I need my phone for work / by Susie Lubell

We thought it was cute when my son was eleven months old and started to hold things up to his ears and say "hello?". First it was the remote control and we laughed. Then a banana. My wallet. His shoe. Then he went for the real deal. And we made the biggest mistake of our lives - we laughed. And so began an 18 month spiral into behavior verging on obsession with cell phones and all things electronic. We joked that he would be an engineer like his dad and his granddad, but we feared he was turning into a sociopath. That kid who never makes eye contact, only plays video games and is secretly hacking into the CIA's information system.

I admit there are some areas of parenting where I am totally consistent and we get great results. My kid sleeps like a polar bear. Heavy and easily. I made sure of that. But unfortunately I was never really consistent with the cell phone thing and so for more than a year our son had tantrum after tantrum wanting to use our phones. It then grew to encompass my mom's cell phone, my wallet, my mom's wallet, my husband's laptop, my mom's handbag, my keys and my iPod. He was relentless. We forbade him to use the cell phone so he would get around that by just "bringing" me the phone. He would actually derive joy from holding the phone - as if the phone was actually a part of me and this was how he could be closer to me. Or from spying it in my pocket. Or seeing it on the charger. We would tell him that the phone was only for work. But then he would ask to call grandma, which I could never resist, so he would get to use it. And then he'd get all quiet, pre-tantrum mopey when he'd have to give it back to me.

We tried giving him toy phones, some of which are super cool and look like phones and have all kinds of buttons and noises. No thank you, says he. We tried giving him my mom's old phone which actually still worked but just didn't have service. At first he was thrilled but then when we wouldn't let him take it to the park, he started foregoing jaunts to the park. And his general mood was worsening as he spent more and more time obsessing about his phone. So we took that one away too. And the tantrums continued. Until yesterday.

Now he's a little older - 2 and 9 months - and he's able to spend more time in pretend play. Yesterday was a major turning point. He spent about two hours after preschool playing with the handbag I gave him (not the one I actually use), an old wallet (not my current wallet), an old cell phone, plastic teething keys, a broken camera and his sunglasses. He put all of these things in his bag, "called" grandma, told her he's on his way to work, opened the front door and then "locked" it, walked down the walkway, turned around, opened the front door, announced he just went to the store and that he bought chocolate raisins, cheerios and broccoli. Then he called grandma to tell her. Then he "charged" his phone. Then called grandma to tell her that he's charging his phone. "Hi Grandma. I'm charging my phone. Yes...no....no...okay. No, Aba can't touch my phone. Yes. I'm going to the store. I need my phone for work....okay. Bye Grandma". He did ten or eleven variations on this drama for literally the entire evening. It was awesome. He was actually playing. And likely breaking my phone charger, but he was playing.