Sunday Post 185: Too Much Too Soon

I likely made the wrong decision.  I guess that’s not all that unusual, and I don’t think it is a decision that will make much difference in life down the road.  But, nonetheless, I wish I’d had better options.

In the Tanner household, at the end of fifth grade it has been a right of passage to get your first cell phone.  With child 1 and child 2, both having June birthdays, it was their gift.  A flip phone, used solely for text, photos and phone calls.

With DJ, Lisa cut her left arm and exchanged blood with the other mothers in her friend group.  They pressed their wounds together and vowed not to get smart phones until the inital end of fifth grade, two-year Verizon contract expired.  At the time, it cost us $10 per month to add this additional phone line to our growing technological household inventory.

When Stephanie came along, I followed the path originally set out by her mother.  Although child 2 specifically requested an iPhone, I stood strong.

“But dad, ALL of my friends have one…”

We went through the list of ALL of her friends.  As I suspected, it was a lie.  Not everyone had a smart phone.  In fact, most did not.

As I entered the Verizon store last week with my final daughter, my plan was solid.  She did not need a data plan.  She was too young.  It mattered not that I had confirmed three of her very best friends did indeed have one.  For crying out loud, my 17-year-old is driving a car her same age.  I am not a parent who falls for the Everyone Has argument.  Plenty of people I know have a beach house, and my butt is thankful I have a father-in-law generous enough to rent a place for the family one week each July.

As we neared the phone shop, a nice young man with a pull over hoodie and pants anchored around his hips met us at the door.  His iPad in tow, he began crunching numbers.

“Mr. Tanner.  If you add a flip phone with unlimited text and calls, it will cost you $30 per month.”

“$30?  I thought it was $10.”


That was his answer.  Nah.

“Well what does it cost to add a smart phone?”

“Let’s see.  You have plenty of data that is unused each month, so we could add an iPhone for $40.”

“A month?”


I mean, he couldda said, Yes sir.

So for $10 bucks we get the Caddilac instead of the Pinto… hummm.

I pondered.  Am I spoiling my kid?  Am I exposing her to stuff too early?  Is she going to watch videos all day and flunk out of school?  Will she become homeless?  Addicted to crack cocaine?

When we arrived home with the gadget neither of us had expected to return with, I broke the news to her sisters.

“It was en economic decision,” I argued.  I then reminded Stephanie of the unusually expensive boots I’d purchased her last winter because they were slightly on sale and were so stinkin’ cute.  “DJ didn’t get a pair of shoes that nice until she was in 10th grade and going to a school dance!”

DJ muttered an expletive and told me that I might as well have given my final daughter away.  “Don’t complain to me when she ignores you or won’t talk to you at dinner.  You might as well have shipped her off to college!”

I think that may be an overreaction, although I did have to ask Michelle to put her phone away during the worship service at church last Sunday.  She wasn’t texting, she was just rubbing it across her face, like you would do with someone’s hand as they departed this life for the next.

The frustrating thing is that had I not lost my wife to cancer, I wouldn’t even be making these decisions.  I would have been informed and could have chosen to support the decision or participated in the nonviolent resistance.  Either way, I would have basically been off the hook.

There are so many questions surrounding this decision:

  • Why did I cave?
  • Am I allowing my preteen to grow up too fast?
  • Why do young salespeople answer questions like they’re sending a text message?
  • Why don’t sisters want each other to have good stuff?
  • Why do I have to make all the decisions?

I have some pondering to do.


Check the Tanners out in the September issue of Family Circle
Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

If you have read the book and are willing to write a short review, it would be helpful:Click here. And thanks!

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  1. Mom

     /  September 14, 2014

    I wouldn’t worry about it. Life changes second by second. You make the decision and move on. Decision making with multiple kids is HARD!!!! That was your decision at the time. Annie T. is a smart little girl. Her decisions making is good. She likes to play by the rules. Just give her the rules and stand by them. She likes to “do it right”. There needs to be time for ALL OF US when we put down our phones and really talk to people, not just kids. You make the rules, Dad…you are in charge.

