This used to be a lot easier, I think. First, the phone was attached to the wall. When it rang you were inevitably unable to answer it a certain percentage of the time, so you gradually taught your children to talk on the phone. They just picked it up and spoke. No swiping or selecting FaceTime or speakerphone. No voicemail or answering machines. You had to learn a certain amount of etiquette like not telling people someone was in the bathroom or that your parents just left you alone at home or that you were all about to go out for a few hours.
Now, it's so much more complicated. Children (on average) are also so much more tech-saavy. Even Beanstalk, though he doesn't necessarily intend to utter a word, knows the touch buttons "do things" so he smiles and whispers under his breath and starts reaching out to poke things. My last conversation went something like this.
Me: Hello, Alex! Happy Birthday!
(Meep! Meeeeeeeep! Giggle...)
Beanstack: He's smiling and trying to mess with the phone. Just keep talking.
Me: I love you, sugar. I just wanted to call on your birthday and say I love you and I'm proud of you!
(Wrestling noises and stray beeping. More whispering in Klingon and the odd Beanstalk noise).
Beanstack: Oooohhhkay. I think he's done.
Me: Alrighty, you guys have a good night.
The phone call ends amidst somewhat of a din. Animal noises would not have surprised me. Now, Squib has this whole thing figured out and we have actually practiced good ways to decide what to say and how to remember them. Once. This was his latest attempt.
Squib: Hi, Mom!
(In the background I hear jostling like there is running going on. Pad, pad, pad, pad, etc.)
Squib: I miss you.
Me: Well, I miss you, too! What are you up to?
Squib: Nothing. (he sounds like I'm accusing him of a federal crime)
(He always says "nothing." We have yet to work on this part of conversation in general. If he were sitting right here, he'd say something like, "I've been making mutant ninjas out of baby turtles and they've been attacking the Earth in exchange for watermelons." Or something).
Me: Have you seen any good movies lately?
Squib: Yes. (but they, too, are state secrets)
(Sometimes I do beat my phone on my forehead. This is also when I hear his dad enter the room and say, "Where did you run off to with my phone?" Oh, oops. I sit here patiently and listen to the discussion about how Squib wanted to make the phone call in private, etc. But he's lost his train of thought, so he's done now).
Squib: I love you mom, bye! (like it's all one word)
The phone is already in his dad's hand and up to his dad's ear before I can tell him I love him, too. So I clamp my mouth shut. Nothing is weirder than telling your ex you love him by accident. Even if he knows it's not for him.
On Squib's part, he's counting the fact that he said approximately five things and isn't counting what they were, exactly. I don't know what he had on his list, but I'd be interested to know. He probably got totally derailed by the fact that he snuck off to have the conversation practice and didn't exactly tell his dad what was up and then felt like he got caught (which he did) and lost track of things totally.
So we are still in Phone Etiquette 101, it seems.