the Technology Kid

Alejandro’s heard us tapping away at our computers since before he was born. As a baby, he was propped in my or Rafael’s laps as we worked on creative or work-related docs; answered emails; or surfed the internet. He’s seen the interfaces of YouTube, iTunes, FaceBook, and email since he could focus his eyes. Raf and I are both immersed in technology–it’s the age we live in, and the professions we’ve chosen. And Ali’s our son.

When he was about ten months old, he located the “play” triangle on the remote control to the TV. I was sitting on the floor with him (he couldn’t even walk yet) when I realized that in a few short years, I’d be a babbling idiot when it came to operating our household appliances. I’ll turn to him. “Duhhhhhhh.” I’ll say, slack-jawed and drooling as I hand him the remote, desperation in my eyes. “Me want play. Muuuuu-sic. You can, Ali? Peeeeese?”

By age one, he could operate an iPhone. I’m not kidding. He’d slide his finger across the screen to unlock it. Locate the orange iPod icon. And select the video he wanted. Yo Gabba Gabba, it was most frequently. A show created by parents perhaps somewhat like ourselves–West Coast-based lovers of music and storytelling. To all of our devices, the creators of Yo Gabba Gabba deliver the tall, thin host “DJ Lance Rock;” guest stars like Jack Black and Elijah Woods; musical acts by the Roots and the Shins; and a tribe of trippy characters who encourage dancing and recycling. On my iPhone Ali, aged one, could find, and play, the episode he wanted.

Yesterday he was on my laptop (you can tell me I’m a negligent asshole a bit later, after I’ve explained myself), and I saw he’d learned how to use a mouse. Moving it around, finding the spot he wanted. Clicking only that side of it, as I’d showed him. He was playing little games on yes, you guessed it, (So I’m a brand whore as welll as a technology whore. If only we’d envisioned that goddamned franchise ourselves.) That said: in less than two weeks of playing around with those little Flash-based games, he had control of his mouse. And hence his technological destiny, muah ha ha! He’s two and a half now.

How could I be okay with all of this? First of all, it’s not like we’ve got him locked in a basement surrounded by buzzing devices all day long while the sun shines or rain falls outside in beautiful Oakland. Every day he’s at home is an insane mix of thousands – okay, maybe twenty – activities. Art projects. Puzzles. Books. Chasing. Playing with cars. Constructing and destroying train tracks. Imagining we’re dinosaurs. Imagining we’re firefighters. Digging in the garden. Playing ball. Play fighting.

And then, yes, because we’re goddamned exhausted, and have emails to answer, or want five f’ing minutes to talk between ourselves, there’s the computer. iPhones. TV. Cable, DVDs, you name it. And the PlayStation–don’t get me started on that.

I’m not proud of it. It’s not what I’d envisioned, having grown up with a stay-at-home, earthy mom who didn’t let us eat sugar. It just IS what it is. It’s our lives. He’s growing up in the 2000’s. I can’t change when he was born. And I can’t change who we are.

I can only–sometimes, when I remember–turn my iPhone to “airplane” mode before handing it to him, so his little brain is a wee bit less fried by the wireless signals that are giving all of us cancer as I type and post these thoughts.

You are likely receiving this data wirelessly, in your home or business, perhaps even via a smart phone yourself. You live in this era too, and these are our children. They’re standing on our computer-crunched shoulders.

Let’s pray that their little bodies can adapt fairly painlessly to all of the technology that surrounds them. Let’s pray they don’t treat us too poorly for being unable to comprehend and operate the things they will create in our lifetimes.

May they still dig in the dirt, and feel the joy of almost-bursting lungs as they chase balls gone out of bounds.

May they still spend time under trees, looking up at the branches and leaves and fruit unfolding.

May they take what we’ve given them, and create more wondrous and beautiful things than we can imagine.

What resonates?