Children of the 21st century

I have often discussed the dissonance that comes from staring 40 in the face while still feeling like I’m 18.  Or maybe 21.

But now and then I am reminded that I can’t be that young anymore, mostly when I realize that Grace and Whit really are growing up in a hugely different world than the one in which I did.  I love those lists of things that children of the 70s can relate to, and they always make me laugh.

Grace and Whit, though, are children of the 21st century.  Herewith, eleven ways my children are growing up in a world different than that in which I was a child:

1. They love – in fact, prefer – to talk on the phone on speaker.  This segues nicely into being very comfortable with FaceTiming.  I had a conversation recently with the ear of someone in their 60s over FaceTime because they assumed that you hold a phone to your ear.  I’m somewhere in between these two poles.  We’ve come a long way from the phone on the kitchen wall with the long twisty cord.

2. They don’t think a device needs charging until it is actually dead.  I start looking around frantically for a plug when I’m at about 70%.

3. Their passion for YouTube knows no bounds.  It is almost always the first stop in trying to find anything – music OR video – online.

4. They love scented things.  This may not be generational, but in our house it is.  Grace walks around billowing clouds of Wonderstruck by Taylor Swift.  Me?  Unscented.  Less glamour, sure, but also less choking.

5. Carseats are so integral a part of life in America that cars come with built-in tethers for them.  In our day?  Floating around the “way back” (untethered to anything) was my favorite way to travel.

6. They have never known a world when TV shows were on certain times, on certain days.  Friday night was when Dallas was on, and you had better be there at 8:00 to watch it, or else you were taking a big risk if you tried to program your VCR.  They want to watch something?  They just click to it.  Incredible.  And VCR?  They have no idea what that is.  They don’t even know what “to Tivo something” means.

7. They wouldn’t know what a mimeograph machine is if it hit them in the head.  The smell of those purply-blue print pages, however, takes me back to grade school faster than almost anything else.  Grace and Whit log onto the class Google Drive to check their homework assignment.  I flipped through the mimeographed pages in my Trapper Keeper.

8. Their ability to suspend disbelief is pretty weak.  I see this when we watch old movies – notably, lately, The Princess Bride.  “Those are not real,” Grace scoffed when the rodents of unusual size scurried across the screen.  I blame the extremely lifelike special effects in movies today.

9. Photography is an unlimited exercise for them: we were recently discussing buying a disposable underwater camera, and Whit asked whether we bought memory cards for it.  No, I explained, you had 27 exposures, and that was it.  Both Grace and Whit were frankly aghast at the idea of paying per photograph, of pictures only in hard copy, of having to wait overnight to have your film developed.  In fact, at the word “film” at all.  Totally foreign.  I like digital photography myself, an awful lot, but I do think that we have lost some discernment and care now that a camera roll is unlimited.

10. They don’t know a single phone number.  For that matter, neither do I.  Whereas I can still remember the (home) numbers of my childhood home as well as a few close friends.  Those were the numbers I punched into that kitchen phone with the twisty cord.  Grace and Whit don’t have to remember anything since it’s all programmed.

11. They don’t know how to read a map.  My father always told me that one of the most essential life skills was ability to read a map while traveling.  Now, my aforementioned carsickness often got in the way here, but I do know how to read a map and often joke that I’m one of the last remaining people who prints out maps before going somewhere.  Grace and Whit just assume a destination will be punched into a GPS and we’ll be guided there.

Are you a child of the 70s?  Are you parenting a child of the 21st century?  What differences do you note in growing up now vs. growing up then?



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  1. steph
    Posted March 12, 2014 at 3:51 am | Permalink

    I am a child of the 80s and would gladly go back, if I could take modern tecnology with me.

