What in the world.
I am having a hard time deciding if this is a milestone, some right of passage, or the end of his innocence. One more screen, one more way for him to be accessed and potentially affected.
The fact that this big life purchase coincides with him starting middle school is enough to have me second-guessing everything and fanning off cold sweats.
Normal, certainly, but change is coming into his life like a freight train. And I can try to wave it off madly from the sidelines (a spot I had better get used to), but, it’s no good. There he stands, facing that freight train with wild glee and hopeful anticipation. Bring it!
The phone is for safety. Really. I want to be able to text him and get one right back whenever cold anxiety creeps up around my ankles from under my parenting grandstand.
(“There you are. He’s not safe, you know. You should be watching him more closely, he’s too young to be left to his own devices. Start hovering, hovering, hovering, right over his head…it’s what good parents do. Hover. Now.”)
He sees the phone as an offering and affirmation that he is his own person now. Right away, the texts started. “Are you coming home for lunch?” “What time does her flight leave?” “We had to leave the pool because of lightning.”
He is so ready to take responsibility and be part of the adult conversation.
WHICH I LOVE. Yes, TELL ME every second of your day. Yesssss. I am drinking in every word, while madly kicking anxiety in the face below me.
Middle school means a school twice the size, a campus, changing classes, a class schedule, gym lockers, lunch periods and… eighth graders. EIGHTH GRADERS. I think most adults are intimidated by eighth graders, let alone a wee, pre-pubescent 6th grader, whose young for his class, and a very slight 60-ish lbs of bony awkwardness soaking wet.
(Oh and do you see all of that over the school, too? The other parents hovering? I want to be up there. My anxiety certainly insists that I do. But I’ve chained myself to this little spot on the sidelines, willing myself to let him BE, let him DO this.)
He sees and considers none of this. There he still stands, cell phone firmly in one hand, a talisman of confidence as he stares down the freight train. He’s pumped. He’s got a little swagger. He talked confidently to his reading teacher, shrugging off that introversion label in a hot second. He proudly finished his summer reading. He has mapped out every class and knows he has 4 minutes to change classes. He is NOT worried.
Anxiety just laughed at me from deep down under there.
(“Hey. Who are you kidding? He’s fooling you. He’s fooling himself. He really needs you. Get up, up in the sky, over him. Make more noise than this. MAKE SURE HE’S OK.”)
I’m not dropping him off tomorrow. My husband is. And that is a good thing. Sure, he’s worried I might embarrass him. But let’s be real. I can handle the third-grader’s drop-off. The safety of ONE classroom, ONE teacher, a much smaller campus and one we both know. I can’t bear the idea of my eldest getting out of the car, loaded down in school supplies, not looking back (he won’t, you know) and being swallowed up in a sea of kids that shave, wear make-up and look about 22.
(“What kind of mother are you? You are faaaaar too trusting.”)
But he has his cell phone. He has it right there with him. It’s proudly and comfortably zipped into his backpack (along with all the hope and trust and belief in him that I stuffed in there without him looking). I am a text, a call, and only 5 miles away from my office. (Yes, I’ve clocked it.)
Yeah, I know that cell phone will open him up to new people, friends, access, connections that I have limited control over. (Um, I WILL read his texts until he pays for it himself.) But that cell phone is
my his our safety net, our conduit, our promise that we can reconnect when HE needs me. When I need him.
Is it enough? This basic flip phone with unlimited texting?
Is he going to be OK?
Are there any guarantees?
(“Yes. You could be there more. You could drop him off and pick him up and you could watch him, demand more for him, protect him, slowwww down the train. You could, you should, why don’t you?”)
I can’t. There are no guarantees. He will be good enough. So, here’s my feeble attempt at standing and cheering to him from where I am, where I think I am supposed to be. I feel every bit of temptation and fear biting at my ankles but it doesn’t matter. I’ll just yell louder and show him that this freight train is awesome and normal and he has every reason to believe that HE can handle what it brings him all on his own. All by himself.
*Cue embarrassing mom yodeling and hollering and whooping!*