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phone for 8 year old? (long)

Gwen's picture

Background: for the past three years, every few months or so, SD -- who turned 8 years old a week ago -- goes through a couple of phases of wanting to call her mom while she's at our house.

The first time it happened, I felt like I didn't want it to happen, because as I knew she would BM said "put daddy on the phone" and made my DH get on the phone and talk to her ad nauseum, and her energy would be and was all over my house. Then I did some research and all the experts recommend that kids have access to the household they are not in. (We had 25% custody, now 50%). So for SD's sake I agreed that SD could call BM whenever she asks, as long as it's a reasonable hour and not in the middle of cleaning up a mess/being disciplined -- you get the picture -- and as long as we all agree that BM will not ask for DH to get on the phone. DH will contact her independently if there's something worrisome going on. And since then SD has always been allowed to call. I always dial the number for her when she can't remember it, smile, hug her, tell her to talk as long as she wants. It's happened maybe 10 times in three years.

About three weeks ago, DH and BM have a co-parenting call and BM says "SD doesn't feel comfortable asking you or Gwen if she can call me." And DH and BM agree that DH will have a talk with both SD and SS about how it's fine to call BM, etc. We haven't had a chance to have that talk yet, with the holiday schedule, it's been crazy.

At Christmas BM gets livid at DH (she was crossing boundaries, he called her on it, she's an emotionally volatile person who is emotionally dependent on DH's good opinion of her, so she freaked). Now BM's not speaking to DH or I at all, no email, nothing, and all co-parenting communication is sent by her husband. Childish and ridiculous, and totally not helpful to the children, but whatever. Her husband is a nice enough guy and understands what co-parenting is, and what it is not; however, her kids are probably better off if she is communicating with DH and not her husband. I wish she would grow up and understand that her personal feelings about DH have nothing to do with co-parenting.

Anyway, SD has a bday two weeks later, and we get an email from BM's husband that says "we got SD a firefly phone for her birthday, it has only one button, a "mom button" so she can call BM when she wants. If it gets abusive or excessive, let us know."

I am unhappy because according to co-parenting principles this should have been discussed BEFORE giving the phone to SD. I do not think an 8 year old should be in charge of deciding when she can and cannot be on the phone. I think it is an intrusion in our household. If we had agreed to it ahead of time it would be different, esp. if the grown-ups could have agreed on the rules for phone use. I don't think it should be anything goes!

OK I am trying to keep in mind that I am more angry at the principle than the reality. When the newness wears off, perhaps it won't be a big deal at all and won't get called much (SD won't lose it, she's very responsible).

But I came home from work tonight and saw the phone for the first time, and felt the rage all over again.

DH and I see a counselor to help us steady our marriage through our first two years, esp. given BM's crap, and this person (a male) was incensed when we told him about the phone. He independently offered how it violated many co-parenting principles to just do this unilaterally.

DH himself thinks it's lame but doesn't want to get upset about it, the deal is done and it would be more damaging to SD to do anything else. I want to feel this way but I feel angry and worked over in my own house, As Usual. My barely 8 year SD does not simply get to decide what she wants to do. She has always been allowed to call BM and everyone always puts on bright shiny faces; I simply don't want her calling BM when I'm not aware and having BM hear stuff in the background. But I don't need any additional battles, and at some point I need to accept that BM is never going to honor boundaries, and get on with my life, and let this go. Right?

What do you think?


Anne 8102's picture

I don't think you necessarily need to consult each other over every gift you each give the skids for effective co-parenting to occur. I get that a cell phone is different... it's a big responsibility. I also understand that it probably feels like a "dig," but like the rest of us, I'm sure you've got bigger fish to fry than an 8yo kid's cell phone useage. Right? I would treat it as just any other phone. The same rules for calling her mother still apply. The only difference is that she uses her Firefly instead of the home phone to make her calls. This doesn't eliminate the supposed problem of her feeling uncomfortable asking to call. If your rule in your home is that she has to ask,then she still has to ask permission to make the call, regardless of which phone she uses. She still can only make calls at reasonable times, she still can only call once she's gotten permission, etc. They may have given her a phone, but you and DH control it's use in your home. Personally, I think it's probably a waste of money for a kid this age, but hey, it's not my money and it's not your money, so I wouldn't sweat it. In fact, I'd get a little chuckle out of it, because if she thinks she's controlling anything that goes on in your home by giving SD a cell phone, she's mistaken. She can give SD anything she wants, but YOU and DH get to decide whether or not she gets to use it, when she gets to use it and how she gets to use it when she's with you. Wink

~ Anne ~

"Adjust on the fly, or you're going to cry."
Steve Doocy, The Mr. and Mrs. Happy Handbook

Sita Tara's picture

SD's BM got SD a home phone for Christmas since BM has had complete control over all phone calls, has trained SD to call her all the time, but has never allowed SD to call us.

