The International Writers Magazine: Lifestyles of single mothers
Andrea Wren on rewinding DVDs
and the wonders of 8 Track...
always thought that, for a mother (and, dare I say it, for a female),
I was fairly well up on technological stuff. I did my
gender favours by being able to programme the video recorder to
tape Friends at the right time, give or take a few adverts. I could
even set the radio stations on the car stereo. I thought I was a
super dooper, bordering on becoming a nuclear physics, Techno Queen.
I was settling into this Perfect Vision of myself, then my son superseded
me, at a rate that was surely faster than the speed of light (though
he could proclaim the mathematical details of that with far more
certainty than me).
He started with
Meccano, and progressed to taking the PC motherboard apart and putting
it back together again in the time it took me to open the milk carton.
When there is a growing young science wizard sharing the same living
space as you, soaking up all knowledge that is available (from the microwave
programming manual to the instruction booklet on How to Build
Your Own Weapon Of Mass Destruction in 30 Days - he did it
in 20) and taking every opportunity to practice his wizardry skills,
then your eye for the TV tuning mechanism starts to go blind. You become
lazy. There is absolutely no need for you to even pick up the new shiny
little pamphlet that arrives with the DVD player, because before you
can say multimedia messaging, your Knight in System Restore
Armour has set it up, plugged it in, turned it on and is watching Finding
Nemo with glib satisfaction.
I can safely say that my technological talents have now become defunct.
This means that any new purchase, which requires more than the putting
in of batteries, is handed over to my son for his all-knowing eye to
be cast over. In the space of a nanosecond, hes telling me how
I can turn it on without inducing power failure throughout all the appliances
in my house. I sit there, with my proudly acquired knowledge of programming
VHS fading away into the Ethernet as the newer, better, shinier, more
advanced models of machines take over our domestic bliss. A wasteland
of old devices, sadly obsolete, mounts as the new developments fill
their place. As for me? It seems Im sadly obsolete as well.
My son is empowered (and enraged) as I flail with the remote control
and ask feebly how to get the film to rewind. You dont rewind
DVDs mum... he says, and Im lost as he begins some techno
warble that means absolutely nothing to me, the once apt and skilled
video programmer, floundering in my days of floppy disks and cassette
tape. Its my fault, of course, I was much more concerned with
allowing him to eagerly do all the work while I got on with far more
interesting things, like reading the latest glossy. His keenness for
learning, and his ease with the way were moving at neck-breaking
speed into automaton society, meant less of a need for me to have the
hassle of reading the operating instructions.
Is it Single Mum & Son Syndrome, that Ive relied so heavily
on my only offspring for the things that [possibly] his dad would have
done? If Id have had a daughter, Im certain the situation
would be the same. The issue is not that he is a substitute male,
but that I am an outdated oldie. At 34 years of age, Im
loath to call myself old, but it seems that technology is zipping by
me and past me before Ive had a chance to blink. And that I dont
quite catch whats going on in the split second of that blink,
is what leaves me feeling like its time to take a bow and leave
the 21st century stage. Yet my son, he doesnt miss a techno trick.
His capacity for circuit board circumnavigation is colossal. I like
to think were a team - I wash his clothes, cook his tea and nag
him to clean his room (of the disks, gadgets, fidgety bits and fiddly
things that are scattered around it) and he defrags my hard drive. Its
a fair deal, I think.
Of course, there will be a time when my son leaves home. What will I
do? Ill be so behind the door on the advancements of today (and
tomorrow) that the damn appliances wont even get used - theyll
surely have some voice activated power-on mechanism that you have to
programme in to begin with? Many parents, no doubt, will relate to the
way their kids can reel off Windows operating systems like theyre
reading a pizza place menu. Youre proud; its just so cool
how great they are at doing all that difficult techno stuff. But remember,
the more they do, the less you can, and you cant make them stay
at home forever just because theyre the only ones that can work
out how to use the digital camera (can you?). Maybe we should think
about reclaiming our MP3 player manuals and reacquainting ourselves
with the remote, before its too late? At the rate were going,
when my son leaves home, I estimate Ill have at least 15 years
of science school to attend before I can vacuum up the living room again.
© Andrea Wren June 2004
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