Ana Veciana-Suarez

Tech support for parents, that’s what children are good for


I am, perhaps, a bit selfish about my grown children. I believe that putting up with their shenanigans — too numerous and varied to mention here — has entitled me to some kind of lifetime reward. And I claim this in a manner I suspect is far more common among my generation than anyone will admit.

My belated compensation? Tech support.

When I’m ready to throw myself against a screen, I usually reach out to my youngest, who knows his way around a computer better than most. A tablet, too, and a smartphone, a software program — anything really that makes me feel stupider than a doorknob.

Let me give you a for instance. Or two. Or 20.

When I bought my minivan earlier in the summer, I drove around for a couple of days without any fancy gadget connected to its Bluetooth. I hadn’t gotten around to reading the manual. See, that’s what I do. Read. The. Manual. A revolutionary idea, I know, I know, but one that works wonders for me.

Then Baby Boy (my second favorite nickname for him, after Negative Integer) climbed into the vehicle and nearly split a seam laughing.

“You want to read what?”

“The manual,” I managed through clenched teeth.

“The … the …” He couldn’t get the words out.

I cranked up the engine — the old-fashioned way, yes, with a key — and he did I-don’t-know-what to the dashboard screen. My smartphone connected just like that and so did his.

“How did you do that?” I asked. (He drives a very nontech clunker, passed down, and down, and down, from his older brothers.)

“Oh, Mom!” he sighed.

Then late one evening the other week, I was patiently working myself through an Excel spreadsheet. Because I’m not nearly as familiar with this program as I am with Word (my electronic BFF), Excel demands incredible focus and many visits to the blue question mark tab on the top right hand corner. But hey, I can plod my way through.

Then he poked his head into my home office to inquire what I was doing. I replied in the tone of the tech-weary.

“Oh, Mom!” he sighed.

Do I need to explain what he did next?

After he left for his last semester of college over the weekend, I immediately curled into a fetal position. Big-time withdrawal. No, I wouldn’t miss tripping over his sneakers at the front door. Nor would I yearn for the predictable disappearance of my restaurant leftovers from the refrigerator. And that stack of actuarial study books on the dining room table? Glad they’re snug in his backpack and not messing up my decor.

But … but I will definitely miss that johnny-on-the-spot tech troubleshooting.

For somebody my age — do you even hear the implication in those two little words? — I’m fairly techy. I know my way around social media and often tell my amused young’uns that, with instructions in hand, I can master just about anything. And I have, from a personal website to Quicken. I even use my phone apps religiously.

Easy peasy, right? Well, no. I am what social observers call a digital immigrant. Not that it matters to me. I don’t mind rewiring my brain to make room for a phone (or a stove or a dishwasher) that’s smarter than I am.

But not reading a manual? Ignoring it, belittling it, circumventing it? A manual, for pete’s sake! I don’t get it.

Oh, Baby Boy, I worry about these world-disrupting changes!

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