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Mom vs. The 6th Grade Thief

Photograph by Getty Images

I bought my son his first phone when he was 10. Because my boys lived with their dad and I was a struggling graduate student while working as a waitress, I had to grab those stolen moments to bond through listening to their daily adventures whenever I could. Most weekends and weeknights were filled with balancing fruity drinks and reciting daily fish specials at Red Lobster while my afternoons, and some evenings were spent trying to memorize the differences between family therapy models. Giving my son his first phone was my saving grace. Unfortunately my son lost the phone I bought him so his dad bought him another.

Months later, when I received a phone call from the local Target telling me that they found my son's phone I shook my head. Still, a few months after that my son called me from school asking me to call his phone because he had lost it again. I shook my head even harder. Whether he loses it a million times, it makes it so much easier to speak to my boys if they have their own phone.

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This time the phone never surfaced. Each time I called the phone, no one answered. After a week of calling it, I realized that someone must have picked it up and was using it because the battery should have been dead by that time, but every time I called, it rang and rang. Their dad decided not to turn the phone off, calling it an important lesson for my son because, "He'll know every day that because of his carelessness, someone else is using his phone." I had to bite my tongue. He bought the phone and he was paying for it so there was nothing I could do about it, or so I thought.

One day my sons were with me and I decided to call the phone again, this time from a different number, one that didn't show up as "Mommy" on the caller ID. A little boy answered the phone and when I asked him who he was, he hung up. My Sherlock Holmes skills went into overdrive and I devised a plan to find my son's stolen phone no matter what I had to do.

I enlisted the help of my sister's boyfriend's, little sister. Although she was 20 at the time, puberty had not affected her vocal chords and she still had the high-pitched voice (and persona) of a 12-year-old. Although she was hesitant she agreed to my diabolical plan.

"I want you to text the little boy as though you were a kid in middle school," I instructed her. "When he responds I want you to pretend like you know who he is and that you have a crush on him. Call him by the wrong name so he will correct you with his real name. Then tell him you want to meet him tomorrow and ask him where his first period is so you can stop by. If he calls you back, just talk to him, giggle, and tell him you'll see him tomorrow."

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An hour later she called me to tell me that my plan had worked. She gave me the boy's name, grade and first period teacher. "I think he's looking forward to meeting me. He seemed excited," she said and laughed. Perfect.

The following morning I called the school’s assistant principal and spoke with him about the incident. He promised to help and an hour later he called me to tell me that he had recovered the phone from the culprit and was about to return it to my son.

I had to pat myself on the back for that one. I breathed a sincere sigh of relief. I may not be there with them physically every day but I just won't allow a broken connection.

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