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call waiting

Does Your Kid Know What a Flash Button is?

My kids love to stay home alone. This is in part because they don’t want to go places with me like grocery and drug stores but also in part because they enjoy the independence and the quiet. I understand and respect this so I allow them their freedom with just a few rules in place.

  • No swimming
  • Do not answer the door for anyone
  • Answer the home phone, it’s how I’ll reach them

I had a zillion errands to do before the kids went to camp so I left Jane and Alexander home alone. I gave him a call from the grocery store to find out what he wanted and the phone rang and rang some more. No one answered and no machine went on. I called again, nothing. The phone must be off the hook. It happens, right?

I’m a little annoyed and need to run another errand which is unexpected so I call Alexander’s cell phone which he also does not answer. I call Jane’s cell phone and ask her why no one is answering the home phone. She explains to me that Alexander is on the phone with Daddy. “Ive been calling.” I say and she offers nothing as an explanation. The phone didn’t ring, he’s on with Daddy.

I get home an hour later and I’m not mad yet, but agitated. Clearly my son saw that I was calling and chose to not answer the phone. I ask him why he’s so disrespectful. I ask him why he didn’t answer when I called.

He looks at me innocently and clearly doesn’t comprehend my simmering anger. “The phone only rang once, it was Dad and I talked to him.”

“Didn’t you hear me calling?” The simmer is turning into a boil.


“You didn’t hear clicking or beeping while you were on the phone with Daddy?”

“I did but I thought the phone was breaking.”

“That’s call waiting. I was calling you.”

“What’s call waiting?”

I start to explain and then sigh. No one in this house will ever use the telephone to talk to people if they can avoid it. So I explain call waiting recognizing that it has almost as much value as telling him why we call remote controls clickers.