Kids These Days

It is quiet. I am all by myself. My energy is waning. I don’t know what will end up coming out of this writing session. I have my doubts. But it’s time to show up anyway! Nothing gets written if I keep waiting instead of doing.

The air in the house is not full of noise and activity like it often is. It seems tense when I pay attention to it – not uncomfortably so. Just expectant. Holding the potential of being filled, and by what?

Sometimes we perceive hardness and difficulty around us and that perception keeps us from moving. Oftentimes our perceptions are wrong, and when we actually try to take steps forward we find the path to be surprisingly fluid.

The air is like that. In the silence it seems solid. Yet I know it will receive me and pass me on when I decide to stand up and walk through it.

Inertia is a perception. The longer we are in one state the harder changing states appears to us to be.

I was talking to a coworker today about convenience. America is the land of convenience – which is really too bad, because convenience is a dragon you can chase forever. As soon as the convenience of something gets normalized, it’s no longer adding value… just adding dependence. We are increasingly dependent, increasingly entitled.

In another moment of the day I was talking to a different coworker’s wife. She’s a first grade teacher. Wow, I thought. You’re teaching the kids who have totally grown up with all the technology! She said yes, most of her kids go home after school and are put in front of a screen. That they don’t really go play outside, don’t know how to play at recess the way she did when she was a kid. She said they don’t know how to take care of themselves at all – even tie their own shoes! Except the ones who are parented differently, who don’t have tv’s at home, and she said you can easily tell who they are. They have better social skills.

It’s hard not to be really afraid about all of that. On one hand, I might just be acting curmudgeony and being change-averse. Maybe this is just the way things are going now. Maybe technology will be mediating all our interactions, so we don’t need the physical social skills. It’s bizarre, though. And I can’t help but think there’s something fake and evil about it. Can technology-mediated life ever be as raw and vulnerable as our physical life? As real?

This is probably a good moment to pause and reflect on what exactly I think would be lost in a world that became more and more virtual.

And I might be wrong. This is the voice of my fear, and I think our fears are usually wrong.

So I guess I’m just sharing my fear.

…On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t.

We get to choose what we dive into, you know? The words that come out of me right now carry an energy. I get to choose what I pull out of my head to share. And I want the things I share to come from an inspired place instead of an afraid place. Fear spreads like wildfire if we don’t recognize it for what it is. So I’m going to change tracks mid-stride right now and, instead of telling you about my fears for the world we live in, I’ll tell you about the bit of gold from that conversation that sparked a feeling of hope in me.

Just… hearing that there are still kids who don’t have tv’s in their homes. Does that surprise you? It surprised me! And it was relieving and heartwarming to me that those kids don’t suffer for it socially – maybe even have noticeably better social skills. That relieved a weird feeling of anxiety I had for my future self, about parenting in the modern world. Like, I want to be a mom with kids who play outside, do creative things, read, develop basic life and social skills, and aren’t addicted to tv / video games / whatever. Even though there will be cultural pressures for my kids to be absorbed in screens of all kinds… I just know how valuable my own upbringing was for me. We didn’t have tv in the house in my early childhood. We played card games and did crafts and went outside and adventured. We read books. We did chores. We learned how to be competent at a lot of things. We did… real things in the real world! I want to gift that experience to my own children. But I’ve secretly feared that I wouldn’t be able to do that without making my kids face some kind of social isolation. I didn’t want to cripple them, make them separate from their culture. And I guess what I heard today is that there’s still a range of how people are brought up in relationship to technology. We’re exploring our relationship to technology collectively. And we’re not so immersed in it yet that we’re forced to be plugged in to be alive and thrive socially. Probably far from it.

Another way to look at this is just through the lens of curiosity. What are these kids like today, the ones that were born into the world of social media and hyper-techno-connectivity? What will they be like when they grow up? How will they shape the world of tomorrow?

And these are questions that people probably ask themselves every generation. It probably always feels wild and weird.

At the end of the day, we all have our choices to make about how to view the world and our place in it. The best-feeling place for me to rest myself on this issue is in a state of trust. I trust life. There’s so much in life that’s out of my control, and I just choose to trust that the force that guides all of it is benevolent. It’s my job to play my own part, which is difficult enough. Thinking about raising kids in this world sounds difficult enough! When the time comes it will probably be the hardest thing I’ll ever do.

Bringing it back to the now – I am sitting in the same place. The air around me has seen movement. People have come and gone. The dull sounds of a washing machine hum through the air towards me from the kitchen. A cat lies against me and purrs. A candle has been burning in my room long enough that a smoke alarm just went off – fitting timing for the end of this session. I have had my face in a screen most of this evening, and I don’t think it has been a waste of my time. This experience of writing and sharing does link me to the world, in an interesting way. The world is moving in interesting ways, and ultimately I have to be glad for it. It’s a good time for being reminded that nothing is black and white, everything is possible (including the things we can’t even imagine), and there will never be another moment quite like this one.

Now the piece is done. Thoughts have been pulled out of the ether and put on virtual paper. I breathe out a long slow exhale and the air around me relaxes and lightens. I’ll see you again tomorrow.

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