Yesterday, my 10-year-old son wanted to know what triumph meant. I immediately pulled out my pocket dictionary and tossed it to him. He looked and said: “Really mom?” He then marched over to the computer and put the word into Google.
I felt so old school!!!
It’s ben so hard to face up to the fact that my kids will do everything in their lives differently than I did. They will work differently, learn differently, play differently.
Today, my guest blogger is an old friend, Miami super attorney Spencer Silverglate. He shares his wise take and personal experience raising his teen son in the digital age.
Blood red. Marbled to perfection. Two 12-ounce slabs of New York’s finest, grass-fed, prime-grade, cut-it-with-a-fork, melt-in-your-mouth, beef fillets. Steak. It’s what’s for dinner—at least it was last Wednesday. Except it wasn’t just another meal.
As I explained that morning to my 16-year-old son Cameron, it would be the night I pass on the manly pursuit of grilling dead animal flesh. Just like my father passed it on to me and his, undoubtedly, to him. Yes, that night I would hand over the apron and tongs to my son and reveal the family recipe for grilling steak. He may have started the day a boy, but by nightfall, he would be a man. Barbecue Man!
Imagine my shock when I rolled into the driveway at 6:45 that evening, accosted by the unmistakable aroma of sizzling meat. Impossible, I thought to myself. I hadn’t even begun the lesson. I stared in disbelief as I entered the house and saw my son on the back patio, hovering over the open flames that caressed the tender underbelly of the New York Strips.
“What do you think you’re doing?!” I barked. “You were supposed to wait for me. And be careful, you’ll burn the steaks. You need to cut ‘em open and check to see if they’re done.”
“No, Dad,” he objected. “If you do that, the juice will leak out.”
“What are you talking about?” I snapped. “I’ve always done it that way.”
“Chef Ramsey says cutting the steak will dry it out like beef jerky,” he responded. “You’re supposed to press the meat and feel for the same firmness as the fleshy part of your nose.”
“The fleshy part of . . . who the heck is Chef Ramsey?!” I snarled.
“Really, Dad? Gordon Ramsey—quite possibly themost famous chef on TV. I just watched him on YouTube. According to Gordon, this is an 8 ½ minute steak.”
I stood there slack-jawed for a moment and then walked away with the remnants of my male ego. Probably just as well. My son was putting the final grate marks on the best cooked steaks the old grill ever produced.
The Steak Incident, and others like it, has caused me to question whether our role of parents has been usurped by computers. There’s very little we can teach our kids that they can’t find on the Internet. Only the computer generated lesson is “better.” If you’re a kid, why ask a parent for help with homework when you can have a Stanford professor explain it online? Why ask dad how to swing a baseball bat when Albert Pujols can teach you on YouTube? Why ask mom for decorating advice when you can watch Martha Stewart on your smart phone?
What’s the capital of Iceland? Wikipedia it. How do you spell “chrysanthemum?” Spell check it (I just did). How do you build a tree-house? Google it. How do you get to the mall? GPS it. Who sings this song? There’s an app for that. Where do babies come from? You get the point.
We were at dinner the other night and a disagreement broke out over the ways in which one may become a U.S. citizen. My son, who recently studied the issue, explained the process to my wife and me. Poor lad, he left out the one about marrying a U.S. citizen. I figured I’d impress him with my mental superiority, so I laid it on him. He respectfully disagreed, explaining that marrying a citizen would yield a green card, not necessarily citizenship. As my blood pressure began to rise, I figured I’d play the dad card. You know the one: “I’m right because I’m dad.” Before I could utter the words, my son already pulled up the facts on his iPhone.
The computer was right, of course. The darn thing is always right.
When I was a kid, what my father said was final. These days what Google says is final.
But have we moved forward or backward? We seem to be floating around in our own, ear-bud wearing bubbles streaming only preferred content. Why listen to top 40 hits when I can live in the land of perpetual Bruce Springsteen? For that matter, why bother interacting at all? I may be sitting next to you at lunch, but I’m texting someone 300 miles away. Today our personal relationships are not centered around work or school or church, but Facebook. So what if we never leave the couch—we can still have thousands of “friends.”
I take comfort in knowing that not everythingcan be replaced by machines. Some things still need to be experienced, especially by our children. They may be able to go online and learn about riding a bike, but they need a parents’ firm grip on the seat to steady the ride. And maybe that’s the best metaphor for what parents provide their kids—a firm grip on the ride of life.
I realize of course that we won’t be getting rid of machines anytime soon, nor would I want to. Although technology has the potential to supplant relationships, it can also enhance them. Anyone who has connected online to a forgotten high school friend can attest to that.
Like anything in life, there must be a balance. A harmony between man and machine that enriches rather than detracts from the human experience. Which brings me back to my son…
Just the other day I was getting ready for a formal party and decided on a whim to sport a white pocket square to offset my black tuxedo. Not being a hanky-in-the-top-pocket kind of guy, I had no idea how to fold the silken Rubik’s Cube. Cameron happened to notice my struggle and casually suggested I go online. Even though it wasn’t my first instinct, I had to admit it was a good idea. A few minutes later I had a perfectly folded pocket square.
So there you have it. My family, just like my ebony suit and ivory handkerchief, now lives together in perfect harmony—with a little help from Google.
( Google dad, Spencer, and son, Cameron)