When Col recently asked me what a torpedo was, I pulled out my 2138-page dictionary and we looked it up. But when he asked, “how did they pull whales up on ships after they harpooned them?” I turned on my computer and did a Google search. When we couldn’t identify the orange, 2-humped spider living in our gooseberry bush in any field guide, the internet revealed in less than a minute that it was a cat-faced spider.
And yet, I haven’t quite come clean about the internet to my children, as in “oh, those four hundred and fifty six questions you ask everyday? You can get the answers in just one click on the internet.”
I’m not sure if I’m delaying springing the concept of the world wide web on the kids because I was 26 before I even had an e-mail address and I’m just stewing in my own moldy nostalgia, or if it’s that the internet seems like some sort of gateway drug leading to, I don’t know…the internet?
Last week I told Col I would play Legos with him after I sent out a quick e-mail message. “Oh,” he said knowingly, “that’s like when you send out a message and the wind carries it off.” Precisely.
And it’s not that I want Col and Rose to scrub their buckskin clothes on a washboard down by the creek – the creek with a healthy leech population (we just read the part in On the Banks of Plum Creek where Laura wades in Plum Creek and gets covered in blood-sucking leeches, Oy! And then Ma says “a few leeches are nothing to cry about.”). But nevertheless, I’m ambivalent about all this technology, which is a little like being ambivalent about Halloween candy and waking up on November 1st drooling chocolate and surrounded by empty fun-size wrappers. Because here I am, blogging.
And part of it is that I turn on the computer to do something very specific – pay a bill, work on a story, send an e-mail – but first I check some important website, which leads me to a link I want to read…and twenty minutes later I’ve clicked myself so far out to sea, I can barely make out my original task on the shore.
Dan recently found a box of letters from the mid-nineties – they were so precious and quaint. Letters from his parents, his brother, friends, and stacks of hand-written letters that I had sent him from approximately 1.7 miles across town. It was 1995; we didn’t have e-mail or tiny phones we could carry in our pockets, and often we didn’t even know each others whereabouts for like, a whole day or two, which seemed perfectly normal, as normal as sitting down with a cup of coffee and enjoying a hand-written letter.
Do your kids know of the fathomless depths of the online universe? What’s your internet policy with your children? And with yourself?