You've probably seen it. The video of some guy's mother trying to explain the story line of The Matrix. As a movie lover, I get it. It's funny because she has no idea what she's talking about, she gets the names wrong, she wonders if Keanu might be gay. It's also funny because frankly, no one could really explain the plot of The Matrix in a linear fashion.
But, as a mother, it pisses me off. At least five times a day I'm asked some ridiculous question by my children about BeyBlades or sports or American Girl dolls. They aren't asking me for information, they're quizzing me to see if I'm paying attention.
It's true, I do not know the various powers of various Beyblades. Frankly, I'm still a little confused about what Beyblades are and how the TV show ties in to the spinning tops covering my living room floor. I cannot remember which baseball teams are National League and which are American League, and I can't keep the time periods for Samantha and Felicity straight. But I do know a lot of stuff that's equally useless.
I have a Bachelor's Degree in Humanities and Philosophy and a Master's Degree in Literature. I do not run around quizzing my kids about the differences between Shakespeare's romances and comedies or a priori and posteriori knowledge. I run my own content marketing consulting business but I do not laugh at my children because they don't know the difference between SEO and SEM.
I don't try and answer my children's questions and pay attention to their interests because I'm bored or need something else to try and keep straight in my middle aged brain. I don't try and make them interested in what interests me. I do my best to pay attention and I let them tease me because it's a privilege and a pleasure to be invited into their world.
I know that when they ask me about their interests they are asking me to connect with them the same way I connect with my friends over an episode of Scandal or Mad Men (or occasionally Shakespeare). I also know that this invitation to connect is most likely time sensitive. Some day, sooner than I'd like, they will no longer want me to keep up with their interests and obsessions. I will no longer be invited in to their worlds.
I imagine myself as that guy's mom. She did not sit down to watch The Matrix because she wanted to do so. She did not recount the plot to him because she thought it was a great movie or because she cares if Neo takes the red pill or the blue pill. She watched it and did her best to retell the story because for a brief shining moment she thought he was trying once again to connect with her. She was trying to understand what makes her little boy tick.
So sure, go ahead and laugh at everything she gets wrong, but ask yourself, what would happen if her son tried to describe her interests or her day? Would he have any better idea of what's going on in her head than she does what's going on in the movie?