The home phone is for SD's calls to friends only. She has been told she is not ALLOWED to call us with her home phone. How screwed up is that?

I am so tired of hearing SD talk to BM constantly, asking what new present BM got her for her next visit, making plans for SD to sleep at all her friend's houses during scheduled vistation with BM, last night I thought SD was talking to one of her immature 13 year old friends because she was belching and laughing, then b/c it was on speaker I heard the other person do it back.


BM is about as mature as a thirteen year old. I told SD maybe she is 13 once b/c SD told me her mom won't tell her her real age, and is the stereotypical perpetual age 29 of generations past.

The effect of this is that SD only thinks youth is cool. She sort of laughs in a condescending way when I say I can't wait to be 40 in April, because my 30's were the best decade of my life. She says, "Yeah right. Like you wouldn't want to be 13 again."

YEAH RIGHT! LIke I would ever go back and repeat all the tough lessons I've learned!

I can't wait til BM turns 40 in a couple years! Pretty soon 29 is going to start to look really old to SD Wink

Peace, love, and red wine

girlonstage22's picture

Well you're lucky it is a firefly phone tho. My SD9 has a real cell phone that will not leave her hand the whole weekend. She calls BM 6 or 7 times a night. And goes and hides in the bathroom to do it. It's absolutely ridiculous. BM is constantly sending her text messages asking if she's okay and telling her she loves her. It's nauseating how much these two are obsessed with one another.

We tried to put a stop to the phone coming to our house and BM threw a horrendous fit. So we allow it because we're doing the sucking up thing right now. DH is afraid to make BM mad because we get repercussions from SD.

goingcrazy's picture

And I purchased it for her. I have no problem with it and it was my idea. But our reasons were because her father and I only have cell phones. Neither of us are ever home enough to justify a home phone. On occassion, it is difficult to get through or the cell phone server might be having problems, etc. There have been a few times where I tried to call him or vice versa and we couldnt reach each other. Plus, I get tired of running around to get BD whenever he calls. He also has a hectic schedule and when I want to talk to BD it was difficult. Very rarely does she use it to call either of us, except to say good morning or good night. But that is also what we have taught her and made her accustom to. It is all part of having a routine for her to stick to. If it became excessive, the phone would be removed.

I think I would have to agree with Anne as far as having bigger fish to fry. I have learned in this game called parenting to pick your battles. If the cell phone gives her some sort of security, then let her have it. It sounds to me like her mom is co-dependant on her and wants that link. Give it time and the cell phone will wear off. Trust me.

"I didn't lose my mind, I sold it on ebay."

Gwen's picture

talk to her father before purchasing the phone, or simply send her over with one? Does her father have a new wife, and if so did he have an opportunity to obtain her perspective?

If BM had raised the issue with DH first, and he had an opportunity to consult me first, I would not be nearly so unhappy about this whole thing. Sometimes co-parenting goes our way, sometimes it doesn't, and that's ok.

LVmyBOXERS's picture

BM gave SS a cell phone so he could call her when I was "being mean." What the F ever you crazy bitch. Anyway, I look on his phone every so often and he calls her at all hours of the night and day. Sometimes I listen to their conversations through the door. All he does is make stupid noises and act stupid while on the phone with her. I made this comment in a previous post a while back and had some good suggestions; like Anne saying treat it the same as your home phone. I say watch yourself because if your SD is anything like my SS he blows things was out of proportion and makes me look like a terrible person. And this cell phone has only helped him out.

Anne Summers's picture

The reason is that BM harasses DH constantly. DH changed his cell phone number yesterday. We plan on buying SD a small child cell phone, such as Firefly or the like, to be used for communication between BM & SD ONLY.

We hope in by doing this that BM will not call for DH. BM knows that when SD is on the phone that no one else will take over the call when BM requests it.

In DH's court order it does not state anything about "co-parenting" except for a few certain major issues (like medical & education). BM has refused to let DH be apart of even these major decisions. The only thing it does stipulate is that either parent is not supposed to interfere with phone communication between parent and child.

Our situation may be different than yours. I do agree with a couple of other folks about YOUR HOUSE YOUR RULES---even for a phone you did not buy. If BM flips, let her. You & your DH need to do what it is best for you and your family.

Gwen's picture

If I had your situation, I might have bought SD a firefly for that purpose, in our home. The difference is that it would be for use in our home, not BMs.

