An Ode to Firefly Jars, Shrinking Mimosas and Climbing Trees…
No child my kid’s age has ever tried jarring up a bunch of fireflies to see if it might make a cool night light. Now I could ask the 1,400 people I know in LinkedIn, and maybe do a poll on Facebook…but I’ll bet my iPad that none of their kids discovered a plant that closed up completely unto itself when you touched its leaves; then cut them up to bring home a “surprise” for Mom, either. Shrinking mimosas only work, naturally, in its natural environment so my mom didn’t quite get the magic. Epic fail.
I did such things and more: I discovered in horror that dragonflies don’t light up, and that fireflies rather liked breathing more than they did being some kid’s amusing toy, so I “AB Tested” the jars that worked best for all of us. I also discovered what pisses off honeybees, the hard way.
I worry sometimes, not because we’ve lived in condos and apartments during my kids’ formative years — potentially killing all possibility of chasing dragonflies and bees — I worry because I know for a fact that their behaviours are largely influenced by the nature of my job (I’m on my laptop or some type of tech kit up to 12 hours a day).
Their views of the world — dare I say — seem characterised, in part, by what they see with their eyes in the latest trending YouTube videos and what they ‘hear’ from their friends in WhatsApp, SnapChat, and whatever brand new ‘let’s-not-have-a-real-live-conversation-face-to-face’ App that’s trending right now. Sounds harsh, but moms worry. It’s in our Job Description.
I lament the sentiment that growing up no longer involves climbing up trees and playing with mud. No one knocks on someone’s front door anymore to check if Susie is home or if Tommy wants to come out and play…That would be rude (‘Why didn’t you text first, or WhatsApp before popping over?’)
But actually, I didn’t even stop to think about any of this until I found out for myself that one of my kids didn’t know how to label and post a letter, and that he thought I was joking (all these years) when I said life once existed without a remote controller for the TV. Unthinkable.
This double-screening generation, face planted on smartphones instead of faceplanting on floors and corkboards from semi-rough sport can’t be good for the human race, can it?
But it’s not like I’m blameless in this equation…
(If blame was indeed called for)
Apparently, I’m a ‘Digital Native’. I’ve been doing this type of work for 14 years. I was climbing trees, busy with boys and Theatre when my Mom told me to check out this new thing called ‘the internet’ (insert non-broadband 28k modem sound here Pshhhkkkrrrkakingkakingkakingtshchchch*ding*ding*ding* )…
I wasn’t interested then, since I had just defended my University Thesis by doing six solid months of research in the library, did live face-to-face interviews, and squinted to find the journalistic gems in microfiche slides…I challenged Professors about whether or not God existed. Google did not exist then. There was no Facebook.
Once ‘internet marketing’ became a thing though, I was an early adopter.
As a consequence, I was on my 3rd online marketing job by the first time the Millennials graduated from University.
I can’t remember if I’m a Third Culture Kid, or if it’s my kids who are TCKs – born to an expat mom who lived across three continents with them; after she in turn was an expat kid who never lived anywhere longer than 4 years growing up.
Maybe we’re all TCKs and Digital Natives. I don’t know.
…What I do know is that I would pause and think about that for a minute. I would try to remember whatshisname’s movie with that guy who defined London a funny way in that Guy Ritchie film. My default setting wouldn’t be to ‘google it’ — it would in fact be my last course of action. For my kids on the other hand, well, they’ll Shazam it rather than flex their musical brain muscles, and as aforementioned: they will google and spew out factoids about North Korea faster than they would tell you what kind of conversations they have with their new BFFs.
“What’s her favourite colour?” or “Where else has she lived with her family apart from Spain and Britain?” I’d ask when updating myself with their lives.
Answer is always either (A) I don’t know, Mum (B) Let me check her Facebook or (C) A shrug or an equally harmless yet meaningless gesture.
Don’t get me wrong, my kids are awesome. In their late teens and they still kiss and hug us hello when we bump into each other in the park or the mall. In front of their friends, I kid you not. We have fantastic conversations and laugh an awful lot, so much so that over the years some other kids would come to our house and one odd one always asked: “…What’s wrong with your parents? Why do they laugh so much?”
Kids responded with a version of this, inevitably: “They’re happy, they laugh a lot. So do I.” So I guess the kids are alright.
But we ask ourselves all the time anyway, if we’ve armed our children with enough tools to decipher information from propaganda. Or to distinguish between eloquence and creative bullshit. What if they somehow secretly think that memes are a way to get the truth out about something, guised as humour?
Every generation finds its way eventually with what they’ve got. We often wonder what the minimum age should be for a Digital Detox or if we should just disconnect ourselves entirely from that worry…Yea, I think I’ll go with that.