Can You Hear Me Now?

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Coming Up with My Own Tricks

Still, it gets worse. Because all cell phones have caller ID, your child knows when it's you. So they simply let it go to voice mail, where you leave a detailed message to which no one in the universe will ever listen.

"Why didn't you answer when I called you today? I called three times!" you screech when the AWOL child appears halfway through dinner.

By now the kid is a seasoned cell phone user and has a ready telecommunications explanation: "I had no service," he mutters glumly. "There's like a black hole on the track field or something."

Try to argue with this and you'll be informed that if you had only selected a better cell phone provider -- the cell phone provider all his friends' parents use, for instance -- you wouldn't have this problem.

Recently I learned that for an additional few hundred dollars plus a monthly charge I could equip my children's phones with a Global Positioning System and be sent e-mail alerts when they leave the approved debauchery zone. But this degree of high-tech patrolling offends my sense of decency; while one mother remarked that it isn't the same as sneaking in their bedrooms and reading their diaries, I think it is. (Which, by the way, isn't quite the same as reading their online blogs...but that's another postmodern parenting story.)

And it certainly didn't surprise me to hear that the kids with GPS-equipped cell phones simply turn them off or leave them at home under their beds.

Rather than go all Big Brother here, I, too, have developed a few tricks. When I really want to find my kid I call his friends (it's important to acquire these numbers casually when you see your chance). Since the friends don't have my number programmed into their phones, they unwittingly answer, hoping that the unknown number is that of a cute girl or someone with an extra case of beer.

"Jake," you say, "are you with Vince?" (Don't waste seconds saying hello.)

"Um" -- brief pause to consider moral dilemma -- "yeah, he's right here."

Other ruses: Place your call to your child's phone from an unknown phone number, or have someone else call him for you. "Mom!" he will say angrily, when the bitter truth becomes clear, "what do you want?"

Well, you are angry, too. "COME HOME RIGHT NOW!" you shout. "Or I'm taking away that damn phone!"

Ah, here's the rub. If you take the phone away, you're back to the mangled body on the side of the road scenario. You could take away the car, but then you'd be returned to your former life of carpool and chauffeur slavery. Yes, you could raise your kids Amish-style, with no cell phones and no cars, but you don't want to. You're a big fat selfish bourgeois American parent, and you have your own life to live.

Continued on page 3:  Just Another Part of Parenting


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