I'm sorry you have to deal with harassment!

Our custody settlement is based on co-parenting principles, and recognizes the role of the stepparents in that process. The children are bonded to me and to their stepdad, and we parent them, and the mediator recognized this. Even BM typically recognizes the importance of DH and my parenting the skids--except when her feelings are hurt, and then all bets are off. Because apparently the importance of stable solid parenting for the skids depends on how she feels when she rolls out of bed in the morning. (not that I'm bitter, or anything Smile )

Anne Summers's picture

The phone will stay at our house. It will benefit BM more than anyone but I feel like it will also help DH & I out in the long run. Smile No more harrassment by the BM. BM has my cell number but I think she knows that I will turn her in for harassment since my cell is my business phone. }:) I'm mean, I know, but she knows I don't put up with her crap. I've never been mean, I've never said anything mean to her, but I honestly think she knows I'm not the type of person to mess with. I would never have a problem calling the cops or throwing her bum in jail if need be. Smile

When DH & BM went to mediation BM did not want me in there. However the mediator told her that if they came back to mediation that I would be there and involved in the mediation. BM had told the mediator that she did not want me there or to pick up to SD or for SD to be alone with me or etc. The mediator's response---"You need to get over that lady. DH's new wife is here to stay." Biggrin Come this March I will have been married to my DH half the time that BM had. I think BM is starting to realize I'm not going anywhere and that in three more years I will have been married to DH just as long as BM had. I think alot of BM's attitude, etc comes from the fact that DH & I have a better relationship than they did.

It's funny that BM thinks I can't parent---especially since I have more years parenting a child than she has. What's even funnier to me is that my son is WAY more mature and well behaved than my SD, even when my son was the same as my SD is now.

I know I went off topic. Sorry about that. Wink

I am glad that sometimes you all can have a decent conversation about the kiddies. Smile

justbdais's picture

So a few months ago we went over to BF's parents house for dinner and SS kept wanting to hang out outside except he kept sneaking out the side gate and going out front. Everyone was out back when BF's father got a phone call from SS saying this was his new phone number. NO idea SS was outside with his BM. I was livid. He was 7 at the time and I was so pissed off I wanted to scream. Now we don't mind letting SS call his mom whenever he wants to but if his mom had a choice she would be on the phone with him every minute of every day using her annoying baby talk. We immediately set up rules for it. We waiting a day to see how he used it before coming up with the rules. He would be on the phone for an hour talking to his mom and when he hung up he would be so upset. She would tell him the things she was going to do while he was gone. Like taking his sister to a movie, then to dinner, then to the arcade. Before when SD had her cell phone BM would call the kids and tell them she was on her way over and come outside. This was sometimes 10 at night. We decided that the phone has to stay in the living room and must be turned off. SS would be able to call his mom once a night and talk for 15 minutes. On Saturdays he could call her twice for 15 minutes. Of course the new has worn off and he again doesn't seem interested in calling her. I use to remind him to call her so he could talk to her but I figure if he wants to call her he will ask. The phone still isn't allowed anywhere except the living room and it is never allowed to come with us anywhere. I don't want to be responsible for it getting lost or left behind.

Sita Tara's picture

First I have to say relating to this quote, "Her husband is a nice enough guy and understands what co-parenting is, and what it is not; however, her kids are probably better off if she is communicating with DH and not her husband. I wish she would grow up and understand that her personal feelings about DH have nothing to do with co-parenting. "

You are SO lucky she married a decent guy. I would love for this to happen with SD's BM (right now she's stringing two guys along and involving SD in that drama.) In the past we had decent conversations with her now ex-fiancee, but only b/c we ran into him at his daughter's/my son's elementary school. However, BM requires total loyalty, and would not LET him talk to us if she were there. I would have loved for him to marry her and be able to co-parent through him. BM used to claim he was insanely jealous and that she wasn't to mention DH to him. After several of those conversations at the school, as well as a few with HIS (BM's ex) ex-wife when I ran into her at the school, we knew that was a lie.

Now the new BF is supposedly a nice guy too according to SD. We know he throws money at them though, and that may be his main "nice" quality. Either way, if only she would marry one of them and we could find a way to let him do the communicating. BM tries to go through SD and that's a mess because SD will use the power to try to manipulate us both to get whatever she wants.

All that being said.... because they both do seem like nice guys and BM is absolutely nuts...I really hate to wish being married to her on either of them.

Peace, love, and red wine

Gwen's picture

in many ways. One of them is that the new stepdad is just fine, and not an emotional basket case. I mean, he chose to live with a crazy person, but hey, who am I to judge? I am thankful that he's even-keeled, mostly, and really good to the skids, and they love him.

