The simple note from a boy at her school said it all: “Will you go out with me please?”
The reaction from my 11-year-old daughter said it all too.
As this fifth-grader considered what to do next, she could’ve sought advice from a number of places, including her parents, her friends, even her sisters.
Instead, she went to an app.
As she considered the advances of this classmate Tuesday, she went to her iPod and found an app called “iChoose,” which promised to help her make difficult decisions. It told her that she shouldn’t go out with the boy. It also told her she didn’t love him.
She also tried something from my childhood, pulling petals from a flower and saying, “He loves me; he loves me not.” Indeed, he loves her not.
Just for clarification’s sake, she’s lucky the iPod and the flower confirmed this for her. She knows she’s not allowed to date until she’s 16 years old, a point she conceded a few years ago while negotiating something else with us. At 11, she’s way too young to understand love and these feelings inside her, even though every 11-year-old will argue differently.
This, by the way, was the single-best negotiation in my life. I recommend every parent of a young girl works out this detail before it’s too late. Strangely enough, it was part of the negotiations to get her that iPod.
It also reminds me that the prophecy of a T-shirt I received last year could finally be coming true: “Guns don’t kill people. Dads with pretty daughters do.” It was funny when my then-10-year-old daughter gave it to me. Now it’s a mantra for this dad about what will happen if a bright-eyed boy crosses the lines set by decency and Dad.
If you have any doubts that technology takes center stage in the lives of teens and preteens, wonder no more. The best way for my 11-year-old to process her feelings was to seek answers from a device. There’s an app for that, she figured. And, sure enough, she had no trouble finding an application for her portable device to help her decide.
She did tell her mother about what happened, showing her the piece of paper. Technology took its toll there too, as a photograph found its way to Facebook on Tuesday night. My wife also sent a copy of the picture to my smartphone so I could agonize over this during my election night shift in the office.
The world of my children is so different from than the one I lived through when I came of age 25 years ago. Now it’s all about texting and apps, instead of the old system of asking friends to do reconnaissance work for you before you asked someone out or considered an offer for a date.
There are so many ways to get information now, it’s even more important to help children identify where the good sources and bad sources are.
I’m still weighing how to tell her using a computerized random number generator isn’t the best way to make decisions in life, especially because it gave her the answer I wanted this time.
It’s really no different than the “Magic 8-Ball” popular back in my adolescence. I just hope she doesn’t discover what we did, that the answer can change if you keep asking. Countless times we kept asking and shaking that silly toy until we got the answer we wanted to hear.
Indeed, these gadgets only help us confirm what we already know is true in our hearts. That’s something that will never change.
I will give this boy credit for one thing: He’s the only person in this story not using technology. He used an old-school scrap of paper to express himself. That may give him bonus points with the girl’s dad if he ever asks her out again. He just has to wait until she turns 16 first.