If I had to put my parents’ parenting philosophy into a few words, it would be that life is about balance and rules and limits. My mother always made well-balanced meals — a fruit or veggie, a protein, a starchy carb. Our lunches were the same. But there was also a dessert offered at the end of each meal because, you know, if you stay balanced you get a reward at the end.
We weren’t allowed to watch TV during the day unless we were sick. We couldn’t just sit in front of the boob tube, the ol’ idiot box. There were many other things to do that were more real and more rewarding. And they had rules for most everything.
It was about limits and how to live a responsible life.
Once I had kids, I understood and my role as dad became much the same as the example set by my parents. Rules. Limits. Balance. Responsibility.
When my older son got to middle school, we got him a cell phone. This was back in 2007 or 2008, pre-smartphone days. But not pre-texting. We got him the 200 texts a month package because the point of the cell phone was to be able to communicate with us. It was not intended as an entertainment device.
The problem was that all of his friends already had cell phones and they all had unlimited texting on their phones. So they began to bombard him with texts. One of those friends sent and received 15,000 – 20,000 texts a month.
After a few months of my son going healthily over the 200 text limit and having to pay for the overage — more money each month than he got in allowance — I caved and got him unlimited texting. Because, you know, in the rest of the world there are no limits.
Did you know money grows on trees and in sunny California, that pretty much means a bumper crop of the stuff? And that also means that you never really have to control your spending. You just spend, spend, spend.
So, he got unlimited texting. A couple of years later little brother got his phone and then eventually we all got smartphones. With data. For years, I’ve tried to keep the lid on data.
I have given up.
My older son occasionally makes deliveries for a company called Postmates. It requires him to use his phone for directions and getting orders. That sucks a lot of data. My younger son moved off-campus this year into a house that has crappy wi-fi. It hasn’t stopped him from incessantly using his phone, no matter how much I tell him that there’s this whole life out there that isn’t phone-centric.
For all of my efforts to keep a lid on the soul-sucking leech that is a smartphone, almost every month we get the text warnings that we are approaching our data limit. Every couple of months I finally give up and add more data to the plan. It never ends.
This weekend I finally switched to Verizon’s unlimited data plan. Which is a soul-sucking leech of another kind. The monthly bill for four phones with unlimited data is just north of $300. It’s a scam. I know it is. But I concede. In a world that has lost its mind, where people can’t do anything unless their phone tells them to do it, and where the cell phone companies can do whatever the hell they want, my efforts to impose limits and responsibility are pointless.
Now if only I could find that money tree.