MERCED -- When my eldest son Casey was an infant, I couldn't wait for him to learn to speak, but when he finally began to talk I found that the ideas of a 2-year old were not really all that riveting.
Later, though, around the time he turned 7, our conversations took a turn for the better.
A typical chat started with a discussion of the Big Bang, moved into musings about comparative religions and ended with conclusions about the nature of humankind. I was convinced that my son would one day become a philosopher.
But now my son is 15, and our discourses -- which happen only in the car, when I'm shuttling him between home and some other more interesting place -- go something like this:
"So, what have you been up to at school lately?" I ask.
"Nothing," he says.
He never looks up. He is forever staring intently at his phone, his thumbs dancing over the keypad.
"Is everything going OK?" I continue.
"Yep," he says.
"Anything you need to talk about?" I persist.
"Nope," he replies.
"Any problems?" I ask.
"Nope," he says again.
"How are your classes going?" I keep pressing.
"Fine. Hang on a sec, Mom. I just got a text," he says, finally giving more than a one-word response.
Every morning, my son wakes to the alarm on his phone and begins checking his messages before he even gets out of bed. If the phone had a personality, it would be a smug little bugger, convinced that it is the most important thing in the world.
A few weeks ago, I asked Casey what he could possibly be texting about all day long.
"I'm not texting anyone, Mom," he said.
"Well, tweeting then," I said.
"You mean Twitter?" he corrected.
"Yeah, Twitter," I agreed. "What could you be twittering about all day?"
"I'm not on Twitter," he said.
"Well, what then?" I asked.
"I'm checking my Instagram feed," he replied.
"Your what?" I shot back.
We both looked at each other for a silent moment. Finally, my son shook his head.
"Poor Mom," he said. "You just can't keep up, can you?"
He was studying his phone, laughing at something -- probably me -- as we spoke. For all I knew, he could have been exchanging Instagrams with a serial killer.
I have considered stealing my son's phone to read his messages, but I would first need to have the opportunity.
I want him to believe that I trust him, because it is easier to trick our children when they think we aren't watching them, and since his phone is never more than a few inches from his hand, I could not take it from him without his knowledge.
I am biding my time, waiting for the right moment, but I am beginning to wonder if it will ever come.
It is unlikely that my son will allow his phone to stray from his field of vision, ever. Casey and his iPhone have developed a symbiotic relationship. They would perish without each other.
I believe we are seeing what is possibly a new direction in the evolution of humankind. Thousands of years from now, babies will emerge from the womb carrying their own iPhones. Instead of crying when they are unhappy, they will send their parents Instagrams depicting dirty diapers and wayward pacifiers.
Casey is right, of course. I cannot keep up. I'm still trying to figure out Facebook, which my son tells me is only for old people now.
Recently, a friend I hadn't heard from in more than 30 years found me online. She has admitted to me she needs her son's help to send photos, and today when I tried to forward her a group of pictures, she replied that unfortunately they hadn't made their way to her.
"Please re-send!" she wrote. I decided to wait until my son got home to do it.
This can't be a good thing for parenting. We knew more things than our parents did, too, when I was a teenager, but they seemed to be things our parents never cared about, like who Robert Plant was.
They were never at our mercy, but that is exactly the position I find myself in with my own children. And while they are evolving forward, I realize I am regressing.
My old friend recently sent me her address, and I have just mailed her a letter. It was handwritten -- on floral stationery.