One day, my child is going to think I’m stupid. The day is coming. I probably have a good ten years before it gets here, but it’s coming. And for me, that knowledge is one of the most terrifying things about parenting. This amazing being I grew in my womb, to whom I’ve devoted so much energy, whom I unreservedly adore—for whom I would give my life in a blink—is going to look at me derisively and shake his head. Or worse, give me a wan smile and keep his derision to himself because he feels sorry for me.
This is the way of parents and children. As the age of the child increases, so decreases the child’s estimation of the parents’ intellectual competence, reaching an ultimate low around 18-22 years.
I don’t think I have much of a prayer with my child, who just turned three and is using words like “telekinesis.” Yesterday, we were playing Teen Titans, and he asked me to play Raven and please “do the sarcasm” with him. (“Gee, I would love to do the sarcasm with you,” I replied sarcastically. Booyah.) I’m dreading the questions that I know will be coming over the next few years and am just thankful for Google, without which I’m pretty sure I’ll be lost.
Jack: Mom, why is the sky blue?
Me: Well, it has something to do with light. And the wavelengths of light. And…there you go. (*furiously googles “why is sky blue”*)
Jack: Mom, what was the Big Bang?
Me: Uh, well…it was when balls of gas exploded?
Jack: But why did they explode?
Me: Um…they were hot? (*furiously googles “big bang”*)
I’m trying to look at these future scenarios as opportunities to grow, to rediscover knowledge long lost or discover new knowledge. But I worry that Jack will realize just how deficient I am and lose faith in me. Christ, with Common Core math, I probably only have more like five years before he realizes I’m an idiot.
The child surpasses the parent. It is the way of things. I want it to be the way of things, because I want Jack to be more aware and more educated than I am. I want him to spend a year backpacking in Spain and conduct science experiments at far-off universities. To live among people different from him, to see things I’ve never seen. I want him to delve into a subject for the pure passion of it, to conquer everything there is to know in a field of study.
And when that happens, he won’t need me.
We just don’t need our mothers the way we used to. If I want to know what temperature to cook a filet, I Google it. How to get a stain out of a shirt? The best time to plant my spring bulbs? What to pack for a cruise? Google. The internet has rendered the days of calling up Mom for advice obsolete. Even when it comes to matters of the heart, I’ve tended to eschew asking my mother for advice. She’s only ever been married to my dad; how can she understand the intricacies of my romantic relationships? In almost any situation, why would I call my mother—a single human being with a single human being’s experience—when I have the wisdom and experience of all of humankind at my fingertips?
I wonder if it bothers my mother not to feel needed by me, if it ever makes her feel less connected to me than she did to her own mother. But I realize that the transmission of knowledge is only a tiny part of the parent-child relationship. Why not Google the answers to life’s everyday questions? That’s what the internet is for. I need my mother for the things the internet can’t do. When I’m having an episode of anxiety, only my mother can say, “This will end, I promise,” and bring me peace. When I doubt that I’ll ever publish, only my mother can say, “Don’t give up; I know you can do this,” and inspire me to keep writing.
That is what I want to be for my son. I’m ready to accept that I’ll never be educated or experienced enough to be the mother he deserves, and that one day he’ll be disappointed in me. I’m not going back for a Ph.D now. I can’t even remember the difference between a crocodile and an alligator, even though I’ve looked it up fifty times. But fuck it, one day that kid is going to need me to say “It’ll be OK” because I’m the only person who can make him believe it.
And—please step aside, Google—I will.
Related post: Motherhood is Making Me Stupid