I Don’t Own A Cell Phone And Here’s How It Affects My Kids

I don’t have a cell phone
Hero Images/Getty

According to my kids, I’m like super annoying. Apparently in countless ways. In fact, in ways too numerous to mention here. But for the purpose of this specific post, I’m going to hone in on one of their most recent complaints — my reluctance to join the cell phone toting masses.

Yes — it’s apparently annoying to my kids, my husband, and my friends that they can’t locate me with a simple whirl of their thumbs; that digits must be dialed and voice boxes must be deployed to make contact with me; that I’m basically off the grid when I choose to drive to the grocery store.

To be clear, there’s no grand statement to be uncovered in my cell phone lack — nor any judgment (on my part anyway). There can’t be as I still rely on them too darned much. I call my kids on theirs, my husband on his, my friends on theirs. Sometimes people text my husband, kids and friends in an often fruitless attempt to locate me. Honestly, I don’t have a cell phone for the very uncomplicated reason that I just don’t need one.

Call me irresponsible and selfish (I’ve been called worse) or deem me hopelessly old-fashioned. Or be envious of my freedom and lack of distraction or amazed by my air of mystery. Or have your head explode like the bearded millennial assigned to the care of my MacBook at my most recent visit to the Apple store. Or better yet — don’t give a flying f*** one way or the other.

What I’m trying to say is this: yes — there are tremor-like repercussions that affect everyone in my orbit by my cell phone absence. But with my kids specifically, these repercussions aren’t necessarily all negative.

Here are five ways my not owning a cellphone positively impacts my kids:

1. They are reliable.

They have to be. If they are counting on me to pick them up from a certain place at a certain time, they know that I’m un-reachable once I’m en route so there’s no place for last-minute changes. Once plans have been made, they are committed to following through on their end — and they always do.

2. They talk to me.

They have to. There is only one way for my children to communicate with me and that’s via conversation — whether in person or on the phone. Though it may not be their first choice, there’s no other option. As a result, they have been forced into mastering what is coming to be known as a slowly degrading art — the art of conversation. This art form spills into all areas of their social lives: they make eye contact, they aren’t afraid to speak up, they are small talk connoisseurs. Whether they like it or not, they are conversationalists.

3. They are patient.

If they need a favor or a ride or have a question they need answered or want permission for something, my response is not always immediate. If they don’t get a hold of me, they’ll leave a voicemail — and more than likely be disappointed. But that’s okay. Dealing with minor disappointment now and again can be good for kids — it certainly never killed anyone.

4. They are independent on the fly.

One day a couple of years back, I was supposed to drive to pick my kids up from school dismissal as one of them was returning from a ski trip and had all her equipment to lug home. That afternoon happened to coincide with the afternoon that I was stuck in bumper-to-bumper highway traffic — cursing the fact that I didn’t have a cell phone handy to let them know I wouldn’t be there. By the time I got to the school — over an hour late — I was convinced I would find my three in the office, confused and crying.

But instead, what I found was a verbal message waiting for me. The secretary informed me that my kids had asked a parent to drive the ski equipment to our front porch and the three of them were walking home together. And that’s where I found them: at home — calm, cool and collected. Kids can be too reliant on their cell phones — they turn to them to answer their questions, solve their problems, basically to tell them what to do. But this can be a disservice to them. Sometimes they will need to find their own answers and figure things out for themselves.

5. They know that technology is always a choice.

No matter what my kids may think or feel or believe or witness, I want them to know that no one requires a cell phone. Sure it’s helpful and handy and generally an all-around awesome gizmo to have — especially in a pinch — but it’s not a necessity. It’s always a choice. And I’m living proof of this.