Lyla Calling

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When I was a teen, my parents complained that I was always on the phone. It’s the classic battle between parents and adolescent girls. My daughter Lyla is just a toddler, and I can already relate.

Last week, after searching for my cell phone for nearly three days, I finally found it inside her crib, under her pillow. She’d managed to somehow smuggle it in there and hide it. She made good use of her time too, managing to change my ringtone, make a few calls, and delete my incoming call list (leaving me no way of knowing who may have called). Last but certainly not least, she took two pictures of the ceiling in her nursery and one of her hand. While impressed, I was also grateful that she hadn’t yet figured out how to get into my voicemail. I’m sure she would have wreaked all sorts of havoc there too.

It probably goes without saying that Lyla loves playing with phones. Any phone will do. Cell phones, blackberries, land lines, mine, yours; she has no preference. She has plenty of toy phones, and she practices on them. But, she prefers to play phone on real phones.

While playing, she occasionally dials out. If you’ve called me recently, she might even call you back. Typically she dials the same people, mostly relatives and friends, usually those on speed dial, but she also likes to switch it up every now and again by pecking randomly at the caller ID list or by making selections from my contact list. She’s partial to names that begin with the letter “A.”

Whenever our home phone rings, she runs to answer it – not a problem when it’s someone familiar. But, about a month ago, a telemarketer called and she answered. My plan was to let it ring until the voicemail picked up, but she felt compelled to take the call. I assumed that the caller would realize she was too young to buy whatever he was selling and eventually hang up, but he was persistent. My daughter listened politely to his whole pitch before handing me the phone, at which point all I heard was, “can you put your mommy on the phone?” At least she listens and takes direction! Not planning on buying the New York Times, I apologized profusely and hung up.

About a week ago, we were at the pediatrician’s office for Lyla’s 18 month checkup. While she and I waited our turn in the waiting room, of all places, the office phone rang. Before the receptionist had the chance to answer, Lyla had already put her own hand to her own ear and said, “Hello?”

To be fair, she actually says, “Huh-whoa,” but still.

Whenever our home phone rings and I answer, she mimics me (or mocks me, if you will). She runs around me, in circles, with her little hand to her ear shouting “Huh-whoa? Huh-whoa!” the whole time. It’s 100% impossible to ignore.

On Friday, she was playing with my cell phone when she, accidentally or perhaps on purpose, called my husband’s cell. His is usually the last number dialed out, so that was an easy one. When he answered and realized it was her calling and not me, he expected to at least hear me in the background laughing. When that didn’t happen, he quickly dialed our land line from his blackberry (AKA: his work phone).

“Are you with Lyla because she just called me?” he asked. “She’s playing in the other room,” I replied as I promptly ran from one end of our apartment to the other. We live in New York. Believe me, it wasn’t far. When I got to her, she had my cell phone in one hand and our second house phone in her other hand. My husband voice echoed through both. Lyla had removed the land line from its cradle and “answered” it. When I entered the room, she looked up at me innocently and handed me the home phone, as if to say “it’s for you,” while maintaining her current conversation with her daddy on my cell.

In all fairness, friends and family frequently call and ask to speak to Lyla. She’s an excellent conversationalist. When her grandma calls, Lyla walks away with the phone, takes it into her nursery for a little privacy, sits on the floor and has a full conversation. She says things like “bubble” and “cookie” and “baby.” Her grandma listens intently and occasionally propels the conversation forward with questions like, “can you say puppy?” Lyla responds accordingly. After 30 minutes or so, depending on how chatty Lyla’s feeling, eventually she simply says “bye” and hangs up.

I think back to the time before Lyla entered my life, back when I knew everything. A close friend and I, both childless at the time, were having a typical conversation about kids these days, and I recall saying something like, “Well, part of the problem is that 14 is way too young to have a cell phone.”

People often say that motherhood changes you. And, maybe I’ve changed. But these days, I have to laugh when I hear myself wondering out loud, “Is 18 months too young to be added to our family plan?”

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