“Do NOT come in here!” I yelled, trying to project as much authority as a person can project whilst sitting on the potty.
The shadows of my son’s feet paused at the crack under the bathroom door, and I tensed myself, getting ready to pounce across the room in case the door needed, as doors sometimes do, to be slammed shut.
A few years ago, I decided it was easier to leave the bathroom door unlocked, rather than to deal with a kid pounding on the other side of it yelling, “I WANNA COME IN! WHY CAN’T I COME IN? LET ME IN! HEY, WHY DID YOU JUST START CRYING?”
Part of being a parent is surrendering any notion of privacy or dignity, so this arrangement worked just fine for me, until our son Evan started Facetiming with his friends from first grade on my wife’s phone, usually under NSA-style supervision (if only from his parents, if not also the NSA). Now, at any moment, Evan has the ability to broadcast our family into the home of another family. Mostly this is no big deal, so long as Evan exercises his nonexistent discretion in what he chooses to broadcast.
I made myself as presentable as possible in three nanoseconds, listening to the conversation just outside the door for cues on the likelihood of an invasion.
That afternoon, when we’d picked Evan up from his after-school program, his teacher mentioned that Evan had a phone number from his friend, Katy, in his pocket.
“She told me I have to call this number tonight,” he said, holding up a scrap of paper and looking confused.
“Wait, you got digits today?” I asked.
He stared blankly at me.
When I was a kid, a phone call to a girl’s house meant sweaty palms, a knotted stomach, hanging up after a few six-digit practice dials, and, perhaps worst of all, having to talk briefly to whichever family member answered first. Sometimes, if you’d really angered the universe, it was her big brother. “Oh, you want to talk to my SISTER, do you? Why?”
Technology has shortened the curve, making kids want to call each other earlier in life, mostly because everyone they know has a phone fused to their hand, like a tree limb that rested on another tree limb for too long.
When I was a kid, iPhones didn’t exist, because Steve Jobs was wasting his time inventing computers that my dad wouldn’t put any games on.
“Look, you can use the mouse to drag a can of spray paint around the screen.” That’s as good as it got.
If Steve Jobs had gotten his priorities straight and invented the iPhone first, perhaps girls would have been giving me their digits in school, too. Or perhaps we’re still waiting on the technology that could make me cool.
“Wanna see my room?” Evan asked his friend, and the shadows of his feet disappeared as he ran to the stairs. Crisis averted.
In a few moments, decency restored, I wandered into the kitchen and pointed upstairs.
“Is that weird? Or cute?” I asked.
“I can’t decide. It might be both,” my wife, Kara, said. We’re still sorting out how to handle our kids’ interactions with technology, since our only relevant experiences from that age revolve around Super Mario Bros on the Nintendo. If our kids ever want to jump on the turtle shell just right to get a zillion extra lives, we have them totally covered.
From upstairs, we heard Evan’s voice: “Wanna see my parents’ room?”
For the record, no, our bedroom is not an embarrassing pigsty. It’s so orderly and clean that we wouldn’t want our perfect housekeeping habits to make anyone else’s family feel insufficient by comparison, though.
“Go shut our door!” Kara yelled, and I bolted up the stairs. It’s also possible that the iPhone could have waited a few more years to be invented.
You can bust in on Mike Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.