We decide to have children, of course, so we’ll have someone who can help us with understanding how to download music.  

Yes, children are generally quite a joy and extremely useful for early boarding on planes and for making you feel foolish when you don’t know who the Decemberists are. But we breed them, really, to walk us through technological minefields so that we aren’t embarrassed in public. Or at least not as embarrassed in public as we usually are.

They have grown up with the technology, Facebooking from the maternity ward, tweeting from the crib, YouTubing from the stroller.

They take for granted all the stuff the rest of us find … well, unnatural.

Take the iPod for example. It may look simple, but to some of us, it’s really a deviously difficult piece of equipment.

It has taken me months to figure out, for example, where the capital letter goes. Ipod? ipoD? I kept trying to jam it in at the beginning of the word, but the manual kept insisting that first you needed to plug it in and install the appropriate drivers. Maybe it really should be ipOd.

(Same thing, sort of, with email. Or is it e-mail? See, that’s why I send all my emails by FedEx, two-day delivery, which is cheaper.)

Anyway, as it turns out, when I finally got one, the music-playing device in fact didn’t have a manual that came with it.

It just had a little sheet tucked into it that said, “If you don’t know how to pronounce Wii or otherwise have trouble, just ask your kids.”

I didn’t believe that. I thought I could do it myself. I figured it should work pretty much like a radio — you turn it on, and there are all the songs you like and you don’t have to listen to Neil Diamond ever again.  

Things didn’t work out quite that easily. When I started working on it, trying to download music, Part C didn’t fit seamlessly into Part W. The 3/8″ nut was really a 2.5″ washer. The washer was actually a dryer. When I finished, everything was too high on the left. 

So I did what any overwhelmed adult confronted by modern technological complexity would do. I asked my kids for help.

I wrote to my daughter, then away at college, where kids go when they want to make fun of their parents out of earshot for not knowing who the Decemberists are.

I emailed and e-mailed her, asking for assistance, pointing out that I had helped feed her for 21 years, including french fries a number of times. (I should have texted her, of course, or posted on her Facebook page, if I had known how to text or post on her Facebook page.)

All I wanted, I wrote, was a little help in downloading music.

The email reply. when it finally came, was not on Skype but was complete with an eye-rolling look of exasperation and an elegant sagging of the shoulders that any parent who’s worked hard over the years to embarrass a child knows well.

“Daaaaaaaaaaad,” she wrote.