With the rotary dial phone, there was no quick punching in the numbers either. Oh no, you had to wait till the dial noisily whirred and clicked it's way back round before putting in the next digit, which of course gave the game away every time. I remember well huddling among the coats whispering about boys with my BFF only to be rumbled by Big Anne - 'I hear you! Get off that phone! You only left her 5 minutes ago so what could you possibly have to talk about?' If only she knew!
Of course you NEVER, ever made a call until after 6pm. In our house that was dicing with death, especially with the dawn of evil itemised phone bills. Major quarterly interrogations took place in its wake and believe you me, Guantanamo Bay had nothing on my Ma.
'Someone was on the phone at 5.45pm to a Belfast number, FIFTEEN minutes before the low rate. Was anyone dying because nothing else could be that important! Who was it? Okay then, I'll just ring the number (after 6pm) if the culprit doesn't come forward.'
Finger moving down the page. ' What!! Dear goodness, there was an INTERNATIONAL call to America costing £32 made in the middle of the night. That has to be a mistake....I mean, who would....?..... JAMES!! JAMES!!! Get down these stairs right now!'
Later, when we did get a touch button phone, my Dad, understandably enough, put a lock on it straightaway. It was a plastic plate like device that covered most of the buttons and a special key was needed to remove it. Terrible it was too, except that by now Loverboy was on the scene, and motivated by a girlfriend who could never actually phone him, he first studied the lock and then promptly customized a table fork which acted as a substitute key, cleanly popping the plate right off. (The fact that it also cut the inside of my bag to shreds was a small price to pay). Unsurprisingly, the brothers were much less subtle- they simply ripped the plate off and clumsily re-glued it each time which ultimately thwarted my 'special' fork. Clumps of Dried glue on the buttons and an inexplicable rise in the phone bill led to the 'rents raising their game yet again and a proper pay phone was installed.... Ah good times.
Of course, all this fun and games were long before mobile phones were invented....and Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and the rest. But as teenagers, even then we still did our level best to stay in touch any way we could with our friends. Looking back it was all so very simple-there was one phone in the house and that was it, so the law breaking was contained. Now our children get their own phone in primary school. Think of it, their own phone! And often it comes with the entire Internet at their fingertips as well! Then, at that very tender age, we expect them to learn and illustrate restraint and maturity, in the face of huge temptation and a natural inclination to explore and break the rules. Could I have done it? Do I even now?
For our oldest two, we opted for fairly basic phones and modest packages and strictly NO WiFi, in an effort to break them in gently and hopefully teach them to budget and self monitor. So how's that working out?
Put it this way, they're learning...we're learning. It's a work in progress.
Which is why I was delighted when I came across these 18 rules that Florida mum and blogger Janell Hoffman laid out for her 13 year old son Greg, who'd just received his first iPhone for Christmas. I love her wise guidelines and I plan on stealing and implementing most of them as well. Here they are....
And Amen to that. Emmax