Parenting in the Robot Age
Alexa and I had a really good thing going. She sat between our kitchen and living room, and as for many working parents, she was a hands-free godsend.
She was the sister wife I always wanted, someone to share our marriage’s emotional labor but not the sex. She freed up precious brain space for more important things. Alexa, remind us that school picture day is Thursday. Alexa, we’re out of C batteries for the millionth time this month. She was on it.
She was also good at amusing my kids and satisfying their unquenchable desire for world capitals and bad knock-knock jokes. Slowly, she learned from them. Her radar was more closely attuned to them than to me. She incorporated nursery rhymes into my music taste. She learned to understand my 2-year-old, even when other adults can’t.
But then my children started to use Alexa to troll me. It started with music. I’d be dancing or singing along to a song I love and my 5-year-old would sneak up and say, “Alexa, I don’t like this song.” Rating saved, she assured him, cutting the song short.
They now delight in telling her to play my least favorite songs at “volume sixteen,” and to buy my least favorite foods.
I hate jelly beans, for example. Here’s what I recently found on my shopping list.
“Alexa, purchase more parenting books.”
“Alexa, research boarding schools.”
“Alexa, sell my kids on Ebay.”
“Alexa, I thought we were cool.”