Yesterday morning around 6:00 a.m., before I was even out of bed, I sent my three oldest children a text message. The message was in response to a text I had received from Verizon notifying me that we had exceeded the data usage limit on our phone plan, therefore we would be incurring an additional charge. While the charge wasn’t overly excessive, I was upset with my kids for not being more cautious with MY money. I knew our data usage was close to the limit; so did they. We had all received the warning text a week ago. So I sent the following text to my kids: “I am going to check my Verizon account to see why our data is being overly used, and who is using it. Please be respectful of the fact that you are all adults, and your parents are still the ones paying for your phones.”
The responses came in immediately, and I was secretly impressed that they were all awake so early in the morning. Luke and Emily both responded that it wasn’t them. About ten minutes later, Andrew responded, “I think it was me. I’ll pay back what I owe.” I had known all along who was the culprit. My oldest, dear, sweet, irresponsible, challenged son, Andrew. It almost broke my heart knowing what he went through to reply to that group text. I felt my face grow red as I imagined his embarrassment and shame in knowing that his siblings were going to see that he was the one who had caused Mom to send out a reprimand via text. I replied back to him privately thanking him for owning up to the overage. I told him not to worry about paying me back, but please don’t let this happen again in the future.
Last night when the house was quiet and I was the only one still awake, I thought once again about that morning’s texts. I wondered if it was time to cut the kids off from our phone plan. They all have jobs. Emily could afford to pay for her own phone as she still lives at home. I know for a fact that Andrew and Luke both struggle from check to check without ever asking for or expecting financial help. Luke is still a student, and his income is limited. Andrew lives in Chicago where he pays a tremendous amount of rent for a studio apartment in a safe neighborhood.
If I cut the kids off from our phone plan, I would only be saving a nominal amount of money, yet Verizon would make out like a bandit if my kids all purchased single plans. The total cost for those same phones on separate plans would be almost triple that of our family plan. But this is not simply a matter of money. I was more concerned about encouraging independence and responsibility in my adult children. I’ll have to admit that I felt a bit caught in a trap on this particular subject. If I cut them off of our plan, what if they were unable to pay for a phone on their own? What if they decided that they could get along fine without the luxury of a cell phone. As dependent as our society has become on cell phones, I could honestly see my son, Luke, deciding that he could get along perfectly fine without a phone.
As a mother, I worry endlessly about my kids. They are probably unaware of just how much I worry. I certainly don’t talk to the boys on a daily basis, but we often send texts back and forth. I love that feeling of connection. I love it when they send me a joke or a picture of something they think I would enjoy. More importantly, I want to ensure that they have a phone available if there would ever be a time when they needed something. I guess this means that I’ll be paying for five cell phones for a while longer. Someday soon, I imagine I will be increasing that number to six as Lola has been grumbling about being “the only kid she knows without a phone.”