Beat This

At the risk of ruining my street cred, I’m going to tell you the truth: I don’t have an iPhone.

I’ll pause here, so you can judge.

{whistling out of tune}

Shall we go on?

My family has what the phone companies now refer to as “basic phones” – slidey phones with a teeny keyboard. We text and make calls with them. Well, CC and I make calls, but the kids only communicate via text. #3 once texted us from the bathroom when she was throwing up in the middle of the night. We didn’t get the message until morning.

The reason for the lack of smart phones is purely financial. Right now, braces and getting everyone back to school fully supplied are higher priorities than being able to check email in a public restroom or block pedestrians by looking up movie times while walking around the city.

I don’t look at the cell phone bill every month. Because we block all data and have unlimited texting, it’s always pretty much the same.

Eventually though, I do look at a bill and discover that #3 has managed to send 18,749 texts IN ONE MONTH. I am not making this up. She’s thirteen. I’m astounded, impressed, and appalled all at once. Thank god for unlimited texting. Still.

I immediately go around my workplace and tell every single person and then post it on Facebook. Everyone, even teenagers, agree that it is A LOT of texts. More than twice what even the most prolific texters produce.

When I get home I call #3 into the dining room. I sit her down with a pencil and a piece of paper.

Me: Did you know that you sent 18,749 texts last month?

#3: {mouth drops open}

Me: Let’s pretend that you follow the rules and don’t text in school.

#3: Ummm, okay. Sure, let’s do that.

Me: And let’s pretend that you sleep eight hours a night and aren’t texting boys at two in the morning.

#3: {looks guiltily at floor}

Me: Take away the time that you’re playing sports and eating dinner and that leaves how many hours in a day?

#3: {adds and subtracts figures} Sometimes four and sometimes eight or a little more on weekends.

Me: Let’s just call it seven per day. Now, how many free texting hours would you have in a week?

#3: 49?

Me: Good work! How about in four weeks?

#3: {scribbles} 196?

Me: Okay. Divide your total number of texts sent by your total number of available texting hours.

#3: Wait, what?

Me: 18,749 divided by 196.

#3: Can I use a-

Me: No, you can’t use a calculator.

She does much scribbling and eye rolling, but I am holding her phone hostage, so she is motivated. It hasn’t stopped buzzing since I took it.

#3: 95.6 something.

Me: You’re sending almost a hundred texts an hour! Don’t you think that’s too many?

She lights up with one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen on her.

In this moment I know everything I have been trying to do has backfired. She’s so proud of herself. Here is an achievement that far surpasses what any of her friends have done. Nobody can touch this.

I stand my ground. I am nothing if not tenacious. I summon up all my follow-through and channel my own mother’s voice as best I can, and say the only thing I can come up with. I hand her back her phone and say, “Make it less.”

And she has. The numbers still come in well over 10,000 but they are, in fact, under 18,749. She was without a phone all summer because it was broken. She texted it to death.

Her 18, 749 texts pale in comparison to stories like this, but it’s still quite an accomplishment.

How many texts do you send in a month? What battles have you lost with your teens?