It’s a weird day in our house. Today is M’s 12th birthday, but she’s not here to celebrate. We dropped her off for her first-ever week at a summer camp yesterday. So our phones, or rather her phone, will not ring with calls from relatives looking to talk to her and wish her a happy birthday. There’s no special dinner planned for tonight, or cake for dessert. Kid birthdays are supposed to be big, all-encompassing days all about them but today our house is quiet. I guess this is a preview of life when the girls aren’t here anymore. Strange! We’ll celebrate when she gets home.

There was a hint in that first paragraph about M’s big gift: she got her first cell phone last Monday. An iPhone SE. We debated when and whether to get her a phone for a long time. We talked to friends and weighed their different perspectives on when you should hook your kid up. We settled on 12 and passing a safe baby sitting course as the requirements. She got certified last month. And she’s 12 today. We decided since she was going to be gone on her birthday, we’d go ahead and order it a little early. Plus we could change our data plan right as our Verizon billing month turned over.

We did make her sign a contract that lays down several rules and expectations. I’ve done my best to lock it down to keep her from getting herself into trouble. But all the parental controls in the world can’t get stop a kid who wants to misbehave. Fortunately M tends to follow rules and default to good behavior. Hopefully our trust will be rewarded.

One problem about giving her the phone early is that it’s arrival coincided with the hottest week of the year. None of us wanted to leave the house very often, and we all ended up spending too much time in front of screens of various sorts. I don’t know that I set the best baseline for her in that first week. But I also figured she gets the chance to go overboard at first, and then we’ll dial things back. I did get annoyed with the hourly request that she be allowed to download a new app. I gave her a few days to load her phone up, but by the weekend I told her just one new app per day. And thankfully when Pokeman Go asked for a parental email to open an account, it kept erroring off. So we’ve avoided that for the time being.

Twelve still seems a little early to me for a full-time phone. We have other friends who bought cheap phones for their kids and only hand them over when their daughters are babysitting or their kids are off to a practice/game/event without their parents. There’s a lot of appeal to that plan. But I also like the idea of her always having her phone and being comfortable using it if/when an emergency situation arises.

I guess it’s just a sign of the times.

She’s at a CYO camp about 90 minutes away through this Friday. She went for a night with her class in 4th grade[1] but this is her first time going off to summer camp. We waited this long because S went to summer camp when she was 12,[2] but a lot of M’s friends are at their 4th or 5th summer camp. Which ended up being kind of a bummer because a lot of them moved to a different camp this year. Still, she’s in a cabin with at least three of her classmates (one was supposed to be there but hadn’t arrived when we left). And she’s going to meet girls that she’ll play sports against for the next three years and many who she will end up going to high school with.

The great thing about the camp is it is about 15 minutes away from our lake house. So we went down to the lake early yesterday, took a few laps in the boat, visited some friends, and then popped down the road to drop her off. We had to walk, oh, two-thirds of a mile or so to get to her cabin. Up a couple steep hills. When the heat index was between 105 and 110. We were all sweating like beasts when we finally got to her cabin. After we were done, the rest of us went back to the lake to swim for another hour or so.

As for the birth order thing, M getting her phone wasn’t the only family event las week. I took L to the eye doctor on Thursday and after an exam, she got fitted for glasses. They should be in any day. She picked out Nike frames which, if you know L, are perfect. The optician liked that L had on a Nike shirt and new green Nike running shoes. She didn’t notice her adidas shorts I guess.

I hated when I got glasses. I remember people laughing at me the day I walked into my fourth grade class with glasses for the first time. And then there were all the jokes that came along with glasses back in the day. I guess my Bob Griese frames weren’t very cool.

But it seems like kids now like glasses, and you can get some pretty cool frames. So I think she was actually a little excited about getting them. Plus she’ll be happy not to have headaches at the end of the day anymore.

As for C…

I dropped her off at cross country practice last Thursday. On Thursdays the team does a light workout and then gets into a pool and does some exercises in there to cool down and rest the joints. As she hopped out of the car, we heard another parent saying, “Pool is closed, leave your swimsuit in the car.” Later found out there was a toddler poop incident that closed it down.

But that was just the beginning.

When she got home she ran into the house and said, “Dad! There was a naked man at cross country practice!”

Wait, what?

“He was on drugs and the police came to arrest him. Coach is going to send an email!”


I asked if she saw him and she said no. Or at least not until the cops showed up and took him out in cuffs with some shorts on.

I had a kickball meeting that night and the first thing one of the other parents said when I arrived was, “Did you hear about the naked guy at cross country?”

So the story trickled out that a dude smoked some synthetic marijuana that had been laced with acid in the 100-degree heat and then decided to nude up in the middle of a public park. He never offered any threat to the kids, so most of the parents laughed about it later. But because kids were present, apparently he gets his name put on the sex offender registry.

The coaches handled it great. After being warned what was going on, they hustled the kids away. I think most of the kids didn’t see any nudity, although they did see the cops come and take him away. The coaches, who knew that the older kids would pick up on what was going on and spread the word, closed practice with a teaching moment. The gist of it was that you shouldn’t do drugs because you’ll end up naked in the park and get arrested. Which is a pretty good lesson all around, when you think about it.

Classic middle kid, though. In the same week one sister gets a phone and another gets glasses, she has cross country practice ruined by a naked stoner.

  1. Terrific marketing!  ↩
  2. The same camp, coincidentally. And her dad – M’s grandfather – went there too.  ↩