| Musings |

Continuing Education

“They’re not necessary, Ma,” my daughter told me. “You’re the only one who still uses yours”


any years ago, I was driving upstate on Route 42 and wondered how much farther it was to our destination. I didn’t realize I actually spoke those words aloud until a little voice in the back seat piped up and asked if I knew where I was going.

“I can tell you where to go,” he offered, all of six years old.

“I know where to go,” I told him. “What did you think I did before you were born?”

I glanced at the rearview mirror and caught the flash of alarm on his face. I was certain I could hear him think it was an absolute miracle I survived long enough to give birth to him.

Fast forward many years, and while I’ve learned to keep my thoughts silent in the presence of my children for many reasons other than bonus driving directions, I’ve realized that children often believe they are Heaven-sent navigators for their clearly witless parents. They get savvier as they get older, their advice given in hints dropped like breadcrumbs in a forest.

And lest you think I miss these breadcrumbs because the birds get to them first, I have realized long ago that I am the bird.

It’s only fair I spread the wisdom.

An Important Thing I Learned from My Adult Daughter: Landlines Are Over.

“They’re not necessary, Ma,” my daughter told me. “You’re the only one who still uses yours.”


The only people who call me on our landline are a distant cousin of my mother-in-law’s, my friend Miriam, and telemarketers. My daughter has been calling on my cell phone for years, claiming my landline has terrible reception. I thought it was cell phones with the reception problem, but this may be the faulty reasoning of a parent.

While I use my landline rarely, I still think they’re important, and I told her so.

“What if there’s an emergency?” I asked her. I felt smugly adult in this conversation, making a completely reasonable point.

“What kind of an emergency?” she responded, with gentle patience.

“We could lose power, and you wouldn’t be able to charge your phone,” I said. I was thinking of a power outage, but she was miles ahead.

“In the case of a natural disaster,” she said, “the phone lines would be down anyway.”

I couldn’t think of a logical argument to dispute this, and I take her seriously, because my daughter is a person who predicted Covid months before its arrival. (“We are due for a pandemic,” she’d said. ”I don’t understand why no one is concerned.”) Anyway, if I’m being honest, we hardly ever have a charged phone in our house. The (dead) cordless phones tend to wash up in places like the top of the dryer or the kitchen counter.

I think of all this every time the landline rings, but I still have no plans to get rid of it.

A Son Advises: Use Digital Wallet

About two years ago, I left my house without my wallet and was on the highway when I realized I needed gas and had no way to pay for it. (I’d switched bags that morning but had forgotten to transfer my wallet.) It was mortifying at the time, and mortifying now, too, as I relay this because it was the second time in as many weeks that this happened. Because I was close to Lakewood, I called my son who was learning there at the time. He usually has good ideas, and I thought in the worst case, he could drive over with his own credit card.

“You should have your credit card on your phone,” he told me.

In some vague way, I was aware of this concept, but didn’t think it was relevant to me. I told him I didn’t think I’d ever loaded that information onto my phone. Undeterred, he explained how to find it, and lo and behold, there was my credit card information, stored on my phone.

This was a game changer. I’m one phone later, and it was one of the first things I loaded on the new device.

Son Also Advises: Cars Drive on Their Own

One summer day, as I was on an errand with my son, he asked if I was aware my car could practically drive alone. As I mentioned previously, once you have children, you will never drive unassisted. While I still felt no burning need for further driving assistance, I asked him to continue and was informed of lane assist, auto brights, and adaptive cruise control. Between these three car features, apparently, one barely needs to drive one’s car. The car drives for you.

My son said he discovered these essential car features after perusing the car manual, which, as anyone with teen or young adult sons will know, is more compelling reading than any book on the bestseller list. (He said the car show was also informative. Personally, I find car shows even more mind-numbing than car manuals, but I’m eternally grateful they often fall out the last day of Chol Hamoed Pesach.)

Wanting to be a good sport, I tried some of these features. Lane assist stiffens the steering wheel and flashes enigmatic displays of arrows and roads on my dashboard that I’ve little desire to decipher. I didn’t bother with cruise control — it’s been around for a while — and despite my son’s assurances that it’s now “adaptive” and upgraded and modernized, I refused to try it.

I did like auto brights, very much, but I can never remember how to activate it. No matter. I’ve been driving for years without it and have been doing fine.

Another Son Says We Need Energy Efficient Thermostats

Last year, I was informed by my son that our thermostats weren’t energy efficient, and, as a result, were causing our bills to be unnecessarily high. They ought to be replaced, he said, and he was just the person to do it.

He researched, and then ordered new thermostats, installed them alone, and connected them to WIFI. I don’t know how to control them from my phone, but this still feels like a significant upgrade.

Another Thing I Learned from My Daughter: No One Buys Mattresses in Stores Anymore

My daughter buys her mattresses online. They come deflated, she tells me, and when they arrive, you take them out of the box and they self-inflate. “It’s the coolest thing.” Hers even came with a free pillow.

As entertaining a spectacle as this must’ve been, I remain unmoved. I’m a fan of our mattress store (Taubus), and I’ll only buy a mattress after I’ve tried it out. Besides, Taubus keeps a record of all the mattresses I’ve ever bought. They know what I like, and there’s no guesswork.

I’ve learned a lot from my kids, and sometimes I even seek their counsel. But other times it’s a situation like the mattress, and, savvy as the navigators may be, you know you’re no slouch either.

Some breadcrumbs you just don’t swallow.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 882)

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