueless about this whole rules and stages thing. And than I thought a bit more, and realized that I know why I am not into planning these things: I am my mother’s daughter.
I grew up with few rules in my home in Rome, Italy, because I was an angel.
My mom and dad gave me complete freedom, within the Italian boundaries of the law, until I did something wrong. I got a cell phone when I was a teen, I had a scooter when I was 14 years old, and my parents thought it was safe enough to let me ‘drive’ to dance class on my own. If I needed, or wanted, something, I got it. If I abused it, it was taken away.
My mom didn’t have a master plan or a spreadsheet with rules on it that told her when or how to give her daughters things, or how to set boundaries. But it worked for us and she would say that if a spreadsheet works for another parent than that’s great.
Which brings me back to my little friend with the cell phone. Personally, I wouldn’t give my daughter, who is 7, a cell phone because she isn’t going anywhere without me, and because it’s not in our budget. Practicality trumps any philosophical debate on this one. But, I don’t really care to judge my little friend or her parents. It works for them, who am I to criticize? I haven’t walked in their shoes, so I don’t know why or how they came to their decision.
And if someone makes a mistake — we all do sometimes — it's not my job to point it out. Some parents in the group commented that the cell phone is expensive and the girl is too young, but haven't we all spoiled our kids one time or another?
Plus, and the real reason why I don’t say anything, is that I want her phone. It has better features than mine and it’s a newer version. Maybe, I can convince her to swap my old black one for her new pink and shiny one. After all, we have the same provider.
Anita Doberman is a freelance writer, mother of five and wife of an Air Force pilot stationed at Hurlburt AFB in Florida. Contact her at: