There was a time when my kids had friends spend the night pretty regularly. I liked it because I enjoy having a house full of kids and spoiling them with homemade cookies and pizza. But more than that, I like knowing where my kids are and that they are safe. I just sleep better this way.
The fun times all came to an end as soon as they were old enough to get their hot little hands on cell phones. Instead of shooting hoops, riding their bikes, or wanting to watch a movie, their phones became the object of their affection.
I didn’t fret at first, thinking it would wear off and once again they’d want to come into my kitchen, help themselves to treats and talk to each other in the face.
It didn’t happen though.
The afternoon would slip into night. The sun would go down and instead of getting all riled up like they once would and shout out requests to have a balloon fight in the dark or play flashlight tag, I heard nothing coming from upstairs, because smart phones.
The first time this happened, I wanted to be the cool mom and let my kids stay up late, thinking they’d eventually get tired of their phones and either communicate with each other or fall asleep.
But when I woke up to take my 3 a.m. pee, I could see the light coming from my daughter’s room. I crept down the hall thinking I’d see teenage limbs strewn about, girls fast asleep with empty bags of chips and candy surrounding their hair and feet.
Nope. Instead, I found what appeared to be three 12- and 13-year-old zombies staring at their screens. I took the phones away and told them they could have them in the morning.
I laid awake until the sun came up fearing the backlash I was going to get from other parents about how irresponsible I was, and how tired and bratty their child had been after they picked them up from my house.
The next day, I decided to beat myself at the guilt game and I confessed to all the parents. No one seemed too concerned about it. I told them I’d take their phones at a decent hour from now on and felt like I was mom of the year.
Only I wasn’t. Not even a little.
Turns out, I had embarrassed my daughter big time. I was the only mother in the history of mothers who had ever dared to pull such a vicious stunt.
Eventually, she got over it and the next time a friend spent the night, I informed her mom I’d be taking her daughter’s phone away at 9 p.m. (along with my daughter’s phone) and putting it on the kitchen island in case of an emergency. “I just don’t like them having access to their phones all night doing who knows what,” I said.
She agreed, thanked me, and said she did the same. She already had my number and I told her if she needed anything she could text me and I’d be available, or could give her daughter her phone back so they could talk.
I was very clear I wasn’t doing this to get off on some power trip — I do realize the phone is not mine. But, experience taught me the girls weren’t able to have self-control, nor were they interacting with each other. I wanted to do something about it.
When the clock struck 9:00, I took the phones. I slept well knowing they were talking and giggling and eating the chocolate chip cookies I made instead of watching YouTube videos, or sending shit into SnapChat-land, or doing other things I don’t want to think about. Not much good happens after midnight, let’s be honest.
Unfortunately, word has made its way around the school that I am the Dragon Lady who is so damn strict I make Cinderella’s stepmother look like Glinda The Good Witch.
No one wants to spend the night here anymore because I suck. Also, I’m pretty sure they say my cookies are bad which is total bullshit, but I get it. You need to go for the drama so, throwing that in is a nice touch. They want to make me seem especially repulsive and that is okay with me.
What I’m not okay with is letting teenagers stay up all night behind closed doors on their phones. I wish they had the capability to put the damn things down but at 13, they don’t.
Maybe some parents disagree with me, but it doesn’t matter because I agree with me and I’m the boss in my house.
No, I will not hold onto this rule forever. In a few years, it will feel okay to let 16-year-olds stay up all night staring at their screens. By then, I’ll be too tired to care. For now, I need to follow my gut on this one (no matter how over protective it seems to the kids), and take the damn phone at 9:00.
I’m not too worried about it though. I believe in my cookies and I’m pretty convinced they are so good, those same kids will be coming back to spend the night before too much time passes. Screens or not, you can’t deny the power of a perfectly made chocolate chip cookie.