A Few Good Moms: Can you handle the truth about your phone?

Ah, the cell phone. Does any other object prompt such simultaneous appreciation and loathing?
Ah, the cell phone. Does any other object prompt such simultaneous appreciation and loathing? Getty Images/iStockphoto

As she pushes her cart through Target, the mom feels her cell phone vibrating in her pocket. She would rather not deal with it while trying to finish her errands, but she fishes it out anyway – and then answers it immediately when she sees that her daughter’s school is calling.

You want to know the truth about your phone? I think you can handle it.

Ah, the cell phone. Does any other object prompt such simultaneous appreciation and loathing? For many moms the phone is like an appendage; it is ever-present. It gets the game cancellation notice to you in time to shift gears and take the family out to breakfast instead. It lets you respond quickly if there is a business emergency that requires immediate attention. It surprises you with a laugh in the middle of a hectic day when your crazy girlfriend sends an irreverent text.

Thanks to advancements in technology our daily lives move in ways unimagined just a handful of years ago. It is interesting to realize, though, that the more some things change, the more they stay the same. Once you become a mom you never experience the phone ringing the same way again.

Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that once you are a mom, you never experience the phone ringing the same way again – if your children are somewhere that you are not. I am guessing this dynamic has been true for parents since the phone was invented. When Alexander Graham Bell’s daughter missed curfew, his heart probably seized with worry when the phone rang at 1am.

Not that I am paralyzed with anxiety every time my children leave me. My family is well versed in the “absence makes the heart grow fonder” model. I certainly enjoy time our together, but I also encourage some time apart.

Because thanks to my handy phone, if there is ever a problem when I am separated from my kids, you will always be able to reach me.

Like the time I was so consumed by my youngest’s Thanksgiving Feast at school that I flat out forgot that I had another child who needed to be picked up along with the rest of our carpool. I was snuggling on the couch with a holiday-themed book and my son (the one I managed to bring home), basking in a Good Mom glow post-event when the phone rang. You might think just seeing the school’s number would have caused me to panic, but I had not received a bad kid-related call before (aw, so long ago!) and so I was mildly curious but not worried when I answered. The kind teacher just identified herself and waited for me to connect the dots. It did not take long (small victories). Anyway, apparently I can’t be trusted to, ah, multi-task when it comes to the boys. That Thanksgiving I was thankful for the village and its patience.

Or like the summer my son was at sleep-away camp. He had been gone for almost two weeks and in just a couple of days we were due to pick him up. As I finished lunch with a friend my cell phone rang. I did not recognize the number and did not pick it up, but noticed there was a message as we settled the bill.

We walked out into the parking lot and chatted for a few minutes. It was a gorgeous summer day, blissfully pleasant and not too hot. As my friend drove off I pulled out my phone and listened to the voicemail. My relaxed body froze as the doctor at the camp infirmary identified himself and said my son had been in an accident.

My hands were shaking as I called him back. He answered right away and assured me that everything was fine, but that my son had fallen off of a ladder and had to go to the emergency room.

We talked through the details and every five seconds I mentally whispered thank you God thank you God thank you because at each disastrous turn everything had worked out okay. Out loud I thanked the physician profusely for his care of my son, for the call, for the assurances that my husband and I did not need to come up to camp immediately. We cheerfully said our goodbyes.

I hung up the phone and stood in the bright sunshine in the busy parking lot and burst into tears.

I am no longer an innocent when it comes to the phone. Sure, it’s the place where I mindlessly scroll through Twitter or casually organize carpool, but I know the real deal. My phone may appear to be a simple device, but the truth is, even the most commonplace things hold extraordinary power once they are connected to the well-being of my kids.

Want to get a better handle on your phone? Read this article from The Huffington Post about how technology impacts happiness, discover an artistic twist to the telephone game with this essay from NPR, and check out Lady Gaga’s Telephone Glee style.