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I’m torn.

As a married, always at home father with a stay at home wife I probably wouldn’t have bought my kids cell phones. Maybe a basic phone and a basic plan once they reached 12 or 13 and start going places on their own.

But as a divorced Dad living 4 hours away I did. I wanted my kids to be able to call me on a whim, whenever. I wanted to be able to reach them on a whim without having to process it through their Mom. Six years ago it started out with one basic phone for all of them to share. But after that, cell phones seemed to take on a life of their own.

First, I added an unlimited texting plan since they seemed to really enjoy texting me.

Then, as the oldest entered junior high school I got him a new phone and let the girls who all still attended the same elementary school have the old phone. Two pretty basic phones but with unlimited texting.

For 2 years my son called me almost every weekday morning on his walk to the school bus stop. I got into the habit every day of calling the girls later after school. The cell phones were working out. Last summer I got another inexpensive phone so that the next child entering junior high could have a phone while on her own. And as a birthday gift to the oldest who had been calling me of his own free will and choice almost every day I bought a i-Phone.

4 kids 3 phones

Then something happened this school year. I don’t completely know what or why. The oldest, now in high school had to get up for school earlier in the morning, didn’t take the bus and I no longer got a daily call. The girls, who were never really stellar about calling me anyway, seemed to answer my daily calls less and less. During the last four months I’ve probably talked to each child twice a week at best.

One thing I’m trying to improve in myself is not not whine or set off a guilt trip by saying, “Why don’t you call me?” or “Why didn’t you answer your phone?”

Still, my monthly phone bill is regularly over $220. As a remote sales person I get reimbursed only $75 for my smart phone. So, I’m paying out of my pocket around $150 for phones for my children, out of which I’m getting very little use.

This past week after I dropped the kids back off with their mother I haven’t been able to reach them and they haven’t called me. I realize it’s their vacation and there were times that they were out of cell phone range, but there have definitely been moments to call or text in the last week even if just to say, “We got your message and we’ll call tomorrow.”

So, last night after I called unsuccessfully I instead had a conversation with Verizon and suspended their phone service. I actually thought it would be a mere minutes or an hour or two before they called on their mom’s cell to alert me. It didn’t happen until this morning.

They’re pissed off at me of course, especially my oldest son.

I tried to make it clear that I’m not punishing them but just stopping payment on something that I was not getting any use out of and that they weren’t using for the purpose it was intended. Other than saving myself a bit of money temporarily I don’t really have a plan for reconnecting the phones. They want to know how they can “earn it back.” I explained that using their mom’s phone is actually working out quite nicely for me as they’ve called/texted more today than in the last month.

Internally I’m torn whether I’m shooting myself in the foot and making them less likely to want to call/answer or whether I really am teaching them a lesson about communicating with technology. I’ll probably resume their service sooner or later. Like I said I don’t have a plan yet. I probably should have developed the parameters before I made the move to suspend them.

What do you think? Good or bad parenting?

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