Over my dead body, sixth-grade Scout got a cell phone earlier this year—to communicate with her parents, was the idea. But she began calling her friends, of course, as I waved my cold, dead hands. And then over my rigor-mortistic corpse, she began texting—to a bigger group of friends than the circle I had approved.
Initially, I wanted her only to text people—like far-flung family members, or friends across town, with whom she couldn't kibitz regularly. I did not want her yakking with her friends all day at school and all night on text. I know her friends. They're lovely, but they're 12—and not yet that interesting! And if all you do is text, when in the fuck do you read, or daydream or, as I think every person ought to do every day, contemplate your mortality?
That rule went by the wayside, because she did a lot of texting with friends to help each other with homework … and then to efficiently arrange complicated five-girl neighborhood outings. The amount of texting didn't seem out of control, and the content seemed mostly focused on logistics.
But then one day last week, Scout told me that—names changed to protect the juvenile—Vance texted her to tell her Brandon was very sorry for embarrassing her and Nate by suggesting they were trying to kiss when all they were doing was studying together.
And I said, "Hold on one cotton-pickin' minute."
I said, "No texting boys."
I said, "The whole thing about boys is you've got to learn to talk to them face to face, and figure out what you really have the courage to say to them and watching their eyes to figure out who they really are inside and how they really think." ("And so forth," I added.)
I said, "Learning about boys by texting with them is not learning about boys. It's a video game, with real boys."
She asked if she could talk to boys on the phone.
I said, "Yes." (Knowing full well I'll be incensed if she starts spending a lot of time talking to boys on the phone.) We discussed how she was going to tell boys she doesn't text. We agreed on, "I'm not allowed to text with boys. If you need to talk to me, call me up or I'll see you at school."
I said, "I'm happy to explain the reasons behind this policy to all your friends, and to boys who call, too." At this, Scout demurred, and volunteered to articulate my philosophy to her friends herself.
And then we went on to create a funny scenario where she could only communicate with boys through me, and we had a jolly laugh.
That all went down last Thursday. So far, so good.
It will no doubt not last forever, but for now, no-texting-with-boys seems like a no-brainer to me and my wife (and to Louis C.K., above).
But I also think I'll be overwhelmed with laughing people telling me I'm being completely unrealistic. I also have friends whose parenting I respect as much as my own who do not consider placing such an arbitrary restriction on modern childhood socialization. Our parents didn't manage our playground conversations, so why do we think we should—or even that we can—tell boys and girls how they can and cannot go about exploring one anothers' strange minds.
So what is my no-texting-with-boys-until-at-least-high-school policy:
Is it a parenting no-brainer? Or am I a parenting dead-ender?