I think I’ve gotten too technologically illiterate to be a good dad anymore.
Ah, who am I kidding? May as well admit that I’m finally technologically illiterate enough to deserve the title of dad.
My 10-year-old informed me with a text how far I’d fallen behind. It wasn’t what he texted that surprised me — a long “LOL” followed by eight different emoji faces seems about right for him — but the stark fact that he was texting anything at all.
Despite all his begging, he technically didn’t even own a phone; he’d just commandeered a disconnected old phone of mine to use as a music player, camera and game machine. And considering what a lousy credit risk fifth-graders are, especially one with a snack habit that regularly burns clean through his small allowance, I never thought he’d be able to run around my defense to score phone service.
Every time he tried to make the case for his own full-fledged phone, I smugly explained to him that if I managed to survive elementary school without a phone, he could, too.
Turns out necessity isn’t the only mother of invention. A good case of “I wanna” will do, too.
So while I was droning on about the old days when we rode bikes to friends’ houses if we wanted to see who could hang out instead of sending group texts from the couch, he was poking around the app store. Eventually he managed to install something that brought my castoff device to life with its own new phone number so he can text and call for free wherever there’s Wi-Fi.
What a 47-year-old didn’t even recognize as a possibility was, well, child’s play to a 10-year-old.
That was a hard punch that’s making me rethink who I am.
I used to fool myself that I’d always be able to keep ahead of the boys technology-wise so my wife and I would know what they were up to. I mean, it wasn’t three years ago that I landed a great job mostly thanks to my ability to riff for a couple hours about the newest high-tech wonders with people who were introducing those wonders to the world.
I’d worked hard to get to that point, starting by teaching myself to code and hooking toys up to a giant old oscilloscope to see how they worked when I was just a few years older than my newly connected son. Right after the first car CD players came out, a friend and I were hunched over a half-disassembled one with a soldering iron, a handful of pushbutton switches and a piece of plywood so we could re-engineer it to more conveniently blast Oingo Boingo and Fine Young Cannibals.
But the waves we ride in glory eventually come crashing onto our heads, and here I am washed up in the technology department.
The wheel keeps turning, though. I’m down now, but if my luck holds I’ll live long enough to rise back up as retro cool.
My own dad made it there a while back, peering through a big articulated magnifier to delicately set antique watch gears back into motion not too many years before I got my first smartwatch. I could buy flash, but that was no match for his ability to pour life back into classic style with his own hands.
The time’s coming that I’m going to have to go looking for my sons so they can reset some important gadget that’s stumped me.
But I’m going to remember how the circuit board worked on that old CD player. One day, the boys are going to get tired of grooving to whatever cybernetic implant will be feeding music into their brains, and they’ll want to spin tunes with more style.
Their old man will be there waiting, soldering iron all heated up.
Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.