I consider myself part of the millinial generation. You know, one of those generations who always has a phone in our hand and one in which there are countless books and articles written to help advise our bosses on how to motivate us. Yeah one of those. Growing up in through the 80s and 90s was a strange time.
Most of my youth was spent running around with friends in our street. We ruled our street. There was a tree that was down the block, the biggest tree on the block. This tree was perfect for climbing and building a tree house and a place in which that if we weren’t at home, our parents knew that we would be there. The sun was glowing down on us and we had farmers tans to prove it we spent so much time playing on that empty lot on our street.
Eventually, the city came by to tear down the tree to make way for new neighbors. A moment that each one of us watched and wondered where we would all hang out next. We hadn’t played on it in a few months. But, little did we know that in just around the corner, computers and video games would soon take over our lives. We would be each of our bedrooms sitting in front of a TV screen fighting our way through the Metal Gear Solid scenes.
As part of the millinial generation of the 80s and 90s, we saw the transition from going outside and playing with friends, to the growth of the Internet, which in-turn kept many of us inside. Long gone were the days that our parents knew we would come home when it was dark, unless it was a weekend when nighttime Capture the Flag or Kick the Can kept us busy. And the days came when we were sitting down in front of a TV or computer monitor.
Those TVs and giant CRT computer monitors have given way to iPads and smart phones keep kids home. My son would rather be playing on my phone or watching TV than going out and running past dark on the weekend.
I look back at something we started when my son was having a few bad days at school by rewarding him with TV time, and have realized that he thinks that getting to watch TV or playing on my phone is the norm rather than a special treat. His screen addiction disturbs me. Which is ironic that I bring it up because I have been know to have a screen addiction as well.
Typically, I wouldn’t mind coming home and having a few moments to myself before we make dinner, but the other day I hit a breaking point. We pulled up into the driveway and as I open the door I heard something that I don’t normally hear on our block when I get home, kids playing. I look around and see them riding their bikes up and down the streets. No TVs and no worries.
But what was the first thing that my son asked me to do when we got home? He wanted to watch TV.
He didn’t want to play with his friends that were out riding their bikes. He didn’t want to show them his new skill of riding a bike without training wheels. Instead, he wanted to be planted on a couch watching TV.
Telling my son no is not easy. But in that moment, watching his friends rule the street much like I did when I was a kid, it was easy. I knew the backlash that I was going to get for saying that, but I stuck with my guns.
I pulled out a lawn chair, grabbed a hard root beer, and sat in our front yard reminiscing of my youth. While there may not be a tree for the kids to climb, there was no screen that they were watching or playing a game on. My son didn’t quite understand what I was doing sitting in the lawn chair. In fact, he was still throwing a fit.
He was so upset that he was going to walk in and turn the TV on himself had I not ran in to grab the TV remote before he could get to it. Knowing that this wouldn’t make the situation better, I wanted him to enjoy the beautiful day that we were having. I wanted him to pick up his bike and ride it even though he still hasn’t quite figured out how to balance himself over a long period time. I wanted him to fall and scrape a knee or elbow.
I wanted him to be a boy. I wanted him to be that boy that I was growing up in the same generation I grew up in, the 80s and early 90s. I wanted him to go down to the creek down the road, find a tree and find comfort on a branch with one of his friends as they discuss who is the best superhero.
Remembering the day that the city tore down that tree, I remember that the kids on the block stood there all upset. Even though we might not have played on it for a few months, we knew that there were many memories we wouldn’t be able to share from that point forward. Our farmers tans from the sun that had been glowing on us faded with the tree.
Now, the glow of screens shines bright in our eyes. But memory of a time when we didn’t even have the option of a computer screen or smart phone glow even brighter.