“Look it up!”
I heard this hundreds of times when I was growing up and would ask my parents a question. We had several dictionaries and a row of leather bound encyclopedias that most likely had the answer I needed as a kid in the 1970’s and 80’s. I frequently had my nose in the reference books, National Geographic Magazines and hundreds of other different types of books in the house where I grew up. So many of my questions were answered myself just by using the general fund of knowledge I had acquired as an avid reader. LOOK IT UP! And I did, and you know what? I usually found the answer to my question. Usually. But there were plenty of times when looking it up left me hanging, so I turned to the next closest source of information, my parents.
It seemed like they knew everything, because I don’t remember a time when they left me hanging. As a matter of fact, sometimes I wished I’d never asked them particular questions. The facts of life were explained to me while eating popcorn at the kitchen table with my parents as my dad drew little sperms and eggs on a napkin because I asked the question, “What’s this?” about a condom wrapper found under my parents bed. Of course THAT left my jaw hanging, and as a result I had to stop looking at the National Graphic Magazines until I could get the nasty image of all those people in the pictures actually doing THAT stuff with their naked parts and wobbly bits.
But this book, I continued to read over and over.
Joe Kaufman’s, “What Makes it GO?” or as I like to call it, Google for kids circa 1974. It was chock full of answers. The details of how a toaster, elevator, magnet, telescope, radio, toilet, stethoscope, refrigerator, airplane, and 100 other things worked were carefully explained and supported by colorful illustrations. Years ago, it came in handy when my son asked me what the hell a record player was and how it actually worked.
Pretty cool, huh? And the previous page explained how records were actually MADE! This particular conversation was had in the years between the disappearance of the presence of encyclopedias in every home and the emergence computers and the internet search engine Google as a replacement.
I have to admit that I am becoming less of a “look it up,” parent and more of a “Google Parent,” every day. Sad maybe, but still true. Hi, my name is Nikki, and I’m a Google Parent. “HI NIKKI!” Is what I’m hearing from you people reading this blog! I’m sure not alone. At least I hope I’m not alone. I’m not sure. I suppose I could Google it to find out.
So despite this ginormous amount of books in Spawn’s room
And the smaller, yet still quite large collection of Sprite,
When my kids ask me a question and I tell them to look it up and they can’t seem to find the answer and I’m unable to find the answer, I frequently say, “Let’s Google that shit, shall we?” (I have a potty mouth, judge me). And in the spirit of full disclosure, sometimes I just don’t fucking FEEL like looking whatever “it” is up in a book. Why would I when the click of a button gives me the answer to just about any question that either my kids or I could possibly have about anything and everything almost EVER!
When I was in high school, my mom refused to buy me Cliff’s notes. I remember the overwhelming GUILT I felt after buying my first of many of these lifesaving beauties and then hiding them in my stuffed animal basket, so that I didn’t get caught doing what I knew was wrong; I was cheating. Did I know the sad tale of Catherine, Heathcliff and Edgar? Generally speaking, yes I did. Could I pass a multiple choice/short answer test on Wuthering Heights with flying colors? Hells yes I could and I did, but only thanks to Cliff and his notes. I didn’t even make it through the first chapter of the actual book. Years later, as an adult, I read the actual book by Emily Bronte. I couldn’t put it down. I felt an overwhelming connection to the characters and an understanding how such a complex and painful story could actually play out in real life with real people. What a different experience! The story took on a whole new meaning as I absorbed the intricate DETAILS and then applied the complex ideas and emotions that can only truly be found in the nuances of the complete story, to my own life.
So after hearing this confession, how could I have become a Google Parent? Me? An avid reader and lover of books, supporter of increasing funding, resources and kinesthetic learning experiences for children, has become a two dimensional, lazy Google Parent. Some might argue the words, “two dimensional” and “lazy,” but essentially that’s what it comes down to. Sure I could pull out an actual map made of (gasp) paper and plan a family trip, but do I? Nah, I Google map that shit, but I do still know how to read a map. I think. I’m sure if Google led me into horrible construction, I would be able to pull out my trusty map made of (GASP) paper, and find my way.
Technology has changed the way we parent today. Sure I could wash my family’s clothes by hand and hang them out to dry, but will I? HELL NO I WON’T, everything goes in my third favorite household appliance (second only to the dishwasher and the microwave), the washing machine. And because of technology; the washing machines, microwaves, televisions, computers, telephones, airplanes and even antibiotics, we have more time to spend having fun with each our families in the pursuit of happiness via the aquisition of information in whatever way we choose to find it.
Sometimes I feel like I’m being lazy, and I do feel guilty when I don’t give a parenting task my “all,” but the question of whether or not technology is responsible for this (at least in my case) can be answered with a resounding, “No fucking way!” Ask any woman who was a housewife in the 1950’s if she gave it her “all” every single day. She’ll probably tell you how much she loved the invention of television and then T.V. dinners. She probably popped an extra valium and made herself a sweet Rob Roy before kicking back and watching “Lassie,” or some other wholesome shit with her loin fruit.
And so like parents have been doing for thousands of years, I try to keep trying find some sort of balance between how much of the world I let influence the decisions that I make with regard to raising my children. As I mentioned earlier, I often wonder if other parents are doing this exact same thing, and so as my daughter told me the other night when neither of us had a clue what a falafel was (even though she requested it for dinner), I can find the answer to this question if I simply do as she advised and “Gooble that shit.”
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