The other day the phone book was delivered to my doorstep. Remember the phone book? It used to be an essential repository of information when looking up a phone number or address. It was divided by the ‘yellow pages’ and ‘white pages’. I am not sure how and why it is still being produced and I can’t imagine the obligatory personal injury lawyer taking out the back cover ad is actually paying for its production.
Seems like a solid waste of trees to me.
Nevertheless, it got me thinking of some of the things that were part of our everyday life that our kids and future generations will probably never experience. So, I compiled a list of my top 5 Things Your Kids (and mine) Will Probably Never Do That We Did.
1. Ask for Directions and Use a Map
When we didn’t know where we were going, we had one of three options. We would either pull out a folded map, stop and ask someone or try our luck. The act of asking someone for directions was easy for some and difficult for others. My mother would stop just about anyone on the street. My dad would usually ask me to go ask someone for him. Today, finding ones way is literally at our fingertips. GPS and mobile navigation provide us with directions to just about anywhere on earth. In fact, turn by turn navigation offers up a pleasant voice ensuring we turn right or left at the appropriate time. I kind of think the act of asking another human for direction is worthy. It provides a connection with a stranger and it forces us to ask for help; a humble endeavor. As for using a map, I am not sure many kids could even orient themselves on a map much less put the thing back together.
2. Ride in the Car with no Seatbelt While Standing Up
Were our parents out of their minds or did the threat of being ejected through the wind shield at high speeds just not even register on their 1970′s brains? I don’t know about everyone else, but I probably didn’t even know what a seatbelt was until age 14. I found it when digging between the seats of the old station wagon for a lost candy bar. What’s more, my sisters and I would fight for the privilege to lay in the space above the back seat of the sedan where the window came down. Not to be lost, this had to be the most dangerous of all non-seatbelted opportunities. Not much discussion here. Wearing a seatbelt works like not smoking is better for your lungs and jumping off buildings is dangerous to your legs. I wonder if my parents know that?
3. Checking out a Book at the Library Using the Card Catalogue
Was there ever a more mundane and unexciting system ever created? I don’t think so. The act of finding a book used to be both time consuming and tedious. One would locate the correct card catalogue drawer and thumb through countess cards in order to find the desired book and its location among a corresponding shelf. If we were lucky after that long and arduous fact finding mission, the said book would be resting in the specified location. More times than not, it was checked out or in the wrong place. Today, my kid simply pulls up iTunes, downloads the book that he searched for in less than ten seconds and Voila! It magically appears on his iPad, all while lounging on the couch. Really? Just try calculating the time you spent in libraries toiling away at the card catalouge or god forbid, cast into the bowels of a university basement pouring over microfiche machine. I’ve done the math. It appears to have been about 9 months of my life.
4. Camping Out in the Backyard
There was a time when we took to the grass of our yard with flashlight, sleeping bag and a box of Ding Dongs. The sense of adventure, the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of other great campers like Lewis and Clark, Sir Edmund Hillary and Yogi Bear was intoxicating. If we had an actual tent we would ensemble its various parts. If not, we would make do with large boxes, blankets and a favorite pillow. Forget the fact that modern comforts were only fifteen feet away, camping in the backyard could have been in the wilds of the Yukon. It was heaven. I don’t know of many kids that would campout in the yard. There’s a lot more entertainment inside the house with Xbox and movies about the outdoors. There’s also a generation of parents that probably think their kids might be abducted by camp robbers, or eaten by a coyote. An unfortunate parental fear of the unknown often prevents kids from exploring their world and garnering the confidence it so readily provides them with.
5. The Long Distance Family Road Trip
You want to talk about nostalgia, this one is rich with it for me. There is no experience quite like being jam-packed into a station wagon with your family for a healthy trans-country crossing. The magnitude of emotions experienced, the opportunity to be grounded and placed ‘on silence’, the threat of a crash and the utter extremes my parents were pushed to locked in a car together can not be measured. Yet, there was nothing more special and memorable that I can remember as a child than a family road trip. Something happens to a family when confined together for long periods of time. They discover that they have to make things work. Today, we have every opportunity to escape from each other, no retreat behind a computer screen, our favorite tv show or on Facebook. Back then the road trip forced us to face each other and make the very most out of the ‘family experience’.
The key to being a wise parent is knowing what to share with our kids from our life experiences. Much of what we did when we were kids was just plain stupid, but so much of it was not only useful, but necessary for us to grow up with a strong foundation. If we are to provide our kids with the best opportunity to be confident, independent, caring, courageous and intelligent, we’ve got to ‘serve them a plate’ of things from our past and the here and now.
So the next time I’m lost, I think i’ll ask my son to ask someone for directions. When he gets back in the car, I’ll make sure he’s wearing his seatbelt and to buckle up cause family life is like the cross country road trip and the pursuit of being a parent is a wild ride.