When I was a kid, I promised myself I'd remember certain things I loathed beyond words--much like all my peer group--that I would not do to my kid. Weirdly, these are things I have heard people on the radio claim are wonderful and kids today blah.
1.) Five hour road trips playing I-Spy and the License Plate Game - my hell on earth was those goddamn road trips to the beach when those were the pinnacle of entertainment. I didn't need to tell my child-self to remember this; I have the emotional scars of hours of mind-numbing boredom.
This kind of blows my mind; there is an entire television and movie tropes about the hell of a long road trip with nothing to do but hideous car games that no one sane would play at any time else, and you know why? THEY ARE BORING. Yet commentators in media often talk about the horror of car DVD players and phones and computers and iPads when there could be family bonding--you know, rampant sibling rivalry, parental hostility, and by the time everyone arrives at the beach at least one person is crying and another isn't speaking to anyone else. Now that's vacation.
No, I-Spy and the License Plate Game and the other countless car games were not fun. They didn't promote bonding. They were torture, I'll be honest.
2.) Intrinsic Value of Backbreaking Labor Before the Age of Reason - luckily, no one in my family has ever tried to make this case; it's still a little close to the bone. I grew up in farm country, but these days, there's machinery to do the work because weirdly enough, doing more with less exhaustion at the end of the day is a good thing.
My grandmother was second youngest in her family and her parents were too old by the time she came of age for her to take a turn on the family farm. Probably for that reason, she never ever extolled the virtues of coming home from school to put in time until bed working on the farm; she barely escaped that. She got to do the groovy factory thing circa WWII and make an inadvisable marriage before leaving her husband and meeting my grandfather (these things may have overlapped) and left the farm lifestyle forever. Thank God, she probably said; I know I do.
Growing up, the goal was always to be in a position where your kids didn't have to kill themselves working. Growing up, having to do a ton of manual labor didn't make you a better person. It probably made you a very tired person.
3.) The Great Outdoors Is a Magical Wonderland - I get this argument on one level, but on another, it bothers me. I spent huge amounts of time outside; Child spends a lot of time outside. However, it's always paired with the 'and now kids these days play video games alone in their room instead of playing with their friends' and okay, you can't have it both ways.
Grew up rural--Great Outdoors, Fresh Air, Constant Threat of Rattlesnakes on the Porch, Roof, or Drawer, Water Moccasin Mating Ball Oh My God That Vision Will Be With Me Until I Die, Cows Do Not Like People....okay, I forgot where I was going with this, but I did the Country Outdoors Thing. You know what's noticeable about living in the country? The lack of people to play with.
But couldn't you ride your bike--you did have a bike right? Yes, of course--down to Jimmy and Lisa's to play? Sure, I'll bike three miles to my buddy's house on county roads up and down to see a friend. Hint: exercise bike does not accurately portray the time that takes, and how much you can play after biking up hill and down dale to see your buddies knowing you gotta get back home. In Texas. In rattlesnake country where only the dogs outnumbered the rattlesnakes as roadkill specials.
Roadkill--hey, you ever been on a county road and hit the accelerator on teh straightaway because awesome? See many kids on bikes? No? Guess why? I see that shit on the road in front of my house every goddamn day--I didn't get on the roads if I could help it, and going off-road both raises the difficulty of biking and also the raised possibility of hitting a rattlesnake or copperhead. As we didn't live in teh age of cellphones, getting one of those on the ankle a mile or two from home would kind of be how it wold feel to die or get really damn close.
Great Outdoors are fine, but I bet you didn't know people dump their unwanted dogs in the country as well as cats. If they aren't roadkill, they go feral and join with the coyotes and that, too, was a thing we had to worry about.
You know a feature of rural life? Boredom. I read a lot, and I re-read a lot, and I wrote my own stories and my family had a standing order for notebook paper and blue pens--I couldn't write in black, it bothered me--every time we went to the grocery store. I played outside. I took long walks, but only on our land, because I am just the kind of loser who didn't want rattlesnake bites or step on a rusty nail and get tetanus. Weak, I know. Unlike that cousin of mine who got lockjaw or Mom got a nail through her foot--yes, I said 'through', it was a deep puncture--and the fun of dealing with that. The watering hole of television fame? You could see the snakes in it. Seriously, All of the Nightmares. Also, no one sane plays in a goddamn pond unless it has a source keeping it running or it goes stagnant.
Outdoors - lots of fun, but on a guess, Kids These Days are statistically spending the same amount of time outside as a generation ago, allowing for the urban/rural difference.
5.) Kids These Days, All They Do Is Play on the Computer, Video Games, Read, Play Outdoors...Wait, I Think That Is Several Generations - yeah, okay, I love this one. In Anne of Green Gables, Diana's mom complained her daughter was spending too much time reading and needed to get outside more. Laura Ingalls was a tomboy who spent too much time playing outside instead of learning how to be a wife and grown-up inside. My generation, The Kids These Days With Their Computer Games Didn't Read. My mom's generation, they were all high, which apparently Baby Boomers keep forgetting about. Probably the drugs.
One of the more bizarre side-effects of the effort at nationwide literacy is that there's a real disconnect on how new it is, reading at all, much less extensive reading for pleasure. That was very much a privilege of the upper class and very upper middle and in the US, that wasn't necessarily class deigned by income but by upbringing. Reading, especially reading for higher education or pleasure, was a class marker, as was what you read. Even when education caught up, reading is a skill like any other, and it needs practice, and not everyone had time to practice.
Being active on the web is about the pinnacle of literacy right now, and in several dialects at that. It's not just passive reading, but active engagement with others; it's social activities via the written word, and it, too, is a skill, which I think is highly overlooked because most of us do it so much and so constantly we don't think of it as a skill.
6.) Totally Random Thing - I read a book years ago, one of those deeply conflicted post Civil War novels that had a lot of things happen over a lifetime and several generations and was depressing as fuck; seriously, not even tragic depressing, just mundane depressing, rather like real life, thanks. One of the female protagonists was observing her teenage daughter in a group of her peers, and paging through the magazines the girls were reading these days, she was horrified, because in her day, girls sewed Union flags and did activist things for the Civil War and Early Feminism, and Kids These Days. I was about sixteen or seventeen.
I burst out laughing. Which I'm sure the author probably didn't intend.
Kids These Days (Much Like Kids Those Days) - different book, but I've read this plot before.
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