Small Wonders: A dose of cell phone reality

Dear Parents (and you know who you are),

I would like to thank those of you who felt that the third grade was an appropriate age to give your child a cell phone. I'm sure you have every good reason for doing so.

But thanks to your generosity, I am subjected to my kids' constant complaining and begging for a cell phone, because apparently “everyone else has one.” I am barraged daily by their incessant pining for a device that, until this decade, every human being on the planet was able to survive adolescence without.

Personally, I have yet to make this financial commitment for my children. I'm not yet convinced 8- and 9-year-olds are quite ready for the responsibility that comes with being electronically tethered to the rest of humanity. Or that my child's life is enhanced by texting their elementary school friends five minutes after they've spent the day with them. Or by having unlimited calls, even if only within network.

Call me old-fashioned, but we still have a rotary dial phone in the house that costs pennies and can be more easily supervised. Somehow that sufficed for the last 100 years.

Anyway, since you decided to lower the bar by adding yet one more juicy idol to the peer pressure candy machine for all minors to covet, I thought I'd share with you a few things I've decided to give my kids before they're ready. It won't be long before your kids are throwing nuclear tantrums and causing you migraines over a few things that “everyone else has.” Such as:

Driver's licenses. That's right, my kids will now be the envy of all their third- and fourth-grade friends when they drive themselves through the drop-off lane at school each morning. Safety-shmafety. I'll even let my kids drive your kids home.

I already gave them their college savings. They just spent their future on 100 life-sized Gummy Bears, 50-meter-line seats to the Canadian Football League opening game (go Eskimos!) and lifetime subscriptions to Tiger Beat and Teen People magazines. I wonder what your kids will spend their inheritances on.

I'm also giving my kids the right to vote. Now, it'll be your fault this fall when minors across this great land choose the ticket of Ron Paul and Lady Gaga over The Socialist and Selena Gomez.

As I write this, I am giving my kids a cuddly little case of recreational insomnia. Won't be long before your jealous offspring are pleading for sleepless nights on the couch marveling at the number of LED lights in your darkened house while learning everything they ever wanted to know about Nazi Germany stand-up comedians on the History Channel in the wee hours of the night.

Chronic lower back pain. Yep. Just gave my little ones this pseudo-paralyzing, but not quite debilitating, lifelong affliction. You thought it was hard to get your kids to pick up their clothes and toys before now? Just wait until your kids come home telling you how all the other kids at school get to lie on the couch in excruciating agony while their parents wait on them hand and foot.

Not to worry, though. To help alleviate the pain, I'm also giving my girls an affinity for fine single-malt Scotch. Not the cheap stuff. I'm talking about Scotch with phlegm-producing Celtic names no one outside Glasgow can pronounce. The kind of spirit that's been aging in mossy caves since before your grandparents were born and only Saudi Arabian princes can afford. Throw out the wild cherry juice bags, folks. Your kids will never go back.

Crow's feet and worry lines. My goal is to make these endearing facial scars the “must-have” item this Christmas. I'm already in patent discussions with Sesame Street regarding the “Wrinkle Me Elmo” doll.

For their birthdays I am giving my kids early-onset dementia. Once you cave in to your kids' envious demands, you too will know exactly why it seems they have no idea what you're talking about.

And lastly, I'm giving my kids a healthy dose of reality. That comes with credit card and utility bills, mortgage payments, shattered dreams, anxiety, a demanding boss, an extreme shortage of time to get anything done, traffic jams, global warming and disillusionment with their elected officials' ability to serve the people before themselves.

What it does not come with is a cell phone.

Your kids will be driving you crazy for all of this soon. You're welcome. If you've got a problem with that, tell them to give me a call.

PATRICK CANEDAY is author of the book “Crooked Little Birdhouse” now available on Kindle. Contact him at, read more at

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