“No, you can’t have it. It’s MINE!” I hissed at my daughter as she slowly made what she thought was a sly attempt at removing my iPhone from my tightly clenched fist. “But why, Mom?” she asked. “Why can’t I see your phone for just a minute?” I racked my brain trying to formulate a plausible reason as to why my phone could not, under any circumstance, be extricated from my hand for even the shortest amount of time. Unable to come up with any such reason, I blurted out, “Because it’s mine!“ My heart pounded with anxious frustration as I raised my phone high in the air to escape her increasingly desperate grasp. “But Mommy, that’s not nice,” she countered. “You need to share!”
Yeah, kid, that may be, but here’s a newsflash: Mommy’s tired of sharing. I’m tired of sharing the one pair of nice high-heeled shoes unfortunate enough to have taken up residence in my otherwise pitiful closet. I’m tired of sharing the time I spend in the bathroom—both in and out of the segregated potty closet—with you. And I’m really super tired of relinquishing whatever great food it is that I happen to be enjoying on any given moment because guess what? Mommy needs to eat, too!
I guess you could say I’m all shared out. And of all the things I love sharing with you, all the things to which I will happily grant you unlimited access out of the benevolence of my big mommy heart, I positively and absolutely draw the line at giving you an all-access pass to my iPhone. The thought alone is enough to send me into convulsions.
Y’all, what is happening to me? I’ve never been the type to eat, sleep, and live with my phone in my hand. In fact, I’ve always prided myself on the fact that I’m not tethered to my iPhone like an electronic leash. If you text me, I may or may not stop everything I’m doing to read the text right then and there, and I may or may not respond within the same minute, hour, day—or sometimes (regrettably) lifetime. I don’t see the dinging of the text as a mandatory call to duty indicating that I must respond immediately. I don’t experience fear of missing out if I haven’t checked Facebook or Instagram within the last few hours. Look at me—I am the commander of my own destiny. I am living wild and free!
And yet, when my children take my phone away from me—even if only for a few minutes—I start getting really anxious. I’m not talking about in the middle of a busy work day (because hello, I’m a stay-at-home mom), nor a day when I am knee-deep in a group text exchange that requires my immediate input (because hello, I’m not that social or important). No, I’m talking about on an everyday, just-trying-to-make-it-until-7:00 P.M.-so-I-can-put-these-hellions-to-bed, run-of-the-mill type of day. I start thinking I hear my phone dinging or chiming or ringing, and I have to check it. “False alarm,” I tell my daughter. She responds with a slow, pitying shake of the head and a side eye strong enough to wither even the most confident of supermoms.
When I watch her play with my phone, it’s almost as if I’m helplessly watching her slowly siphon all of the life force from my body. I feel completely out of control and oddly violated. I know it’s ridiculous, but the level of alarm I experience while watching her recklessly play with my phone makes dialing 911 to report an emergency situation seem completely justified within the bounds of reason.
Take, for instance, the day she finally persuaded Siri to call her by her name instead of by mine. Siri, ever the faithful confidante, politely pretended not to understand her request (or flat-out refused) for a number of days. But in the end, even a force as stubborn as Siri proved no match for my little manipulator’s unyielding will, and victory was hers. Siri changed my name—without my permission or any kind of password entry—to my daughter’s name. And now when Siri talks, she talks exclusively to my daughter. Emails come in addressed to her instead of me. The really sad part is, I can’t figure out how to change it back.
But my daughter’s abuse of my iPhone doesn’t end there. Oh, no. While I use my phone exclusively to conduct critical business such as managing our family finances (via keeping abreast of the latest flash sale offerings), maintaining my homemaking skills (via collecting pins on Pinterest), and serving as Director of Public Relations of this household (via posting and stalking on social media sites), my daughter is determined to whittle down my battery life and data plan while engaging in these completely frivolous activities:
1. Playing DJ. My daughter, who is in constant motion, loves to command Siri to play her favorite songs so she can stage impromptu concerts anytime, anyplace. And let me tell you right now, nothing will make you recognize the vulgarity of the music you listen to faster than hearing your five-year-old daughter singing along to songs that were never, ever intended for her ears. Being able to access your entire music collection from your young adult life in the palm of your hand is beautiful thing…until your daughter discovers gems like “Ms. New Booty.” And yes, I do have that song on my phone.
2. Sending emoji-filled texts to everyone in your contact list. Raise your hand if your child has ever sent your friend, acquaintance, or coworker a 37-line text filled with brightly colored emojis and nothing else? It’s always fun to discover that your child’s pediatrician, who was kind enough to give you his cell number for emergencies, was rewarded for his efforts with a text message full of smiling piles of poop from you at 6:30 A.M. Ah, the joys.
3. Instructing Siri to set a timer. Have you ever told your child they could do X activity in 30 minutes, thinking that by the time 30 minutes actually rolls around, your child will have moved on to another activity and will have long forgotten the promise you made (but never intended to keep)? Not so with my child. She simply tells Siri to set a timer for 30 minutes so that she will know exactly when to collect on her reward.
4. Asking Siri what the fox says. I’m not sure how she became aware of this fun little aspect of the iPhone, but my daughter delights in asking Siri, “What does the fox say?” It was kind of cute the first 20 times I heard Siri run through her various responses to that question, but now that we’ve repeated the process a solid 562,000 times, I’m getting pretty tired of it.
5. Taking pictures. If the urge strikes her, my daughter will take pictures of the world around her: of herself, the floor, a rock—basically, anything. She’s a regular Ansel Adams. But it’s not just one or two pictures—it’s 500. Which is totally cool. I didn’t need all that extra memory anyway.
Now this is not to say that I have not, at times, encouraged and possibly even facilitated my daughter’s unhealthy obsession with my phone. I mean, who among us hasn’t silently thanked God and the heavens above for electronic diversions such as Angry Birds, the Slither worm game, and the ultimate gift to harried moms everywhere: YouTube? I am not above granting my child unfettered access to my phone and all its glorious contents to buy myself a few
minutes hours to check items off of my never-ending to-do list. (To write this blog post, for example.) But these activities are always mom-driven, and that fact alone makes them OK. It is once these activities become driven and directed by the child that I begin to get a little uneasy. OK, psychotic.
And it is for this reason that I was pleased to discover that smartphone addiction is a real live thing. Even better, it is characterized by some of the symptoms I have experienced, including feeling anxious when you’ve lost (or in my case, been forced to surrender) your cell phone for a short period of time. I was pleased to discover this both because it means I’m not the only one who must feel this way but also because it means I have an addiction. And treatment for addictions means rehab. And rehab means time away from home. Lots of time. Possibly in a posh Betty Ford-esque environment where you get to talk about feelings and things that are important to you, free from the constant interruption of little jabbering mouths…with limited access to cell phones. Waaaaiiiit a second…
On second thought, I’m good!
“Here, honey, why don’t you play with my phone for a little while? I’ll just be right over there in the corner waiting until you’re finished.”