When my kids get to that age where they find it interesting to ask people's birth year, and all their siblings respond 20xx and then they ask me and I say 1979...and they say WHAT?!?!?! You were born in the 19somethings?!?!?! Yes, and proud of it! Growing up in the last few decades of the 1900s meant...
~ Nobody had cell phones. If you wanted to call someone, you had to use your home phone and have your Dad pick up and yell at you to get off because he needed to make a business call. It was so embarrassing that you thought you might die!
~ When you wanted to talk to a friend on the phone, you had to call their house and risk talking to their parents first. We had to learn polite manners and how to converse with adults. "Hi, uh, Mr. Smith. Is Sarah home? Could I please, um, talk to her? Thank you Mr. Smith!"
~ We used maps. I used to drive 13 hours from Cape Cod, MA to Steubenville, OH without a GPS...without a phone....with only a huge book of maps to guide me. We had to stop and ask for directions if we got lost, and we had to pay attention to the signs so we knew when to turn because we didn't have an automated voice warning us to make a right in 100 feet.
~ We didn't have the Internet. This actually shocks me still. But I didn't have email or get on the Internet until I arrives at college in 1997. Even then, we had to go to the computer lab in campus and wait for a computer to be able to use the world wide web. Or type a paper. Or chat with friends from back home using Instant Messenger.
~ When I was studying abroad for a semester in Austria, we did so many crazy things that I would never want my kids to do, but it seemed safe back then. We slept in cars and train stations. We hitchhiked around Austria and back and forth to the train station. We would travel to foreign countries every weekend without adult supervision and with no plans made. We would have to find a place to stay, places to eat, things to do without being able to speak the language or know where we were. And we had so much fun living that way!
~ As a younger child, I would have the freedom to ride my bike around (no helmets required!) all day and come home when the street lights came on. Our parents didn't know where to reach us, and trusted us to be good and polite and come home for dinner.
~ We rode in the back of station wagons facing the wrong way. We rode in the beds of pick up trucks. We took rides from people we only slightly knew because they offered. We were responsible for getting our own ride home from sports practices because there was no late bus.
~ Once I got my license, I would drive my friends around, pick kids up on the way to school, etc. I never even thought to tell my parents. Because we didn't have cell phones to check in with parents, we had to make a lot of our own decisions on the spot and our parents were never the wiser.
~ If someone wanted to pick a fight with anyone, they had to do it to their face. Their was no social media, no online bullying, just actual interactions that had to be dealt with. When you were home, you were disconnected from friends and just focused on family.
~ We had to watch TV shows WHEN THEY WERE ACTUALLY BROADCAST ON TV. We did figure out how to record every episode of Full House on VCR to watch again, but if you weren't home to press record...oh well! You could only watch one episode each week - no binge watching, no instant gratification. And if you wanted to change the channel, you had to get up off your behind and walk over to the TV and push the buttons. Unreal.
~ The same holds true for music. I can remember sitting by the radio waiting for a song to play so that I could record it and then rewind and play back multiple times to learn the lyrics. There was no popping on your favorite song whenever you wanted.
~ All of our school work was done using real books, pen and paper. If we had to research for a paper, we had to, get this, go to the library and check out an encyclopedia! There was no other way to look up information.
Even with these "major inconveniences", I look back on my youth with a fond gratitude. It was a simpler time and I'm glad that's how I grew up. My parents tell tales of their even simpler childhood and how precious life was. Like me, it seems that every generation appreciates the simplicity of youth, fears their children are being ruined for the sake of modern conveniences, and wish for the days of old.
But here's the thing, the AHA! moment, if you will...it was a simpler time not only because we were less technologically/scientifically/educationally advanced, but also because WE WERE KIDS! A kid's life is so much simpler than adulting. No bills to pay, no meals to cook, no jobs to work. Our kids are going to look back on their childhood with (I hope) the same innocent, peaceful, simple gratitude as I remember mine. So instead of focusing on wondering how my kids will ever make it through this insane world unscathed, I can pray and hope that they will look back on their childhood days fondly. And that makes me feel a little less crazy :)