Mishaps in Parenting: A Shift in Perspective

Cheryl Leutjen
4 min readMay 30, 2024

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“I HATE HER, I HATE HER!”

That would be me. I’m the ‘HER.’

“SHE GETS A NEW PHONE AND I GET HER OLD IPHONE!
WHY CAN’T I GET A NEW PHONE?”

My eleven-year-old daughter authored this fury-filled scrawl, and I’m torn between spewing my own rant in self-defense and . . . chuckling. She has no clue, I remind myself, what a gift a two-week-old iPhone is. Or what it can do. See, I’d gotten the phone on an wild impulse to get current, to make the switch from Android to Nirvana. Or so I’d been led to believe.

Nirvana eluded me. Though I’ve been using idevices since the first BlackBerry came out, I couldn’t figure out that iPhone. I mean, I got the basics. I could make a call and send a text. Download an app.

But I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to make it do what I wanted it to do. How to import my contacts with all the custom categories I’d created. Or how to make that one button do everything I had learned to do on the Android with its selection of three buttons. Pushing that one button, I found, doesn’t do much except push my own buttons. Want to get me angry fast? There’s a button for that.

My kids weren’t yet the iOS experts they would come to be, so I was left to my own devices, haha, and the sorry state of the Internet back then. Searching for iPhone tips might pull up a recipe for tri-tip. And I had no more patience back then than I did yesterday when I smacked Alexa for pulling up the videos for the cat to watch instead of intel on local catering.

Eventually, some kindhearted person clued me in. It seems there are special tricks to getting the iPhone to bend to your will. Some combination of swipes and standing on your head might work, if you do it right. Sometimes. If you look at it funny, though, you’re toast. And a phone call to the Big Apple people confirmed that there are NO ways to import the custom categories I’d devoted hours to creating on my old Droid.

I kicked myself for giving in to the latest fad, for believing any device could deliver Nirvana. What a waste of time, money, and the thing I lack most: patience. Then a most satisfying reminder landed: I have children. No longer stuck choosing between the paltry options of blaming myself or my husband for this fiasco — and believe me, I’d racked my brains for a way to blame him for this — I realized that I could pawn this techno-nightmare off on my child.

And the beauty of this plan? She’d be delighted! She still had one of those “parental-control” devices that only allowed her to call four people: mom, dad, Grandma, and Santa Claus. I beamed in self-sanctimony when I envisioned her gratitude for this mega-upgrade.

Even better? I’d be phone-less, the perfect excuse to buy a new Android. Then, all would be right in the world again.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I checked my daughter’s room for the missing Dustbuster while she was at school, and I happened upon those scribbled words on her nightstand. I HATE HER, I HATE HER. SHE GETS A NEW PHONE AND I GET HER OLD IPHONE!

I slumped to the floor. Where did I go wrong? Was it all the cursing she’d overheard? Did she believe I was giving her a piece of crap phone because I had badmouthed it like some Chuck E Cheese “prize” that falls apart before we get it home?

Then, this dawned on me. If this is the worst she’s got on me, I must be doing okay. I gave up on finding the Dustbuster, though. If someone else in this family has “thoughts” on my behavior, I’m in no mood to read them right now.

And that girl? She went on to master nuanced concepts like privilege and systemic racism. She posts stories about the true injustices of the world: people jailed for the color of their skin or gender identity. Protestors arrested for exercising their First Amendment rights. Safe to say she’s gleaned the difference between getting stuck with a nearly-new iPhone and being hated for simply existing.

I don’t dare take credit for any of that, she’s done the work herself. But I will let myself off the hook for being a horrible parent. There might’ve been another page in that diary saying the opposite, but I sure didn’t go looking for it. I’ve learned not to seek out news I do not want to hear. Enough of it filters in unbidden as it is.

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Cheryl Leutjen

Teetering on a tightrope between more conscientious living and eco-madness, I write about responding to the challenges of our time with heart, hope, and humor.