Our Electronic Incompatibility

This post originally appeared over at Sylwia Presley’s site, as part of the BritMums guest post match-up. Given how many gushy posts I’ve put up here about how fab DorkyDad is, I figured he wouldn’t mind just one confessing the only real trouble-spot in our relationship…

DorkySon son spent the other morning walking round the house saying, “The small one is the iPod. The big one is the iPad.” At 27 months, his grasp of technology is somewhat terrifying.

He is more than capable of turning on both the iPod and the iPad, unlocking the screen, and scrolling to find whatever app he wants to play with. Sometimes it’s Jelly Doodle… sometimes it’s Create A Car…  sometimes he just likes to tap on the clock and see what time it is in Melbourne. He can keep himself happy for hours tapping away on the touchscreen, and has even executed a couple of actions (perhaps by accident, but who knows) that I didn’t previously know about.

It is just as well that someone in the family is tech-literate, because it is not a skill that DorkyDad or I have. In fact, it is one of the very few areas of discord in our marriage; we suffer from severe electronic incompatibility.

For two people who both pride themselves on being clear communicators, it is extraordinary that we seem unable to have even the simplest conversation about technology without it descending into argument. With computers in particular, it’s like we’re talking two different languages. DorkyDad will ask me how to do something, but he asks in such a roundabout way that all I can do is stand and look at him blankly while I figure out what exactly it is he needs. Usually it’s nothing more than how to add an attachment to an email, or re-name a file, so when I’ve eventually decoded his jargon, I’ll walk over and try to show him… but then he’ll get hacked off that I’m standing too close and breathing in his ear. So then I’ll stand a little further back, and try to talk him through it… but to anyone who’s not an IT expert, it’s pretty difficult to do that without seeing the screen. He shakes his head at me, and scowls, and shouts that he doesn’t see the menu option that I’m talking about. So I’ll offer to sit down and do it myself… but he’ll just keep grumbling for a minute before slamming his laptop shut, and muttering something about doing it ‘another time’.

We have the same problem all over the house. DorkyDad will accidentally sit on the remote control and make the TV screen go blank, and it’ll take half an hour of arguing before I can wrestle it out of his hands to fix the darn thing. He’ll unintentionally do something to his iPod that leaves it stuck playing the same track again and again… and I’ll find him jabbing his finger at it angrily, but achieving nothing. At the moment our printer is out of toner… and in all seriousness he suggested buying a new one rather than trying to change the cartridge. Given the tension it’s probably going to cause I am (almost) tempted to agree with him.

The thing is, nine times out of ten, when he wants help with something tech-related, I know how to do it, I just don’t know how to explain to him how to do it. I am quite sure he would say the same of me. Our electronic gulf is so wide, I am not sure there is much we can do about it, except keep muddling along, and trying not to throw anything too big at each other. Remote controls are probably okay, laptops not so much.

Our great hope is that within a few years, DorkySon will have advanced his skills even further, and he will be able to fix things for both of us. He can act as the mediator, the computer expert, keeper of the remote control, and changer of the toner cartridge. For that, the current smudgy fingerprints on my screen, and cookie crumbs on my keyboard, are more than worth it.

In the interest of fairness I should say that since I wrote this, DorkyDad has, in fact, been out, purchased a new toner cartridge, and replaced it, all by himself… However, he’s also bought a new phone that he’s trying to get to grips with, so wish us luck with that! 

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