For all we have in common genetically, I've come to realize that my children and I share precious few childhood experiences. I went to a big public school on the East coast; they go to a small private school on the West coast. My parents had no idea where I was when I went out to play on summer days; my children have arranged "playdates" at specific locations with at least one adult lurking somewhere nearby. We all piled into the "way back" of our station wagon
where there were no seat belts; our kids strap themselves carefully into the
back seat of a car that likely also has side
impact airbags. We ate whatever my mother cooked for dinner (liver excepted);
because our daughter doesn't eat meat, we often have two different main courses at
dinner (at least whenever the carnivores in the family complain too
The contrast only gets sharper when it comes to methods of gathering information and communicating with others. I spent hours at at time in the library reference stack to source information for my school reports; my kids fire up their laptops in the comfort of their rooms and do a series of Google searches in a matter of minutes. For years, I used my family's hardbound World Book Encyclopedia set to verify facts and figures; my kids turn to an ever-changing and crowdsourced Wikipedia to corroborate their facts and figures. I talked with my friends for hours on end, tying up the one family phone we owned (and angering everyone else in my house in the process); my kids text and video chat with their friends from their own cell phones and laptop computers. Every night, we would watch the CBS News with Walter Cronkite together as a family on the 18" TV in our kitchen; our kids don't watch news on TV at all, and even we parents consume the majority of our news online. When we do watch the 54" TV in our family room, it's more likely for cable TV shows like Chuck and Lie to Me, and our kids are typically multi-tasking (video games, iChat, etc.) during those episodes.
Music is also consumed in a very different manner than when I was young. I listened to my favorite music loudly on the family record player in our rec room and bought albums at
the record store every few months; my kids listen to their favorite
music (though some songs are cover versions of
MY music) on their iPods using their headphones, and they download individual songs from the iTunes
online store at 99 cents a pop.
Do all of these differences make me feel old? Certainly not. A bit nostalgic? Perhaps…