Twenty-first Century Parent or Sad Anachronism?

Here are some things my kids will never understand about me:

I once owned my own record player. It was red and had its own case and I had a little box of 45s. My family owned a full set of Encyclopedia Britannica which, even with its onion skin pages, probably weighed more than a small pony. I learned to take photographs on a camera that used 35mm film. I am a child of the seventies and eighties – of Atari and Pong, of VHS or Beta, of TVs that got only 3 or 4 channels, and car trips with nothing but the radio or a cassette of Abba’s Greatest Hits to entertain us.

I never laid my hands on a computer until I was in college. I read books, made of real paper and ink. And when I had to research a project for school, I had to go dig through a card catalog and wander the dusty stacks of the Pascagoula Public library to find aging texts that were often already outdated by several decades. By contrast, when our boys have to research something for a paper or school assignment, all they have to do is sit down with their laptops and browse the internet.

Technophobe that I am, I have to admit to being awed by the information that is now literally just a few keystrokes away from their deft little fingers. What an exciting time for our boys to grow up. Yet they take it for granted, this whole universe of information just waiting to be summoned by the great Google genie. Until the router goes down. And they look at me to fix it.

So here’s my question. How did this happen? How can I, child of the seventies, bibliophile and technophobe by nature, be reasonably expected to maintain a network of 4 laptop computers linked by two mysterious boxes with blinking lights to a global web of interconnected computers that now digitally stores much of the sum total of human knowledge? The last time I walked through Best Buy, I didn’t even recognize half of the gadgets they sell. I’m pretty sure I’m just not properly equipped to raise children in the twenty-first century.

So when the wireless router began to misbehave, I just crossed my fingers and sent it good thoughts (kind of like I do when the car starts to make a bad noise. Except then I turn up the radio, too.) Predictably, it got worse. The boys got increasingly twitchy as they were repeatedly denied access to the internet by an ornery little black box with blinking blue lights. The middle boy assured me that he was going to fail the tenth grade if I didn’t do something soon. So I tried to fix the wretched thing. For days I tried, learning about IP addresses and selectively permeable firewalls. I ran troubleshooting software and replaced cables. I reconfigured things. Nothing worked. And soon I was ready to take my rock hammer to the infernal box and pound it into plastic shrapnel.

And then I remembered – it was still under warranty! I carried it back to Best Buy and talked to a nice young man who said a lot of things I didn’t understand, and then he gave me a new one. I brought it home, followed the easy set-up directions and magically, it worked. (Imagine the heavenly choir and ray of light shining down.)

So I’ve given up trying to understand the little black box. Sometimes, I go into the room where it lives and talk nice to it, because I want it to like me. I’m pretty sure that’s part of the magic, and I need this one to work for a long, long time.

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