So what is a parent to do when your child really and truly wants a gift that you don’t want them to have? Maybe it is a video game or a movie or even a book that you feel is “too old for them”. Maybe it is something expensive- like an electronic device such as a laptop or an iPad that you feel is unnecessary and too pricey in relation to your child’s age. In my case… it was my pre-teen who wanted a cell phone.
My son really wanted, almost desperately wanted a cell phone. As he told it… he was the only kid in middle school that didn’t have one, and based on the informal survey I took among parents that I knew… he might have been right. The biggest reason he wanted to have the cell phone was so that he could give out his phone # to his buddies for texting. So my husband and I thought that maybe we found a way around that issue by finding a free app for his iTouch that gave him a phone number and allowed him to send and receive texts at that phone # whenever he was in a WiFi zone. But in his mind… it was fake- just not the real deal.
So when his birthday rolled around last month and the only thing that he asked for was a cell phone, our first reaction was to run through the litany of reasons why we didn’t want him to have one. We didn’t think it was “necessary”. When you added in the monthly fee for a year- it made it a very expensive gift. We felt that he already had the ability to text- for free- so why pay a high price for the same thing. And so on and so on. And he relented. He knew it was a losing battle- so he let us off the hook… and asked for a book instead. Yes, a book.
But of course, this gnawed at me. That this, the only thing he wanted, the thing that really most other kids had, we had taken a such a serious you’re-not-getting-one-and-we-mean-it stance on. But since this decision was bothering me, I shared this story with a few girlfriends…. to get their take on our decision. And one very wise girlfriend reminded me that thing that I wanted so very badly way back when I was in middle school…. was a very expensive, totally unnecessary pair of Jordache jeans. And way back then… I am pretty sure that I had these same kinds of discussions with my parents:
“But Mom, I really, really want these jeans. Everybody has them. And I promise that I will take good care of them, and wear them for a long time.”
“Sharon- why would we spend $50 on a pair of jeans that you need to lay down on the floor just to shimmy onto your body? When you own several perfectly good pairs of these other (less expensive Jordache- knock-off jeans that were totally NOT the same thing!) jeans?”
“Mom- you just don’t understand…. I just really WANT them!”
And if memory serves…. I do recall sporting those horse-emblemed beauties on my derriere during my critically-important-pre-teenage years. So somewhere down the line, my Mom understood that while she might have thought those jeans to be silly and unnecessary- she knew that they were important to me. And she found a way for me to have them. And to my son, having that cell phone was kind of like me having those jeans.
So I asked Steve if maybe we could figure out a way to make it happen. So my husband trekked on over to the AT&T store to find out about their GO phone which is basically a pre-paid cell phone (pay as you go), and how we might add a low-priced monthly texting plan to it. (We had used a GO phone in the past in an old cell phone that we had, so that when we dropped off our boys at soccer practice, they had a cell phone to reach us should the need arise….. but it never belonged to any of them…. it was considered to be a family phone.) And Steve was able to purchase another GO SIM card for $100 (which is probably more than our son will spend in phone calls for an entire year), and Steve added a low-priced texting plan for less than $10/month. Steve was able to take that SIM card and install it into an old Blackberry device that he had but no longer used. So for a relatively reasonable annual price of $220 (reasonable as far as cell phones go I guess)…. we were able to give our son the cell phone that he so badly wanted for this birthday.
Update from Steve (since the post was first published):
Did we do the right thing? Well certainly our son thinks so. And so far he hasn’t really been too texting-crazy- in fact he is so far short of the monthly limit of texts he can send that we could probably lower the plan he is on to one that is less than $5/month….. And the one phone call he has made so far was to me…. just to thank me for his phone.
But what do you think? Have you ever given in and purchased a gift for your child that you did not approve of? Please leave a comment!