I grew up in a big, loud, Jewish family. We enjoyed nothing more than holiday family dinners where we all stuffed our faces, shouted at one another and bickered over inconsequential stuff like whether Noodle Kugel should have raisins in it or not. (For the record … NO, never raisins!) We were most content being in a state of quarrelsome upheaval. In fact, I dare say it was how we showed love for one another.
Thankfully, I married a man who came from a similar background, although their arguments of love were done in Spanish. The point is, this is how my husband and I chose to raise our kids. Our dinner conversations were lively and fun, loud and unconventional. Sarcasm became the primary language spoken in our home. We challenged each other and kept one another on our toes. We were happy … and then Amazon Alexa joined our home.
I admit it was me who bought her. My technology-loving husband had hinted for a while, and I gave in at Christmas time. After inviting her into our home, it would have been rude to keep her in the box, and so Alexa was introduced to our family. It wasn’t long before we all began to see what she could do. Before we knew it, our living room was filled with the Hamilton Musical Score, and we were relying on Alexa to tell us the weather rather than looking out the window ourselves. Alexa quickly became a member of my “mom squad,” a true BFF! With her help, I could check and update my calendar, add to my to-do list, and even set myself a reminder while putting the dinner dishes in the dishwasher.
But then, one day during dinner, the realization hit about just how much Alexa had changed our family dynamic. My son and husband were playfully quarreling over the name of the actor in a movie they had just seen. Sarcastic comments were beginning to fly, we were engaged, lively discussing things when my daughter said, “Hey, Alexa, who played Baby in the movie Baby Driver?” To which Alexa responded, “Ansel Elgort played Baby in the 2017 movie Baby Driver.”
Before Alexa, we would have had long, rip-roaring-good arguments about who knew the answer. My daughter would have chattered on about how it was the guy who played Augustus Waters in the movie The Fault in Our Stars. That tidbit would then have led to a story about the time we went to see the movie together while the boys saw Godzilla in the theatre next to ours, and how at one quiet, sad moment in our movie we heard Godzilla screeching from theirs. We would all have had a great laugh at the memory.
But instead, we have Alexa. So, we never did.
I don’t regret bringing Alexa into our lives. I love that she’s hands-free, and I can call out an obscure tune while I’m kneading dough, and she’ll play it. But no matter how helpful Alexa tries to be, there is always going to be stuff her programmed digital assistant responses won’t cover. Don’t believe me? Ask Alexa, “Why is family time important?” She will respond, “Hmm, I’m not sure!” And that right there is why Alexa will be sitting quietly in the corner with a box of unopened raisins during our holiday family dinners.