In the past year, I’ve probably roasted cauliflower more than two dozen times.
But, if you asked me right now how I do it, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I have to look up the recipe online every single time.
I have a theory that the information refuses to stick in my brain because I know I don’t need it to – that’s what Google is for.
The search engine handles about 100 billion queries every month – basically the same number of times my daughter asks me “why” between 6 and 7 am on an average morning.
And, just like I never accept the first answer Google serves up as the right one, so, too, does my child never seem to accept the first answer to her questions. They are always followed by another query, another demand.
Parenting is constantly being bombarded by questions. Not just the ones she’s always asking, but the ones I’m always asking myself.
Some are basic: Is she hungry? Warm enough? What do you mean she is up at 4 am again?
Some are existential: When you haven’t washed your hair in three days or done your own laundry in ages and ask yourself how, exactly, this became your life?
And then some are the questions you never contemplated needing to ask at all: How do you teach kids to blow their nose?
Of all the various things I was expecting to need to teach my child – reading, riding a bike, using the toilet, blowing her nose was never one I thought about. It seems like a simple enough concept: Blow. Your. Nose. But, it’s turning out to be one of those life skills that is taking a bit of time to master.
Of course, I could Google it. I’m sure I’d find half a dozen methods I could use to teach her: photos of celebrity babies getting their noses blown, a list called “this baby just blew her nose and you won’t believe what happens next,” and probably, if I looked long enough, a piece of expensive baby gear that is just the thing to tackle the task.
The Internet takes the village required to raise a child and turns it into a metropolis.
The advice on teething or fever or first foods no longer just comes from your mother or the neighbour that has already raised six kids, but also from the celebrity doulas and hilarious mommy bloggers and Facebook groups.
There are a lot of positives in that. The isolation of the early days of parenting a newborn can be eased immensely by the simple ability to go online any time of day or night – especially night – and find a community of people going through the same thing you are.
The web gives us more options, more choices, more points of view upon which to draw as we decide on everything from discipline strategies to raising healthy eaters to coming up with crafts for a rainy morning.
But, as I watch my daughter navigate the world, I can’t help but wonder if something is being lost in society’s shift towards always being able to count on the Internet to answer our questions and guide our decision-making.
Young children learn through observation, through asking the people they know and trust questions, and learning from those answers. They learn through experimentation, experience. They don’t search “how to grow up” online.
If I spent less time online, and more time learning like I did as a child, would I know more?
I admit it can be maddening sometimes to try and see the world a toddler’s way.
But I have to say, when I do, the lessons of those few minutes always stay with me in a way all those Google searches don’t.