Last year, my oldest daughter turned seven—and, if you recall my article here on, she desperately wanted an iPhone. Tech freaks though we are in this house, we ended up saying no. The poor girl didn’t know how to make phone calls yet, so what was the point in getting the fanciest cell phone out there? Instead, she got a regular old phone that plugs in the wall, which thrilled her. For a while.


Times change, as do little girls. And moms.


For a year, my daughter practiced making and receiving phone calls, and she proved herself pretty responsible—with one small exception, when she left her phone plugged in during a party at our house and someone’s child (we don’t know whose) apparently called 911. (Yes, the police paid us a visit.) At any rate, she learned how to dial the numbers, how to politely address adults who answer the phone, and how to ask for her friends. (We’re still working on the finer points of ending a phone conversation. Apparently second graders, like characters in movies, like hanging up directly when they’re finished talking.)


This year, for her eighth birthday, my daughter scaled down her request and asked only for an iPod Touch. (Only. Sigh.) Yet, despite the cost, we felt this was now do-able for her age and the effort she had made over the year to increase responsibility. (And we were excited about one fewer kid in our house asking to play on our phones every minute. Even our two year old son wants in on the action.)


Then my husband had his genius idea. Turns out he was due for an upgrade on his iPhone. He could get himself the latest model for $199—exactly the cost of the Touch. Meanwhile, his old phone, when deactivated, still offered WiFi connectivity and could play apps and music. In other words, we could give our daughter what she wanted (essentially a Touch), and it wouldn’t cost us a dime. (Or at least not a dime my husband wouldn’t have spent anyway!) And the best part? It’s still an iPhone! When she is ready, my daughter will now have a cell phone that can easily be reactivated on our family plan.


The most brilliant aspect of this gift, however, is what she is now doing with it: connecting with her parents in a new way. I recently became addicted to the app called Words with Friends. For those who haven’t yet played, it’s just Scrabble on your iPhone. Plain and simple. No fancy music or graphics. You get your letter tiles, you make your words, you get a score. And now, equipped with her iPhone/Touch gizmo, my daughter is playing Scrabble with her parents every chance she gets.


I have fond memories of board games with my parents when I was a child, Scrabble among them. There was something elevating about being able to compete with people you hold in high esteem, largely because it means they hold you in high esteem. It means you are growing up. Becoming worthy. The problem nowadays? Finding the time to actually sit around a table to play a game like this, start to finish. I’m sure plenty of families do manage this, but our kitchen table seems to spend more hours serving as a laundry holding and folding zone than it does as a meal location. Between my work, my husband’s work, the distraction of a two year old son, and the older girls’ activities, our best efforts at family time often fall short. So I am thrilled to find another way to share something with my daughter that lends convenience, educates her, and speaks to the fact that we are among changing generations. Words with Friends might sound like a cheesy way to connect with your child, but it works for us. We can both start games whenever we choose, take our time on turns, swap knowing smiles when one of us gets a new word and sends it on—it’s just good fun. My daughter is even playing Scrabble games with other kids that have iPhones or Touches now. Try coordinating that on a family game night!


I should mention there’s a downside here. We have another daughter about to have a birthday. She’s only turning six. And now she wants a deactivated iPhone, too. Good thing I’m also due for an upgrade.


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