Guest blogger Michelle Kemper Brownlow: A couple of weeks ago, my oldest sat my husband and me down at the kitchen table for a conversation that was a role-reversal of sorts. We were each handed an envelope; one said "Mom" and one said "Dad." We were given strict instructions not to open those envelopes until directed to do so. This child was turning 13 in two weeks, and was apparently preparing his case for his most coveted gift: a cell phone.
"As you both know, I am turning the age of 13 very soon, and the common question to ask is, 'Matthew, what do you want for your birthday?'" he said. "If you have already asked this question, then that's why I'm reading this to you. If you haven't, I have picked this as the appropriate time to present my answer to you in a very professional way, but [with] a 'Matthew twist.' Please try to stay serious throughout the entire speech, with the exception of an occasional giggle [for] the 'Matthew twist' -- and BTW, that was supposed to make you giggle. So, without further ado, here is my answer [insert drum roll here]:
"I would like a Verizon Wireless Samsung Reality in piano black for a measly $19.99 (not including monthly fees). If you open the envelope with your official designated parent name, you will find a picture of it with all the details needed in order to at least consider this gift, which is accompanied by six 'Hug + Kiss Coupons,' so that not only I benefit from this opportunity."
Matthew's plea included his top five reasons for needing/wanting a phone and ended with, "Thank you for your time, and I love you."
With tears in our eyes, we hugged and kissed him and told him we would consider his plea.
For the next two weeks, we went round and round. Does he want it just because his friends have it? If that's the reason, the answer is simple: "NO!" After much conversation and consideration, we decided he would NOT be getting a phone. He is rarely anywhere alone; all of his friends have cells, so he can use theirs if he needs anything; the annual expense of adding him to our plan was not insignificant. So, "NO." Matthew would remain phoneless.
Matthew is an "A" student, a good friend and a passionate actor and artist who learns his lines with little to no help from us. He does all his homework and has never been in trouble at school. He speaks with appropriate language and doesn't disrespect anyone, so .... The day before Matthew's birthday, my husband called me on his lunch break. He was at the Verizon store and was looking at phones and plans. Matthew went with my husband the next day to choose his phone.
So far, he has been responsible with it. He has been OK with the parameters we have set, and I am glad we changed our minds. My husband and I are both getting soft in our old age. And the upside? We will not have to wrack our brains to figure out a gift for our daughter, who will turn 13 in fifteen months.