Friday, March 12, 2010

Text Me If You Can...

We have no home phone any longer, at least not a land line. When three of the four children eventually had his or her own cell phones, paying for a land line seemed a waste of money. No one was using the home phone anyway. Eliza was always using my cell phone. So, we cancelled our home phone altogether.

We've been without a home phone for about a year and a half, I guess. It's been fine. No problems really, and we shaved about $30 off of our phone bill. In a time where every little bit saved, helps a whole lot, this was a good move for us. Until recently...

I am routinely home when Eliza gets off the bus from school at 4:00pm; however, on occasion, I may be running late from picking someone up from school. If that's the case, I have Baker stay at the house and wait for her. He stays home with Eliza until I get back.

This has worked well every time I've needed him... except for once recently when Eliza arrived home, I was not here and Baker had forgotten to come home from the neighbor's house across the street.

Eliza arrived home to no one other than the dogs. While on many days, the company of her dogs would suit her fine, this was not one of those days because I wasn't home either. Eliza pretty much freaked out. She went around the house calling for me, for Baker, for anyone. She looked in closets, in the pantry, under sinks... everywhere. She wandered around in tears not knowing what to do... and there was NO HOME PHONE for her to call me.

Literally, I arrived home within 3 minutes of her arrival; however, those 3 minutes were terrifying for her and heartbreaking for me when I realized how scared she was. Baker is great about helping me and has always been here to greet Eliza when I've needed him, but he's human, and he forgot. It could have happened to me. I wasn't mad at him, just disappointed.

It was at that point, though, that it became apparent that Eliza needed a way to get in touch with me, Don, anyone, in case of an emergency. So, I bit the bullet and got my 9 year old a cell phone. The other three were 12 before they got phones, but these circumstances warranted a lowering of the age restrictions we had adhered to for the other three.

So, I researched phones designed for younger kids. Our AT&T family plan had reached its max of 5 phones. So, I couldn't add another line. I don't understand that, but I can't get started on AT&T... that would cost you and me way too much time (and probably money). At any rate, I came across a phone called  Kajeet.

Kajeet had fairly good reviews, not really the best service across the board, but I wasn't looking for a phone that worked well in Bangladesh or even Boston, for that matter. I just needed Eliza to have a phone that worked at home and our surrounding areas.

What I liked about the Kajeet was the way the website was designed specifically for parents and kids with a "Parent's Wallet" and a "Kid's Wallet," parental controls, limits on when the phone could be used and who could call, etc. The other deal clencher was NO CONTRACT! Plus, for $14.95/mo, I could get unlimited texting for Eliza and 60 minutes/month of talk time.

With the rate that kids text today, I was less concerned about the talk time and more concerned about her being able to text. After all, the phone was for EMERGENCY calling. Well, I ordered a refurb Kajeet phone through Amazon. I kept it for a few days before giving it to Eliza. I was still a little gun shy about giving my 9 year old a cell phone. Does that make me old fashion?!

Well, before I had a chance to give Eliza her phone, she discovered a piece of paper with her name and a phone number written on it. It didn't take her long to put two-and-two together before it dawned on her that there must be a cell phone related to her name and this phone number. Of course, she was right.

I went and got her the box with the phone and handed her her very own cell phone. She screamed. She gasped. She embraced the box like a long-lost friend and exclaimed, "I can't believe this is happening to me. Is this a dream?!" Wow. Who knew I would get such a reaction. She was breathless and speechless for 5 minutes walking around the house in a dreamlike state.

After she came back down to Earth, I gave Eliza a little tutorial and emphasized the fact that using her phone to make phone calls was strictly for emergencies like what had happened when she came home to find that she was alone. We talked about the fact that the phone would stay at home during the school day, and she was only allowed to take it with her if she was going home with a friend for a sleepover, going to a neighbor's house to play, or with Dad or me.

Baker, Brennan and Cara took the news well. I didn't know how they would feel about their little sister getting a cell phone 3 years before they were allowed to have one. They seemed to completely understand the circumstances of why we got it for her, and they each jumped right in to help Eliza set things up, import numbers; but most of all, they began to christen her into the world of texting.

Who knew we'd be faced with the necessary evil of texting? I love texting because it's easy. I hate texting because it's easy. I love texting to get a message across without having to make a call. I hate texting when too many one-worders go back and forth -- this is tweenager/teenager style... One word answers: Ya, Na, K, C, Huh. My kids can text one-worders repeatedly, which really gets on my nerves. I also hate the distraction that texting can be; however, it's not going away. So, I'm teaching the kids the importance of never texting while driving (leading by example).

At any rate, Eliza was immersed thoroughly into text etiquette, and she became a texting machine; albeit, a slow one, but a texter nonetheless. When she took her phone to her friend's house across the street and stayed in touch with me with what she was doing by texting me, I wondered to myself why I had waited so long. Cell phones are advanced walkie-talkies -- more expensive, but also more reliable.

Of course, every parent has his or her view on when, and even if, their child should have a cell phone. I totally respect that. For the Donahue Crew, it works. We have parental controls and limits, and we require each kid to keep their cell phone downstairs to charge over night.

I like the comfort of being able to find my foursome when I need to... and for this reason alone, I am glad that my kids have phones. With four going in so many different directions, I can still reach them when I need them (for the most part).

Eliza has had her phone for about a month now. She's done great with it, and I don't think she's even made one phone call. She has, however, enjoyed the texting, and, admittedly, so have I.

Just the other day, I was sitting in my room, and I heard the familiar "ding" of my cell phone alerting me to a new text. I picked up my phone to see the message, and this is how it read: "U always put love n peoples lives like u do to me" -Eliza...   Melt.

Out of the blue, my little 9 year old texter made my day with her sweet text. I called her in to see me, and I asked her, "Eliza, what made you send me that sweet text?" She replied, "I was just thinking about you and all of the things that you do for people, and I just wanted to  tell you. I just love you."

I know times have changed, and in any other era, this text would have been a handwritten note; but these are our times, and my love note from my baby came via text. I'll take that kind of text any day...

With all of our running around and busyness, you may not be able to catch me, but, by all means, text me if you can...