    The thing that resonates with me is that when I was in school one of the first things I did was learn my phone number. Now my son has my cell, his dad’s cell, both works numbers, parent emails, even his own email address….whew! Technology did not make things simpler after all!

    admin Reply:

    Maybe not, simpler, right? xo

  2. Posted March 12, 2014 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    Yes to all of this! The Old Spice is about to kill me over here and there is always some device in the house with YouTube up and running.
    Our generation will forever be the last one to remember a time without the internet. I can’t think of many things that have changed our world as much. I mean, can you imagine planning a family vacation without the internet? Maybe all generations think that of something.
    As far as the last one goes, I am still a map person, too, and my teenage daughter still prints out Google maps when she is driving somewhere because her mom insists that she knows where she’s going before she gets behind the wheel. I’m not a GPS fan, but I don’t how how we ever got anywhere before Google Maps.

    admin Reply:

    Last night my husband and I needed to find a phone number. We could not get it on, and then he went looking for a hard copy of the phone book. Finally he called 411. It was hilarious.

  3. Posted March 12, 2014 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Love this — also reminds me of Amber Dusick’s post a while back that illustrated some of these discrepancies. Perhaps you’ve seen it?

    You list several things we’re dealing with too. Another big difference I’ve noticed is my daughter not having to sit through commercials (thankfully!) because we DVR or stream her favorite show, which leads to major impatience those rare times where she watches one in real time with commercials. But *I* had commercials! And had to get up to change the channel! The horrors.

    And printing maps? I do it every single time. We don’t have GPS in our car and, unlike my more progressive husband, I don’t like relying on Siri to get me where I’m going. Don’t worry–when the grid goes down, people will look to you and me to get them places because we still know how to read a map!

    admin Reply:

    I haven’t seen that – off to read it now! So funny. And the commercials, yes. Mine get worked up about WHERE IS THE REMOTE CONTROL OMG GAH WHERE IS IT and I always remind them of my day when you had to GET UP and manually turn the dial.

  4. Kathryn
    Posted March 12, 2014 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    LOVE! E asked me today on the way to school who the first singer was. Eventually she qualified: the first singer “on the radio.” When I was unable to answer after a mere three seconds, she plowed on ahead, “Remember when Taylor Swift first came to the radio?” Um, yes.

    admin Reply:

    Um, yes. Me too!! I often refer to songs on the radio (especially when listening to the oldies station) by “Oh, K sang that in college!” You know the songs of which I speak … 🙂

  5. Posted March 12, 2014 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Gah! Trapper Keepers!! And mimeographs (I called them dittos). Love it:)

    Oliver thought the wall-mounted rotary dial phone in my parents’ house was a cat toy.

    One thing that bothers me is that my kids think when I order something online, it’s free. I keep trying to explain that I actually pay for it but they don’t get it yet.

    admin Reply:

    Dittos! Yes! That SMELL, am I right? So evocative …

  6. Isabelle
    Posted March 12, 2014 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I love this!! I still print maps too. Comes in handy when google maps suddenly stops working en route.

    admin Reply:

    Totally. My iphone gps has definitely steered me wrong before. 100%.

  7. Posted March 12, 2014 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    This is such a fun blast from the past! Dallas, purple-inked, dittos, riding in the “way back”? Yes, yes, and yes!

    I had one of these moments myself yesterday when my 4yo, while looking at a framed picture of his sister, swiped the glass, trying to make it advance to the next picture. I was astonished!

    admin Reply:

    TOTALLY. Hilarious. Classic.

  8. Posted March 13, 2014 at 4:53 am | Permalink

    Oh my goodness! This is so great!!!! I love the image of the talking to the 60 year old’s ear. And Pamela’s comment about the wall mounted phone being a cat toy. And dittoes and trapper keepers and on and on. It truly is an incredible shift we have seen. Thanks for the memories and the laughs this morning!

    admin Reply:

    And thank God we are in the same generation! I have many camp memories of the late 80s and early 90s that for sure contain some very generation-specific details!

  9. Posted March 13, 2014 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    This totally cracked me up. Oh, how I loved the Way Back. And what about cream rinse? Was that really a thing? When did it change to conditioner??

    admin Reply:

    Oh my, GREAT CALL. The cream rinse. Sort of like “suntan lotion,” right? My husband still calls it suntan lotion and I always ask if he wants me to hand over the Coppertone oil SPF 2. What was that!!??

