Lately I have been pondering how life is different for my kids then it was for me when I was growing up. I was born in 1968 so essentially we're talking the 70s-80s. I feel as if, in some respects, kids have it SO much easier then I did when I was a young. On the other hand, there are some ways I think life is much more challenging now.These are a few of the things that pop into my head:
When I was in 2nd grade we spent a good portion of the year learning cursive writing. I had a nun who was determined that all her students would have perfect penmanship (as if that was the most important thing we'd learn in school...), she even called our home and complained to my mother about my handwriting. These days cursive writing is a lost art, my kids touch on it in 3rd grade, but their teachers don't expect them to use it. My oldest two print everything, unless it's their signature. The last time I talked to Allen-Michael about this, he said he wasn't sure he could even remember how to write any of the letters other than the ones in his name.
School research was done at the library using a set of encyclopedias and the Dewey Decimal system. I didn't have a home computer or access to the Internet until the mid 1990s (this was a few years into my marriage). Today's kids can find the answers they seek from any location, at the blink of an eye, with their phone. Speaking of phones, we managed to get through the school day, and life in general, without one in our pocket. I'm not sure how we did it, but by God it was indeed possible!
Using our "imagination" was once the center of our playtime. House, school, doctor, hopscotch, jump rope, bikes, sandboxes...if my kids get taken off of electronics they have literally no idea what to do with themselves. Although I find this incredibly sad, we have created this problem ourselves by allowing so many of their "toys" to come with lights, buttons, and beeps. We are now trying to curb a childhood obesity problem by bribing kids to exercise more with the likes of (enter lights/beeps/bling) Wii and XBox kinect...gone are the days when you'd turn on a radio station and listen to music while hanging around outside with friends shooting baskets.
When I was young I walked, with my best friend Mary, to and from school each day twice, because I went home for lunch. My mom was always there with a healthy lunch or snack just waiting to hear about my day. I am very blessed to say that, for the most part, my kids have had the same luxury. However, many children nowadays go to after school care or come home to empty homes until their parents get home from work. Not to mention the fact that they have to go between two homes because the divorce rate has risen so much since I was a kid. Oh yeah, and my mom didn't worry about whether or not I'd be abducted as we lived in a very safe suburban neighborhood. My kids do as well, but I always think twice about letting them walk around our block with the dogs, and NEVER alone, mainly because you hear about so many tragic stories on the Internet and television.
This leads me to the media. When I was a kid, there were not a lot of choices for television programs. Sure, we had Sesame Street and The Electric Company, Dukes of Hazard, The Brady Bunch, even Donnie & Marie. MTV was born in the 80s and only had (somewhat suggestive) music videos. Today the channel is a series of reality shows such as Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory and Jackass which showcase nothing but stupid antics kids try to emulate in "real" life. At a very early age our children are inundated with spastic cartoon shows such as Spongebob Squarepants, Disney dramas like iCarly and Hannah Montana. Some shows are better than others, but the majority of music, movies and television is pathetically short of good role models.
Back to the walking to/from school...walking being the operative word. My mom didn't drive me. If I wanted to play at a friends house, I walked. Wanted to go to the store for a Popsicle on a hot summer day, I walked. Wanted to attend summer rec at the elementary school on summer afternoons...you guessed it, I walked. Nowadays if my kids want to hit a tennis ball at the local courts, they get a ride. It's an 8 minute walk. Not uphill, not in snow.
When I got my drivers license I was lucky to get my mom's "woody" station wagon on occasion to take some girlfriends around town. And we usually had the car full. Today there are restrictions on who/how many can be in the car with a new driver. Now there's a good idea! Oddly enough though,one recent morning when I drove out of the high school parking lot, no lie, the five kids who drove past me on their way in for class all drove cars nicer than my Kia Soul. BMW convertible, Lexus sedan...and of course more than a couple of pimped out (did I just say that word?) pick up trucks, we do live in Texas y'all. Kid + Sixteenth Birthday = car.
My mom was over for dinner last night, so I asked her if she felt parenting was more challenging now than when I grew up (she raised 3 kids...the oldest, me, was pregnant by age 18 so it was not all a bed of roses, trust me). She told me she felt it was much more difficult for us because there are so many dual income homes (often out of necessity), the sex and violence in media and video games is so prevalent our kids are numb to it, girls today are pressured to perform in the way they look, not by using their intellect. In addition, the number of kids from broken homes or living in step-parent situations is much higher than when she was raising her family. She feels all of these things are contributing to the escalating use of drugs and alcohol. When I was a kid she said they worried a little bit about alcohol (apparently there were no drugs to be had in the mid-80s while I was in high school), but nowadays it seems like we have a rampant overdose problem on our hands. Because our kids are trying to escape?
A friend of mine recently said she wished we could "all go back to Mayberry". I think as parents we realize there is no stopping progress, but sometimes "progress" is not good for our children. Family dinner, church (of whatever denomination), media that promotes instead of degrades, parents that work together in raising their children, these are the things our kids need. What do you think?