Teaching Ryan to text and use a cell phone has been somewhat a work in progress. This year we got him a phone for school. We explained that kids his age communicate mostly by text message. That was enough to sway him — from complete indifference to mild interest — in owning a phone.
I insured the phone. I figured we would be replacing it often. But six weeks into the school year, the phone remains both in his possession and in good working order. There’s a reason for that — it almost never leaves his backpack. It has gone almost completely unused, and on the rare occasions he’s had a need to use it, as often as not, the battery is dead.
That’s not to say Ryan never texts. It’s just that usually when he does, the texts are sent from Veronica’s phone.
Such was the case Wednesday, when I received the following text from her number:
“This is ryan. Can we play right when u get home?”
He was asking about getting in a game of our long-running backyard street-hockey series (currently tied, 23-23).
Sensing an opportunity to teach a lesson, I replied:
“Yes. On one condition. You have to send me a text from YOUR phone.”
Several minutes later, he answered, “My phone is dead.”
“You need to plug it in!” I replied.
Then, a couple of minutes later I realized I might have unintentionally set off a panic if he believed I wouldn’t play because his phone battery was dead. I sent one more text:
“We will play right when I get home but from now on you need to ask by texting from your phone ok?”
There was no reply, but he was waiting in the backyard, hockey stick in hand, when I got home.
Yesterday, the scene repeated itself, except this time, the text came from Ryan’s phone:
“Can we play right when u get home?”
Thrilled at the success of my brilliant carrot-and-stick routine, I sent back, “Yes we can. Good job!”
I arrived home to find him in the backyard. We played a game before I could even change out of my work clothes.
Afterward, I told Veronica about Ryan’s text.
She looked at me, incredulous. “And who do you think told him to use his phone?”
OK, so maybe this skill is still a work in progress. But as long as Ryan sends me texts like that from his phone, the answer is very likely to be “yes.”