I wonder sometimes if kids aren’t hardwired for technology.
When I was a child, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, there wasn’t anything in our house I could operate that my mother couldn’t, simply because technology – or at least, affordable, accessible technology – hadn’t changed much between the time she and I became adolescents respectively (I guess it didn’t hurt that there was only a 17-year age gap). Oh, I had access to things as a kid that my mother did not – color television, touch-tone telephones and 8-track cassette players – but it wasn’t anything terribly complicated. You pushed a button, pulled a knob or dialed a dial; the most complex technology in our home involved wrapping the tips of the rabbit-ear antenna on our television with aluminum foil and positioning them just right in order to get decent reception.
Today, I couldn’t tell you a fraction of what our BluRay DVD player does, or how to make it do it. We have approximately 374 remote controls in our home – one for the ceiling fan in the living room alone (no, I am not joking). When I bought my behemoth of a microwave, which will grill, brown and nuke food, it came with a set of instructions so complicated Oldest Son immediately dubbed it “HAL.” We won’t even go into the myriad of attachments and features that accompany our Dyson vacuum (Beloved: “What does this button do?” [Pushes button.] Jan: “It dumps the dirt back on the floor, dear.”).
Absolutely none of this phases The Young One. I’m lucky I can turn our 52-inch television on and off – The Young One can hook up three different gaming systems to it as well as a DVD player and make them all work.
Without reading any instructions.
Of course, this only applies to electronics (turn on the stove? Operate the washing machine? Not on your life), but the kid is some kind of savant (being the mother of a 16-year-old who can not seem to turn on the stove or operate the washing machine, I’ll kindly leave the word “idiot” out. For now). He had mastered both video game joysticks and controllers before he was two, and was beating the pants off of his older – 12 years older – brother. The kid couldn’t talk, but he could kick your ass at Mortal Kombat and Banjo Kazooie. At three, he would get on our computer and resize and rearrange all of desktop icons to his liking as well as tweak the mouse and keyboard settings to optimize your DOOM playing experience.
This was all the more remarkable when you consider the fact the child barely spoke a word before his sixth birthday. I had his hearing checked, had him tested for autism and took him to a speech therapist, all to no avail. It’s not as if he wasn’t frustrated by his inability to communicate, because he was; he had horrid, terrible temper tantrums that gradually decreased in frequency and severity, but didn’t go away completely until he was in the first grade. Nor was he unintelligent – I joke about the idiot savant thing, but the boy was, and still is, scary smart.
One day, when he was maybe 4? 5? Darling Daughter and I decided to rearrange our living room, which of course necessitated moving our television and VCR. We unplugged all the wires, moved the devices, and plugged them all back in only to have a blank, blue screen stare back at us when we turned the damn things on. So we unplugged and replugged and rearranged wires, several times, all to no avail – all we got was a blank, blue screen. This went on for nearly half an hour and I was so frustrated I was near tears when my son, who had silently watched everything, calmly walked over and pushed a button on the VCR. The television screen immediately sprang to life.
He looked at me and said the longest sentence he’d ever spoken, up to that point:
“I fix it, Mommy.”
For more Spins about kids and technology, visit Sprite’s Keeper. And don’t worry about The Young One – these days, I can’t get him to SHUT. UP.