I'm still haunted by memories of high school dances, where I watched others crowd into the middle of the floor, jumping and laughing and writhing around in the luscious elixir of their popularity and their deafening dance beats, while I sulked alone in the corner, waiting for it to be over.
And that's just chaperoning. When I was actually a teenager, it was even worse.
Occasionally I’ll encounter people who claim to recall their high school years fondly, as “the best years of my life,” and I’ll wonder how these people are classified in the same species as me.
Geeks are smart people with an obsession, usually related to an alternate reality or some realm of hyper-specialized knowledge. Nerds are smart people who lack social skills. The differences among the sub-categories of “Nerds” are subtle, but perceptible if you spend enough time around them.
Observing high school dances has taught me that nerds are rarely happy, geeks are only happy when actively engaged in what they like, and everyone else is only happy if they have music, friends, and no current love interest.
Now that I’m a parent, I want my child to grow up happy. What can I do to make sure she inherits my wife’s confidence and popularity, and not my dweebness?
I found the answer by reading Neil Swidey’s Nov. 1 article in Boston Globe Magazine, titled “Why an iphone Could Actually Be Good for Your 3-Year-Old.”
The idea of giving my pre-school aged daughter some handheld wireless device seems completely absurd. But by the time I made it halfway through the article, I was almost ready to do it.
Then I came to my senses again.
Swidey quotes several child development experts citing the benefits of putting the Internet in the hands of your preschooler. The iphone or itouch interfaces are much more friendly to little fingers than a mouse and keyboard, putting them in control of whatever applications you choose to install for them. They become active, confident knowledge seekers, rather than passive learners.
Sounds wonderful, right?
Swidey forgets that, though they are marketed as social lubricants, these gadgets actually forge isolation. The idea that my daughter could become curious about “Kipper the Dog,” look him up online, and be done, without any aid from me, feels icky; not just because I want to feel needed, and not just because Kipper creeps me out, but because interaction with me is more meaningful (in theory, at least) than interaction with a machine alone.
Obviously, we have books around that she’ll paw her own way through once she learns to read. For now, lets watch “Kipper” together.
Because, invariably, the kids who are happiest are actually the ones who have strong relationships with their parents.
Even if one of the parents is a colossal dweeb.