At least once a week, someone comes up to me and reminds me to cherish this special season of life. Whether it’s the well-meaning barista at the local coffee shop that my son and I love to frequent on Wednesday mornings when my daughter is in preschool, the grocery store checkout clerk or the postman behind the counter, I regularly hear from someone that before I even have time to blink, they’ll be driving away to college.
My answer is always the same: “Well, I hope that by the time they’re driving age, cars will be driving themselves!” We share that nervous giggle that strangers exchange and then go about our day. The thing is, I’m not really joking about that. Technology is strange and weird and downright awful sometimes but if there are developments out there that will make it safer for them on the road, bring it on.
My contractor came over to finish our shutters one day last winter. The snow was starting to fall, so he ducked inside for a cup of hot chocolate. “You know,” he started, looking at my daughter bopping unsteadily around the living room. “It didn’t really hit me when I first saw my daughter behind the wheel. I trusted her and I knew she was capable.” He stopped, took off his glasses and wiped his eyes. “It was when I saw her ride away in the passenger’s seat of her best friend’s car that really got me.”
I was about seven months pregnant with my son at the time and really hormonal so I’m going to blame it on that but I began to sob right there on my sofa and the sentiment hasn’t left me since. I know there are plenty of ways that technology and digitalization are being used negatively but if there’s a chance that advancements such as automatic roadways could be used for good, I think it’s a topic worth discussing.
I’m certain my kids would agree. My daughter ate all of her supper and even helped me sweep up the scattered crumbs into a pile rather than just batting at it aimlessly with her broom like she always does, so I let her watch her tablet tonight while I ran their bath water. I heard her mumble under her breath as she and her brother huddled around the tiny screen. “Swipe. Skip ad. Swipe.”
I had to laugh at the sheer lunacy of it all because at her age I was playing with baby dolls and giving my pony figurines a bath. I didn’t know what a computer was until I started elementary school and even then, I was working on those mammoth early-stage iMacs that were as colorful as a rainbow and slow as a snail. I remember our computer lab was decked out in the awesome, see-through teal machines and the extent of my usage was playing Tetris for half an hour while our librarian discussed basic keyboard navigation.
It does make me wonder, though, if this is only the beginning. If my daughter can skip an ad at three years old, what does that look like at seven? What about at 15? I know that as her parent, it’s my job to oversee that usage and I totally intend to do so.
What about my son? Will he keep eschewing technology like he seems to have done so far, favoring a real-life book with a flashlight late at night? Or, will he become obsessed with Minecraft or games like it that require astute computer literacy? The short answer is I don’t know. Right now, they’re content only “logging on” in small increments. Then, they quickly bore of the screen and go right back to drawing on my walls or climbing in and out of their play tunnel.
At the moment, I fancy myself pretty tech-savvy. Yet, it only takes one conversation with my parents or especially my grandparents to understand that entire generations thought they too were savvy at something only to find it replaced with something sleeker a lifetime later. My parents had a bag phone that plugged into the cigarette lighter of the family minivan. They thought they were the cat’s meow with that thing! Ask them to open an app on their smartphone and the reaction is a little slower.
I think the point is that as times adjust, so do we. This is especially true when it comes to technology and as it continues to develop and proliferate into every corner of our lives, what we do with it and how we view it will directly influence how our kids do. I intend to use these platforms to spread positivity, connect with a kind community and make the world a little better one keyboard click at a time. I hope my kids are watching.