For those who don’t know, I was 19 when my eldest son was born. What a surprise he was, born almost exactly 10 and a half months after Bob and I eloped! Being such a young mom (20 when my youngest was born), I’ve always had plenty of energy to “keep up” with my kids. When they were little, I was right there on the floor playing cars or Legos or boardgames with them. As they’ve gotten older, however, I’ve noticed it: the generation gap. Nineteen/twenty years doesn’t seem like that big of a generation gap. But it is for those of us born in the mid-80s when microwaves hadn’t quite yet become a common household appliance. I remember when I was about five my dad carrying this massive box into our apartment and how excited my mom was to have a microwave!
Last April while at parent-teacher conferences, my son’s teacher asked me to come and talk to her fourth and fifth grade English students about writing and help them with their biographies.
I must admit, I’ve talked in front of hundreds of adults at conferences. It’s nerve-wracking. I don’t like being in front of people. It just makes me awkward. But kids! Oye, talk about a tough audience. Thankfully she scheduled it for only a week out so I only had seven days to agonize about what I’d say to a gaggle of children. Any longer than that and I’d have had a full-blown panic attack.
Part of what I explained to these kids was when describing their person in their report, talk about their childhood: did they go to a one-room school? Did they have a private tutor? What were their hobbies? This helps the reader have a better idea of the standards of the time period that they’re writing about.
Somehow, and I’m not 100% sure how because this is just how I roll, this launched into me explaining what MY childhood was like:
I learned to type at age seven on a computer that was a black screen with green letters because computers were becoming “all the rage” and had to learn binary code (a code written by a series of 0s and 1s) to write a simple program my first year in high school.
I didn’t have the Internet in my home until I was 11–and it was AOL (America On-Line). They were fascinated by how the Internet used the phone line and you had to buy minutes. Oh, and that SOUND! I’m a sound effect gal and did my best attempt at that keypad dialing followed by the ear piercing squealing and then the screaming bear trapped in a washing machine as it finally connected.
While they were amazed at how the Internet worked, one couldn’t wrap his little head around what I meant by it used the phone line and made the phone unusable. These kids didn’t understand a LANDLINE!
Here my little 29 year old self stood in this room and my jaw was unhinged in disbelief. Even when my boys were little we had a landline. They don’t remember it, but it was there.
Of course this launched into an explanation of a phone that had a handset and a curl chord that plugged into the base and if you could afford it you’d get a cordless phone so you could take the handset in your room and talk. This brought about more confusion. “There wasn’t a phone in every room?”
Um, no. There were like two in the house and it was rare for anyone to have more than one line.
And then came the question of how would you send a text?
I left that room feeling like an antique after explaining that texting is fairly new, only gaining popularity fifteen years ago and cost per text sent and received. Which of course caused more disbelief and an explanation of why acronyms such as LOL, RU not to be confused with “ur”, and TTYL came about.
My question is: where the heck are these kids’ parents?! Are they too busy playing on their own phones to explain the “olden days” to their children and leave it to the poor sap who agreed to come talk about writing? I know I’m not the oldest parent of the class. Good grief and I thought the biggest hint of a generation gap between me and my kids was that when kids come over here they always want to compare the size of the TV with theirs (we always lose–I’m not a TV watcher) and when I was a kid, the first thing my mom asked me when I walked through the front door was: whose house is cleaner–theirs or ours? (This always had a definite winner, too. You could do surgery in any room in my mom’s house.)
That’s my thought for the day as your kids are starting to go back to school. Educate them at home, too! Describe to them that awful noise that rent the air while connection to the Internet followed by those words that made you dance with anticipation: you’ve got mail. Describe how great they have it with the ability to talk on the phone AND send a text AND look at Facebook all at the SAME TIME.