The Right Call
“I need a cell phone for my 6-year-old.”
The words sounded as absurd as I feared they would as I stood defiantly in front of the Verizon guy at BJs in Pittsfield. After all, what kind of crazy mom buys a cell phone for a first-grader?
The Verizon guy, though, barely blinked. “What do you need?” he asked in a casual tone that made me wonder if he has seen this situation before.
He didn’t ask, but I felt compelled to explain all the same. “She has a medical condition and I need her to have a phone so she can call home if she needs to from wherever she is,” I said.
This was a huge step for me. I barely use my own cell phone, and I have been known to publicly complain about the rude, self-centered generation we are raising with their noses buried in the latest text message.
But I put those feelings aside to give my daughter Noelle a phone — and some independence, despite her type one diabetes.
We tested out the theory before the big purchase by sending her to karate camp a half-mile away from our home in Williamstown with a spare phone and instructions to call after she tested her blood glucose at snack time. It worked perfectly, but it was a bittersweet celebration when she came home from camp and got her high-fives.
Even taking the diabetes out of the equation, letting go of a young child is not easy. As parents, we watch them crawl and toddle and skip and jump farther and farther away from us as they grow. Which is how it’s supposed to be, of course, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Add a serious medical condition to the equation, and allowing for the normal progression of independence becomes an extreme challenge. Some of Noelle’s friends are having sleepovers; I haven’t allowed her to go down that road yet. I would have to come along, and who wants me camping out on their couch for the night? Or I would have to host every time, and who wants other kids in their house all the time?
And now … well, the invitations likely won’t flow anyway now that I’m probably going to be known as “that parent,” the one who gave her 6-year-old a cell phone, which is sure to prompt lots of “but Noelle has one” whines from her friends.
“Don’t you dare tell anyone you sold me a phone for a 6-year-old,” I threatened the Verizon guy as he rang up my purchase, a pay-as-you-go basic flip phone that he helped me program our numbers into as speed dial choices — and helped me block texting, music and a few other features that a smart kid like Noelle might be able to figure out with time.
Noelle proudly carried her new phone around BJs as we continued shopping. I let her test it in the car with a call to her Auntie Missy and take pictures on it to her heart’s content.
On the ride home, I turned and smiled at her as she practiced turning the phone on and off.
“I’m so proud of you,” I told her. She smiled back and flipped the phone closed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pittsfield native Rebecca Dravis is a former journalist who lives in north Berkshire County with her husband and daughter in Williamstown, MA. In Just My Type Rebecca shares her experiences as a parent raising a child with type one diabetes. – Check out Just My Type on the third Monday of every month.
[Photo credit: (ccl) fensterbme]