My son, Henry, has one of those cheap little computer jobbies you can buy in Walmart for like sixty bucks. His older sister got one first and so when he eventually got old enough to mess with hers his mom and I did the only thing we could do and we got him his own.
It’s nothing fancy, mind you. It’s not an iPhone 5 for kids or anything like that. It does basic crap and that’s the end of it. They can draw some pictures with it, play some easy games, and even take a photo if they want to, though no one has bothered with that little added bonus yet as far as I can tell.
The computer itself is a little educational, I guess, but mostly it’s just this thing that the kids can mess around with when it’s raining outside or we’re on a longish car ride and I don’t feel like hearing their fighting or their baloney. But what makes it all kind of special, what makes the purchase of the computer (and I use that term with the utmost looseness, trust me) worth it, is that watching Henry try and use the thing is kind of this brilliant microcosmic portrayal of how so much of all of this so-called ‘brilliant technology’ that has changed the world for the better is just a bunch of donkey fudge.
See, Henry is made of old stuff, real stuff, I think. Then kind of stuff that’s disappearing from this world as our kids become more and more adjusted to a life spent staring at screens. He’s got this kind of old school soul about him, like a lot of three-year-old kids do. He’d way rather nibble at the carcass of a dead bird then taste a tomato. And he’s not at all interested in listening to adults blowing hot winds at him concerning ‘right from wrong’ and what have you. Henry doesn’t care about valuable things; he’d just as soon stab a hell hole into a Van Gogh with a ketchup-y fork than look at it hanging up on a wall for more than 1.3 seconds.
That’s how kids should feel about serious stuff, I think. That’s how they ought to react and rebel when whe force feed them all of this wellness junk and all of this computer shizzle so early on in their lives.
And when it comes to the valuable learning tools available for growing toddlers via modern technological advances and inventions, Hank would much rather pop his own eyeball out with the front-loading shovel of a Tonka toy than spend a moment of his precious life using a keyboard to connect the letter ‘A’ with a picture of a friggin’ apple.
Respect, I say.
So, naturally, Henry treats his computer like a lot more of us ought to be treating our computers. He treats it like what it really is. He treats it like dirt.
He tries, mind you. He tries to enjoy his computer time when it comes around, but I just don’t think he has it in him. I hand him the thing and he powers it on and so far/so good, he appears to know what’s up. But then he starts in on a game or an app or whatever and within a minute or two something he wants to make happen isn’t happening, something…some button or command isn’t registering with him and he finds himself staring at a screen that represents total and complete disappointment.
The thing is, you see, the computer lacks life. It fakes life and it pretends life, but there’s no life anywhere in it or even within a million miles of it’s circuit board guts. And Henry just can’t relate to that. He needs life, this kid does. He needs the computer to do what he tells it to do, just like a rubber snake does whatever the hell he tells it to do, every time he tells it, no questions asked.
Soon enough, I watch my boy do what I want to do almost every day. He pokes at his frozen screen with his jabby finger and then when nothing happens, when nothing changes or comes to life, he lets out the wail of a widow from an old Irish poem.
I smile to myself. Oh my lad. Poor fella.
Then he punches the computer in it’s stupid face.
I love you, Henry. My God, how I love you son.
He cries. He blows a snot bubble out of his nostril without realizing it. His frustration is pea soup in the room and I can feel his hot pee-pee working its way toward a damn burst. These computers make him crazy. These computers make him sick. He turns it on and he’s smiling and hopeful. He moves down through it’s fake alleys and false passages and he ends up flipping himself off of the fake leather chair down onto the floor in a fit of hot-blooded toddler rage.
I smile at my boy, my child who hates his computer. He doesn’t see me, of course, he’s down there sobbing and growling and covering his ratty head with his yard-dirt arms and wishing to hell that he could just figure out exactly how to make his computer break in half like a busted cob of corn.
I wander over to him and touch his head gently.
He snarls at me and lunges and tries to bite my ankle just as he begins crying harder, his technological frustrations eating him alive.
“It’s okay, buddy,” I whisper at him softly. “It’s just a stupid computer.”
And with that, he lunges at me again and bites into my Vans slip-on and I understand perfectly well that, in so many ways, computers have ruined every little thing.
Image: Bielanko Private