I feel old. Not just because of the four and a half years of sleep deprivation, although I will not deny that has added a whole new load of wrinkles – I look in the mirror these days and staring back at me is a heavily creased duvet cover with panda eyes and smudged eyeliner. Nor solely due to the worry gene that has been activated since the birth of E, which provides an almost incessant low-level of angst, from ‘Will he be warm enough in that top?’ to ‘Is that just a few random spots or should I be dialling 999?’. No. I feel old primarily because I can feel myself drifting solely and inexorably away from knowing what the latest technology is and how to bloody use it.
I thought I was pretty on top of things, with my iPhone and my iPad. Oh, and my iPod. And iTouch. Or, as they could be collectively described, iStuff. But when you see your child pick up said gadget, and with no instruction or pointers, swipe and tap their way to a Peppa Pig game without so much as one false finger twitch, you know your relationship with tech is on the slide. Once, we were intimate, tech and me, intuitively knowing what each other needed. Now, it seems an uncomfortable silence has developed between us, usually when I have jabbed the wrong app for the fourth time in a row, or over-swiped the phone screen so that I end up on that fucking search iPhone page. Again.
E now routinely calls the iPad ‘my iPad’. Where once I was owner and sole operator of aforementioned gadgets, it seems my function has been relegated to that of gadget carrier, gadget finder, and warner of low battery status. I feel old and lacking control of my gadgets, and I blame Apple. If they had not made their products so bloody intuitive to navigate, we would still be relying on my PC, and I could happily be involved in E’s technology interactions, seeing as his hand eye coordination was not quite up to the job and often sent the cursor careering wilding around the screen as he tried to click on a button. But now, I am not required. E will happy sit and play, and I am only summoned when he reaches a particularly tricky manoeuvre on Sonic or a message comes up asking if he would like to purchase the next six exciting levels for only three of mummy’s shiny hard earned pounds.
And it is when I hear myself saying things like ‘he doesn’t know how lucky he is to have things like this to play with’ that I realise that I am nearer to a free bus due to being an OAP than getting one by being under 15. And when I catch myself muttering under my breath as I wipe the iPad screen for the fifteenth time that day to remove a choice selection of greasy fingerprints and sneeze droplets. I would not be at all surprised if scientists found a new strain of bacteria making itself quite comfortable on there, being fed a nutritionally diverse menu of errant toast crumbs and mucus.
The final nail in the glass-screened, touch sensitive coffin of me and technology came one afternoon, as E and I were looking for a You Tube video to explain the solar system. E had asked me about the planets, and about five seconds into an explanation, I realised that I really didn’t have much of a sodding clue. After all, it has been a while since I learnt it at school. In fact, did I ever learn it at school? I was the first year to eschew the O Level, and test out the GCSE, which seemed in part to forgo learning about anything useful like the history of our country and explaining the world around us. Instead, for example, I seem to remember spending an inordinately long time in history doing a comparative study of arrow slits. Which would have been fabulously useful if I was going to become either a castle-builder, an arrow slit restorer or even a vertical letter-box designer. But in the event, my career took a slightly less slitty path and involved no arrows whatsoever.
E obviously saw the pain on my face as I tried to recall all the planets, and said: “Shall I get the iPad, mummy?” Which is basically child-speak for: ‘Call yourself a parent? You haven’t got a bloody clue, have you mummy? Let’s call in the experts.’
So there we are, huddled around the font of all knowledge and time wasting: the internet. I find an appropriate video on You Tube to teach us both a thing or two about what is going on far above our heads and press play. E reaches out and placing his thumb and finger on the screen, widens them to make the video full-screen. How the hell did he know how to do that? I didn’t know you could do that… so who taught him? Even more depressing, perhaps he didn’t need to be taught…he just knew. There was nothing left to do: I crawled off into a darkened room to sob quietly to myself and mourn my technoincompetence.
However, there is a faint light at the end of my tunnel of technology desperation. I cling onto the memory of when E had just familiarised himself with my iStuff, around the age of two. We went to a friend’s house and he wanted to change the channel on the television – so he walked up to it and swiped the screen with his fingertips. Ha! Got you there, technoboy. Look, this is old technology, involving a small controller that often gets lost in the sofa cushions and runs out of batteries at the most inopportune moments. You might want intuitive, motion-controlled TV, but look what we have instead! And whilst our houses are full of slightly crappy, user-unfriendly items, no four year old will ever get the best of me. Because for as long as I am the only one of the two of us who knows how to change the station on the radio, or work the microwave, or series-record Scooby Doo, I am not too old and irrelevant: I am in charge. In fact, I might look in the loft for dad’s old Betamax with buttons the size of brake pedals and an eject that could jettison a small rocket into space. Ha. That’ll bloody teach him.
Fed up of technology? Go low-tech with Womb with a View, the new book from Mothering Frights writer Jodie Newman. Buy it from www.jodienewman.co.uk, where you can also read extracts. Try before you buy, if you like. Which would be a great scheme for people considering having kids, come to think about it.