My mom is awesome.
My mom turns 65 next month. She doesn’t speak English, doesn’t know how to drive a car, or operate a camera properly. She brings me the telephone to delete the numbers from the caller ID. She loves her big TV and playing music DVDs very loudly over it, but that’s the extent of her tech knowledge. Well, it was until a purchased a laptop a few months ago.
I bought a laptop because I wanted to be mobile, but I also got it because I need her to get online. Phone calls abroad are expensive and the internet will be a great way for us to communicate and share photos. She had expressed interest. Many of her favourite television shows, magazines, and celebrities have a web presence, and she was curious about what was out there. She often asked me to look things up for her. I think she realized she was missing out on something.
The first time I set the laptop before her, she laughed and tried to be dismissive.
“What am I going to do with that? I don’t know anything about that stuff,” she said.
I could see right through that. I set up a user account for her as well as a Google account, and then I showed her how to turn the laptop on, log in, and open a browser. That’s about all she could handle that first day. She didn’t know what to do online or where to go. Sadly, I didn’t really either. I wasn’t familiar with the Spanish-speaking web and things that are second nature to me such as handling the mouse were new and challenging for her.
I set up Google in Spanish for her and that pretty much did it. On the second day, she wanted to know where she could see shoes. Then she wanted to confirm a rumour that her favourite music artist is releasing a new record. Then she wanted to look up a magazine online. She browsed ebay, YouTube, and Twitter. I showed her how to navigate through the world wide web – how to search, what to click on, how to bookmark favourite websites.
I leave the laptop on the kitchen table. Every morning when I go in there for my cup of cafe con leche, I find her on there browsing the web. She usually looks at shopping sites or the news. She’s online every day now, a couple of hours in the early morning before she gets going on the rest of her day, and a few hours in the late afternoon. Sometimes she calls me needing help. She’ll open a strange window, forget how to turn off a loud YouTube video, or she’s confused at the dozen tabs open on her browser. She laughs at her newbieness and appears to enjoy herself. She even made her first online purchase just before Christmas.
There are some blocks. She’ll read email, but not respond. I suppose she lacks confidence in her typing skills. I told my cousin in Cuba to email my mom. I thought that might be a good incentive, but no. She reads the emails and then tells me what to reply. I’m also working on getting her comfortable with Skype. I want us to be able to do video calls while I’m in Australia.
I should add that, unlike my dad who has never even been to a mall or a movie theater in this country, my mom is hip. She may think that “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson and “X Factor” judge L.A. Reid are the same person, but, hey, she tunes into “American Idol” (she likes Scotty McCreery) and the “X Factor”. She knew Beyoncé gave birth before I did and, for some reason, she loves “The Transporter” and its star Jason Statham.
My mom loves music and she often bemoaned buying a full CD to get a song or two she liked. For Christmas, I bought her an iPod nano, which I figured was either genius or really stupid. She looked at it curiously as I explained what it was. She wasn’t ignorant. She’s seen my old iPod and my current iPhone. She didn’t resist the idea at all. She hasn’t used it yet though. There’s always a period of adjustment. My sister bought her a dock for it and she finally set it up in her bedroom just last week.
Being of a generation that practically lives online, and I work online as well, I meet a lot of (mostly older) people who are afraid of the Internet and changing technology. It’s refreshing that my mom isn’t like that. She’s sensible about privacy concerns and while Facebook may not be in her future, I’m glad she’s not afraid and that she’s embracing of the technology. Maybe I get it from her.