Somewhere deep in my son’s brain exists a startling ability to comprehend, manipulate and program the many technological devices that have become commonplace in our lives. In the same spot, deep in my own brain, exists a gaping void, revealing what I can only guess is a “gender-ational” gap between my own abilities and those of my techno-savvy son.
At age 11, Nick has developed a Midas touch with all things that require users to be electronically, mechanically and technologically inclined. This seemingly innate ability became especially apparent recently when I reluctantly replaced a five year old cell phone.
A mere two years into the life of my phone, I stopped by the store where I had purchased it to inquire about the cost of a supplementary charger. The sales person, who was practically still a child, laughed openly at me.
Apparently, it was completely ridiculous to ask such a thing; this two-year-old phone had long ago become obsolete, so whatever would they still be stocking the chargers for?
Nick also felt an obvious distaste for my old phone, which was about the size of a one pound block of butter. When he heads out to play street hockey in our neighborhood, I send along my cell phone so I am able to reach him. He happily obliges now that I have a new phone. However, when I would attempt to hand him the old cell phone, he would recoil, as if in fear, hands raised in the air. “I’m not taking that!” he would say, as though it would surely sear the flesh of his palm on contact.
He was delighted when the old phone made its last call. I, on the other hand, was troubled about having to learn all the bells and whistles of a new phone, given how long it had taken me to master the features on the old one. Reluctantly, I headed back to the store.
I perused the many types of phones and carefully considered their features. I was quite sure that I would not use text messaging, and asked the sales person if I could please see a model without this unnecessary feature. Once again, I was laughed at (they ALL have text messaging now), this time by a young man, who, suspiciously, seemed even younger than the girl on my last visit.
I chose what appeared to be one of the simplest models available. I brought it home and the kids were thrilled. How exciting! A new phone with a camera (because you never know when you might need one) AND text messaging. The phone became the kids’ Friday evening activity.
Nick customized the screen by adding a picture of himself and his sister, taken with the automatic setting.
Next, he moved on to the text messaging feature and with little effort, text-ed (what kind of word is that, anyway?) messages to my email address.
I sat by helplessly, wishing that I could contribute, in some small way, to the programming of my phone. I flipped through the instruction booklet (which is similar in thickness to my old phone) and marveled at how easily all this came to Nick.
When he began to program phone numbers, I dutifully recited them. Eventually, he agreed to let me try, but soon re-claimed his role after it became clear that it would be easier if he just did it himself.
In addition to Nick’s inexplicable and in-depth knowledge of cell phones, he graciously programs my music onto (or is that into?) his mp3 player. He convinced me that this makes a much better walking companion than a compact disc player strapped to my waist by a cumbersome hip sack. He has also become the family photographer, a role I gave up when our 35 mm was replaced by a digital camera. I suspect if we ever programmed our antiquated VCR, he would do that, as well.
I can no longer solve any computer problem that Nick can’t solve himself. In fact, we have experienced a bit of a role reversal in that department. A few weeks ago I mentioned, to nobody in particular, that my computer retreats too quickly into sleep mode. “I can help you with that, mom,” Nick said as he confidently sat down beside me and began to journey into the unknown of my desk top. After a quick couple of clicks, he nonchalantly got up and said, “There you go.”
And – oh, what a sweet boy he is – unlike the youngsters at the phone store, he didn’t even laugh as he said it.
Originally printed in the Waterloo Region Record