Another way in which I'm lucky is that BM accepts my place in the skids life, for the most part.

If only she could just move on, and stop trying to control our lives and be my hub's best friend, and mine, we'd all really be just fine.
Stepparenting would still have digs, but they'd be the ones I expected. But seeing all the crap that people go through here does help put everything in perspective for me.

Gwen's picture

DH and I are agreed that usual phone rules will apply. The one rule that we have been wavering on imposing is whether SD has to ask before using the phone. Since the whole point was to remove our authority, imposing this rule will cause a blow-up with BM, which we try to avoid.

I appreciate the comments and insights. It is helpful to see everyone's point of view. I think the "establish rules and let it go" approach is the right one. We will have a family meeting at which we explain, as we'd intended, that it's always ok to call BM, as long as certain rules are followed. We'll inform BM and her husband of those rules, so there's no confusion over what we told the kids. If she wants to bring this up in co-parenting counseling (which is required by the custody settlement), I'm all for it.

To be clear, I have no desire to discuss gifts for either child with BM, and neither does DH. A cell phone whose sole purpose is to take away our involvement and authority re: when SD gets on the phone while she's in our home, is very different. It crosses all kinds of boundaries for the phone to be bestowed without discussing it with us first. The co-parenting point is that DH and BM had already discussed how to handle the supposed "issue," and BM agreed to one course of action then unilaterally took another (simply because she was pissed at DH). In so doing, she has confirmed for SD that an issue exists where it actually doesn't. What a shame.

rychelle's picture

I have been in my step childrens life for 3 years now. My oldest SS got a cell phone from his mother for his Birthday! First of all, My husband and BM have joint physical and legal custody of the children. Which states that they are supposed to talk to each other about important decisions about the kids! She did not tell my husband about the phone until after she gave it to him. Now we dont know what to do! We dont want to upset my step son, but we are strongly against this cell phone being in our home! Just like one of the statements above, We feel that it is an intrusion in our home, A way of her trying to remove our authority! It is in my opinion her way of trying to control what goes on in our home. I just know this is going to create huge problems with her, the SS, and problems between my husband and I..cause he doesnt like confrontation and he would just rather let BM have her way! Besides, there was never an issue before the cell phone with calls in and out from our phones! The kids have never once been denied access to our phones to call their mother and vice versa! So, I dont understand why this cell phone is necessary! They can just call their mom on our phones. I also want to mention that in itself, I dont think an 8 year old should have a cell phone anyways, He cant even take care of his toys and video games etc. I feel that this is only going to create major problems with the mom. Because i fell that unless the children are being abused, neglected, or in danger in some way than...I'm sorry! It is none of her business what goes on in our house. We never have anything to say about what goes on in her home!!! Why cant she just let the children be and let them enjoy their time with us! In conclusion, I am extremely opposed to this cell phone and I dont know what to do about it! I know what needs to be done, but Im not sure my husband will stand up to her. All he has to say is....You should have consulted me abou the cell phone 1st, I dont think a 8 yr old need a cell phone, and that she cant make decisions on what goes on in our home....Our house or rules! If she wants to talk to the kids, she may call our phones and that the kids may also use or phones to call her of course! Step son can have the phone at her home if that is what she feels is best for him, but at our house, at this point in time it is not a necessity(above all the other reasons opposed to it) If he stands up to BM, She is going to be furious! I'm sorry! BM is not in charge at our hose! And that is what She cant deal with!

Lifer33's picture

In my opinion giving young kids phones within discussion are often just another f you from bm that'll be abused. Ss was given one at 7! Recently the contact has gotten crazy, since he can type well. He stays 2 evenings an a weekend day, bm contacting him all the time about trivial crap. Including one weekend day ruining our day out face timing him with the step sister that they've bought a pet rabbit so of course cldnt wait to go see. Clock watching. We messaged bm about the level n said on holiday we will call you from dad's phone once a day no need to send his. She does no more than hide the phone n encourages him to be devious taking it to toilets ringing her teatime for ages. I would say bm property either don't send it or you guys hold onto it and the child gets a set time to talk. 

Bex_S's picture

NO, NO, NO! Do not let her have a phone. My SD got given a phone at the same age and it caused no end of issues. It's a tool they can use to manipulate parents. Every time she was disciplined in either household she would text or ring the other parent trying to twist things and make out like she was being abused. We now can't get her off the damn thing. She's always playing on it, taking selfies or using it to pit her parents against each other. If she wants to call her mum, fair enough, but she should use the house phone.