  10. Posted March 13, 2014 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    My Trapper Keeper was green with puppies on it and I remember it like it was yesterday!

    I remember asking my mother what things were like “in the olden days” when she was a kid, and being so grateful that I was growing up in the age of color TV and microwaves and “car phones” so my kids wouldn’t someday think I was a relic.

    Our kids are still young enough (5, almost 3, and 2) that they haven’t yet started making comparisons between our upbringings and theirs. But I know that someday I’m going to have to explain that there was a time before the internet, a time when we carried whole U.S. atlases in the car, a time when movie times were looked up in the newspaper, and a time when we got our news once a day in hard copy. I guess it was the dark ages after all!

  11. Posted March 13, 2014 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Isn’t it amazing to see how much has changed since we were kids? My son will never understand how I carried around a portable 8-track player. Or rotary phones. Or no voice mail.

    I was the queen of map reading on long trips… this is a great reminder for me to teach my son this skill too.

  12. Posted March 13, 2014 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I still call it suntan lotion, too! I still have a flip-phone — which is almost becoming cool again, I think, because I’ve seen a few hipsters with them — and I am SO tempted to order one of the old “brick” cell phones on eBay. I found one that was, I kid you not, 5″ thick!! Anyways, Abra’s only 3, but she tries to swipe things and recognizes the icon that denotes a video. She definitely thinks all TV is “on demand.” I guess every generation feels this sense of disorientation. An older cousin once told me, around 1993, that I had it easy because “Caller ID took all the fun and terror out of dating because you always knew who was calling before answer the phone.” Thanks for the laugh and walk down memory lane!

  13. Posted March 14, 2014 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    YES!! I relate to all of these! The phone on speaker especially cracked me up because it’s the only way my kids will talk. And they don’t even use FaceTime yet. But still–only speaker!

    I really strongly about the loss of not using film and therefore having TONS of pictures of the same thing. We were absolutely more discerning back then.

  14. Posted March 17, 2014 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I love this list! The phone tethered to the wall, yes. Untethered in the back of the car. The heady perfume of dittos. I know it is universal through the ages to feel as if today’s youth is missing something essential about how to be in the world. Perhaps it is more so for us, since the pace of change has accelerated so rapidly. I really do feel badly, though, for some of the ways in which my children’s world is so different from the one I grew up in.

  15. Posted March 18, 2014 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Oh this cracked me up. Another child of the 7o’s here. My kids aren’t really old enough for wearing scents yet, and since I’m from Sweden originally, I was always strapped in, but the rest…oh the rest! My kids (7 and 3) get really annoyed if they can’t swipe things, or the pause button is not working properly on the tv or whatever.

  16. Margo
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    Laughing out loud – or LOL – at your post and the comments. And I do believe I have found my soul sister in EGT with the flip phone. I’m in silicon valley now and it is definitely NOT hip to have mine, but I like that it fits in my pocket and I never pocket dial anyone. I agree with all of these items listed above, but find solace in the few similarities that have transcended generations: fad items of no value that get overpriced, I had friendship pins, aka safety pins and miniscule beads. my children have elastic sillybands and rainbow looms (rainbow looms which I love by the way for the long non-electronic down time they provide). We also continue to be a puzzle family. We just finished a 1000 piece one of Times Sq that had all of us engrossed. And I will admit that on short rides on non-trafficked roads, I’ve let the kids roll around in the back of the station wagon. They love it!

  17. Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    It’s funny…just tonight, over wings and beer, Hubby and I discussed how we are “stuck”—between generations…the people older than us who we know are “too old” and and the younger ones are ridiculous. We have realized we have very little patience for so many people, and when we wondered why, it occurred to us that it must be because we were born in this in-between generation. We can’t relate to any of this “new stuff” (says the girl with the blog) and we only understand each other!
    P.S. I don’t know anyone’s number either, yet I remember my home number from when I was in elementary…AND I remember, distinctly, when Dallas was on on Friday nights!

  18. Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Love this post! It’s amazing how different our kids’ perspectives on technology will be… but I guess this happens with every new generation. 🙂