It was morning. We'd been up for a couple of hours, and my 10-month-old was sitting in my bedroom. Suddenly, she started grunting. Kind of whining and reaching for my dresser. I thought she might be pointing toward the kitchen so I ran to get her Cheerios. She rejected them. I grabbed blocks that were nearby. She wailed harder. I sang "Where Is Thumbkin?" She kicked, screamed and cried actual tears.
This was Zadie's first tantrum.
I watched -- shocked, awed, and, yes, amused because those early meltdowns are adorably hilarious. Now that we're in throes of Terrible Twos, I would do anything for a preverbal baby fit. The only problem with her not having any words during this particular incident was that it took me a few minutes before I realized that what she wanted was my iPad.
She'd never even played with an iPad before. We had yet to load ours up with toddler-friendly apps like Peek-a-Boo Barn or (gulp) Fruit Ninja. She didn't know where the power button is or how to swoosh the arrow and unlock the screen. Today, all of that's as easy for Zadie as climbing up a jungle gym and going down a slide. I figured she was drawn to the shiny screen. I didn't want to give in to her demands and let her play with it, not because I had the concerns I have today about screen time, but because I was afraid she'd break my iPad or, at the very least, drool all over it.
I love my gadgets. I am a tech addict, a Mac snob and always connected. With enough hindsight and a few more tantrums under my belt, I am willing to admit that part of Zadie flipping out for the iPad that day was a symptom of watching me use it all the time. Which made her outburst all the more perfect and funny and threatening.
A few months later, we bought her one of those made-for-babies laptops to help get us through a flight from New York to Florida. The one we chose came highly recommended by friends because you can program it with your kid's name and the toy will talk directly to her. I didn't realize that wouldn't work -- Zadie is not part of Leapfrog's name database -- and I also didn't guess that the plastic purple computer would attempt to say my child's name while reading pretend email messages aloud to her. Or blog posts. Yes, if you press the right puppy-shaped button, a cartoon voice will announce, "New blog post!" and then start narrating a personal anecdote about going to the park.
Despite enjoying her toy computer for at least three solid minutes every three months, Zadie isn't blogging, or even talking about blog posts, yet. (She certainly doesn't know I'm writing one about her at this very moment.) But, like most toddlers I meet, she is tech-savvy in a way that not even today's hyper-digital tweens and teens were at her age. Ubiquitous screens are a given. TV shows arrive on demand. Phone calls mean you can see the person you are talking to. Mommy and Daddy are on their gadgets all the time.
I can (and do) wrestle with this from a psychological perspective - what is all this technology doing to my kid? I embrace it too. What did parents who have to lie next to a crib in the dark to get their babies to sleep do before iPhones? But sometimes I think that in the same way it took me thinking about that first tantrum to understand what it really meant, it's important to listen to the words our babies are using when they talk about tech. They are telling us what they know, what they need, and how they are being shaped by a world that is different from ours.
Below are some of my favorite Zadie one-liners about technology. I'd also love to hear what your kids have said that was unexpected, nonsensical, scary, funny ... Tweet them to @HuffPostParents using #techietoddler and we'll add them to the slideshow below.
"Mommy, we have to wait. The show is loading."
"Can I watch a game on the iPad now?"
"Can we call Gamma? NO NO NO, NOT ON THE PHONE. I want to SEE HER ON THE COMPUTER."
"I think this is not charged." (About a toy phone.)
"What's a commercial?"
"Who are you talking to there?" (Pointing to my e-mail.)
"I left my phone in the car. Can you go get it so I can call Gamma?"
"Stop doing the computer because you have to be a princess, NOT A MOMMY."
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