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Ann Brenoff Headshot

In Defense Of Buying Your Child's Love

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I just broke my own #1 child-rearing rule: Hold your ground. My parenting sin is that I caved to my 11-year-old son's pleading and bought him an iPhone4S after I told him I wouldn't. So sue me.

For the record, we live in an affluent community and he isn't the first kid his age to have a cell phone, or even the first to have an iPhone4S. He wanted one because it's the coolest phone out there, and he knows that because I have one -- my company issued it to me and pays for it -- and I've proclaimed it as such.

We were planning to get him a cell phone when he started middle school, which is in August. Arming my kids with cell phones allows me to know where they are after school, and that they are safe. I also like being able to text them reminders like "Bring home your dirty gym clothes to be washed." In my world, texting is Mommy's little helper.

The only issue in my son's case was which phone he was going to get. All the smartphones have great cameras, shoot videos, let you text your friends when the teacher isn't looking, play your music and let you download game apps. What the iPhone4S has that the others don't is the coolness factor. Yes, it also has Siri, the computer voice that tells you jokes on command and can fetch you answers on your math homework. At least I think she can.

For weeks, we discussed spending $199 (the iPhone4S price with a two-year service contract) versus just getting him whatever phone was being offered for free at Best Buy. Whatever perfectly good phone for free -- free being the operative word.

The little guy whined and wheedled. He argued his case, offered to contribute his earned allowance and savings toward the purchase. He tried tantrums, begging, being on his best behavior, being on his worst. The iPhone4S discussion has occupied dinners, car rides, soccer game half-times. He brought in supporting documentation -- three other kids in his class already have them and two said I could call their mothers to verify -- and clipped every ad he could find to show me where and when it was being sold for $199, which is everywhere.

So what finally caused me to cave? One thing being an older mom has taught me is that whenever possible, I need to try and say "yes." I don't spoil my kids, but I also don't go out of my way to make them miserable.

The kid wanted an iPhone4S. It cost $199. I've blown more on clothes I've never worn, a set of heirloom china I never use, things that I thought were a good idea at the time but actually weren't. Anyone need a document scanner?

For $199, I made my kid happy. In the car coming home from the store, my not-all-that demonstrative son chirped with a "I love you." My heart melted. And I really don't think he was talking to Siri.

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