Not knowing won’t stem the flow of advice

hal copyWe’d finally convinced the kids to leave the living room the other night for an extended period of time so we could catch an episode of Orange is the New Black.

We don’t want to ship them off for another session of summer camp, nor stay up until the wee hours when they finally go to bed, but we still want to watch our show, which last night meant begging them to stay out of the room, and then remaining on high alert lest they enter again, inadvertently getting an eyeful of the random soft-core porn scenes that seem to be a hallmark of the series.

This isn’t that blog, the one where I talk about balancing inappropriate television habits with lax summer bedtime schedules. It’s the one that starts out with sounds of distress coming from the basement.

Mike paused the show. We found Jack splayed supine on the basement floor.

“I broke it,” he said. “It won’t work.”

We were afraid this would happen. Jack has a friend who builds computers with his dad, which gave him the idea of building a gaming system of his own. Then he talked about building more and selling them, and then proceeding directly to the pinnacle of his own gaming system empire with stacks of money and a fleet of Lamborghinis.

Apparently building a computer is more complex than going to the store and picking out a monitor, computer, keyboard and choosing between either a Thundercats or Muppets design on the mousepad, which is kind of how I’d envisioned this going down.

Nope, this is a different deal, one with lots of choices: motherboard, processor, memory, graphics card, power supply, hard drive, and a cool looking case for the whole thing that looks like a spaceship when you turn it on.

I presumed there were parameters for what kinds of components actually worked together, and that Jack (who takes after his mom in attention to detail), might be prone to overlooking the fine print in favor of a component that’s priced well, or some other factor.

We worried that there were expensive lessons in Jack’s future, and we wouldn’t be much help.

When Colin wanted to play soccer and there was no coach available, we both learned how to play soccer (kind of) and how to coach soccer (mostly).

When the same kid wanted to play baseball and nobody signed up to be umpire, I learned how to play baseball (not really) and how to be an umpire (er … took six hours of clinics that confused and frightened me).

We’ve demonstrated we will tow the line for our kids in almost any endeavor.

But neither of us is up to the technical aspect of this operation. If Jack wants to spend his money on computer components that he ultimately may not be able to splice together to make a workable machine, that’s totally his deal.

We cautioned him on this.

I know,” he said and then “I KNOW, can you please stop talking about this now?”

We shrugged and shut up.

Things started to go south pretty much right off the bat when Jack realized the motherboard and processor he ordered weren’t compatible. But he rallied and exchanged the components for the right ones, shelling out the extra funds for shipping, and learning a lesson in reading fine print.

But after exchanging things for other things, we were still here, with a distraught kid on the basement floor, half a computer on the counter that wasn’t lighting up like a spaceship, and no idea how to fix it or what to say.

I don’t know computers, but I know when you’ve been noodling a problem and monkeying with it for the better part of the day and it’s now creeping up on midnight and your parents STILL can’t get through an entire episode of the really inappropriate show they started trying to watch hours ago, sometimes the best thing to do is just go to bed.

“Jack, seriously,” I said, “your brain needs a rest. If you get a good night’s sleep, you’ll think of something to try in the morning.”

I could practically guarantee it.

…. unless he’d already fried something, or broken something, or the computer gods were frowning on him, or who knows what …

Why even do this? Why not just pick out something at Best Buy to take home, plug in and use? Something that, when it flashes the blue screen of death, the local whiz guy can come to your house and restore?

But it’s his thing. If nothing else, we can lend a sympathetic ear and once in a while throw in a pithy slice of parenting wisdom:

Measure twice, cut once.

If you have to eat a frog, do it first thing in the morning.

If you keep poking your brother, so help me God I’m going to cut both your hands off and feed them to the lizard.

So Mike and I were talking over options for crisis support this morning. Mike has family members who are whizzes at this kind of stuff – in addition to being whizzes with pipes and wires and making houses and installing car stereos.

I mean, really, I married into the MacGyvers. Somehow, Mike failed to inherit these genes, but we still have access.

We were discussing who would get our request and promise of a six-pack, when Jack came downstairs – more awake and energized than normal ever for 8 am on a summer morning.

“I got it,” he said, and disappeared downstairs.

I stared after him, hoping whatever thing he was trying wouldn’t irreparably sizzle the motherboard or set the house on fire.

“I’m such a dummy,” he said, reappearing 10 minutes later. “I had the power hooked up wrong. Thing works fine now.”

So … Dad and Mom may not know computers, but we do understand the power of a good night’s sleep.

Score one for the ‘rents.

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