  2. Mr. Tanner, i so enjoyed this post – thank you! Our oldest just started middle school (6th grade), and she does not yet have a phone, smart or otherwise. I am getting the same sorts of complaints from her, and she tells me that a few kids have no phone because their parents offered a flip phone and they refused!!! Anyway, we don’t want to get her a smart phone yet and for the same reasons as you (don’t want to spoil her), but we will probably cave before the semester is up. The teachers have the students using specific apps and looking things up in class. It sort of bothers me that they expect us to provide phones ( we do public school), but on the other hand, it is sort of appropriate for the world they live in. I use my phone for work tasks all the time. Anyway, good luck, with your decision.

    • Danny Tanner

       /  September 14, 2014

      Schools do sort of lean on technology which is good – but it can also be tough to maneuver.

  3. I wouldn’t worry about it either. Life, and particularly technology, do change by the second and like I tell my kids the Universe has a way of balancing all things out. On a side note , I’m pretty sure “you have plenty of data” is Verizon Sales Dude code for “when you run out of data we are going to charge you $15”. Make sure her phone is set to pick up a Wi-Fi network. You can also turn the data off and on in the Settings if you need to.

  4. Aunt Susan

     /  September 14, 2014

    listen to your mom, she is wise and has experience.

  5. all I can say is I’m glad smartphones didn’t exist when my boys were boys… 🙂

  6. I bought a smart phone for my son when he was 16 at Christmas. After several big blowouts over raunchy lyrics, inappropriate pictures sent by teenage girls, ect I took it and sold it, keeping the cash for bills. I think with girls you have less to worry about, although it sounds like your concern is more about giving to much than the safety issues. I wouldn’t worry about that aspect of it. I’d be more concerned with parental blocks and keeping tabs on communications and searches as they get older. I intercepted 3 pedaphiles at their onset by paying attention to my gut and checking my sons Facebook. Literally caught the two that were trying to lure him through facebook on the first message sent, before he even saw the message! That was a God thing. He’s just turned 18 & is planning on buying a smartphone with his own money in a few weeks. Even now it causes me to be prayerful. He’s more spiritually mature than he was 2 years ago at least but since he still lives at home I still plan on having some boundaries in place. No Internet past a certain hour. It’s hard to navigate parenting with the quickly progressing technology! Aside from being vigilant about content I don’t think early smartphones are really ‘spoiling’ at this stage in American society. It sounds like you made the right decisions. Your younger daughters age just places he deeper into this cultural transition than your others.

  7. I hold the right to look at the phone anytime I want. I do not want passwords on it so if they fall over and someone can call me using her phone. I have that stupid finger thing on my phone but no way. I want people to call my people if something needs to happen.
    If I find a inappropriate let’s say… snapchat….. I repond using the child’s phone with a picture of my face saying…. “what’s up kid?”. That seemed to freak them out this past winter. score 1 for mom! I told my 6th grader he was not ready because I still have to tell him to brush his teeth and change his clothes and socks. When he does that all by himself, then I will get him a phone. 🙂 Girls love to shower though…. I don’t know what I’ll do with Anna BUT BY THEN, THE WATCHES will be out and just think of the future! I hate not having the back up for decisions. My brother often reminds me when I feel guilty for being strict that I am the parent. (and I study this for a living now.) 🙂 Good luck!

  8. Brittany

     /  October 22, 2014

    I love your blog and this post made me think of all the challenges that lie ahead in the parenting department! I think it is so interesting that you mentioned you wouldn’t be making this decision if Lisa was still here with us. I am a young mother and was telling my best friend (pregnant with her first child) that it is amazing how much changes when you come home from the hospital with your child. Suddenly your husband looks to you for so much direction on what to do, what the schedule is, what to pack to go to the park, what time is bed time etc etc… I told my friend, we became parents at the exact same moment, isn’t it funny that I suddenly became the decision maker? How did this happen? How does my husband trust that I’m making the right decisions?!

    With that said I think you are doing an amazing job raising your girls and making wise decisions!


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