Life in the Slow Lane

Life in the Slow Lane

Monday, December 11, 2006

Just Emphasising How Sad A Person I Am

I came to a conclusion today. I am bitter. It is true. However I am not alone in my bitterness as I have also realized that there have been those before me who were also bitter for the same reason. I believe there is a legacy of bitterness. Do you remember when you were a kid when your folks or relatives or some grown-up would say to you how lucky you were as when they were a kid they had it rough? Both my parents grew up in the depression/WWII days so I got lots of stories about how hard they had it. And they did. They legitimately did. And I had it easy compared to them. And so it continues…

I was talking to my cousin, LBo, the other day, and as always the topic of what her two girls, ages 17 and 18, are doing lately comes up. Inevitably she tells me that they doing something that incites intense jealousy in me. While I am so happy that they get to do such cool stuff there is a little voice in my head that yells, “OH MAN!!! We never had that when I was a kid! I'm so seriously fucking envious of these teenagers!” And then I feel like a nasty old curmudgeon shit.

So I realized that when those adults in my past who said I had an easy life were in actuality bitter. And I am bitter too.

My cousin’s kids went to summer camp and they rode horses and did archery and really cool stuff like that. When I went to camp we made crafts out of bark. We roasted weenies over a fire. Holy crap, that was exciting. A real fire. One not in a dumpster. (I was a city child) I can remember what a big deal a canoe was. We didn’t get to ride in one but there were some at the dock. But there were no horses or arrows or specially trained counselors complete with CPR training and early development education. Our minders were drunk teenagers. And there were no seatbelts on the bus either.

Kids now have teachers who care. They have teachers who know about ADD, ADHD, peanut allergies, learning disabilities, substance abuse, negligent parents, and childhood illness. Parents also are actually involved in their kids schooling and call and complain if there are any problems. Nobody did that when I was a kid. Kids with learning problems or behavior issues were just called bad and sent to the principal’s office. If you were not doing well in a particular class you failed and then took summer school. There were no parent/teacher conferences or special tutors brought in. You were just left behind. I had never even heard of a peanut allergy until I was in my 20’s. I guess my anaphylactic classmates just wheezed their way through lunch hour.

Nobody used to care if you were harassed by a bully. I know I never even bothered to complain about it as I knew there was no point. You had to suck it up and just run faster. Nowadays there are Anti-Bully Coalition Committees and videos and reading material and everything. Bullies are actually singled out and frowned upon. Other kids ‘out’ bullies to their elders. They are the losers opposed to the victims. Bullies are no longer cool.

I had an English teacher in high school who used to turn off the heat and open the windows in his classroom so we were all cold and therefore awake and paying attention. We were not allowed to wear our coats. Nowadays that guy would be stoned to death in the playground by angry parents. And then sued multiple times.

That kind of shit is no longer tolerated so yeah, I am bitter. My cousin’s kids go to a special creative high school where there are dance and TV production classes. Artistic ability and individuality are not only celebrated but encouraged. However, I was called ‘Drama Fag’ for my participation in school plays. When I was a kid the only thing praised in school was athletic ability. There were no such things as special high schools for creative kids. Coaches practiced such archaic methods like letting student captains (always the best jocks) pick their own team. If you were small and slow and nearsighted like I was gym was the ultimate humiliation. My gym teacher used to encourage the kids to tease me. He called me ‘useless’ himself. That never happens anymore. Now that is considered ‘unhealthy.’

Yeah, I am really bitter. Kids these days have cell phones and DVD players in the car and belly button rings and wear grown up clothes. I had the joy of my little brother’s company in the backseat of the family car and his only diversion was bugging me. We rattled around the back without seatbelts. I wore gauchos and the only body piercing I ever saw was on those National Geographic films. We had one phone in the house and one TV and we watched what was on basic cable and we were thankful.

Well, now I am not. Now I am pissed. Dooce even posted about it today. There are special flavored medicines. Not to mention online homework help and video games. Kid oriented TV channels and DVDs. We had Saturday morning cartoons and the Sunday night Disney show. Otherwise we were forced to read. An actual book. OMG!

Kids are now marketed to. Society rejects spankings. Children are considered more equals opposed to second class citizens. HEY! Admit it. Kids have it better now. Nothing is too good for them. Their opinions count. I don’t say they always necessarily have it easier. There are more pressures. Our big temptations were beer and maybe some hash oil that so-and-so’s brother got from a guy in some alley. Now there is meth and crack and manufactured thrills like that. Yet overall I think kids have it better. I think kids are encouraged more and have far more opportunities to express themselves.

So yeah. I am sitting here writing about how jealous I am of little kids. It is official. I’m old. Old, sick, bitter and twisted.

Are you envious of kids today? Or do you think life is harder?


Sharkey said...

I think that in a lot of ways, kids do have it easier today. Yes, they have more opportunities and more things. But I think a lot of kids are over-scheduled with all those activities, and while "things" seem great on the surface, I'm not so sure they are. If Junior's parents give him a Wii, an iPod, a cell phone, and a car, does that make him a better person in the long run? No! It just makes a kid who needs to be constantly entertained, and quite possibly one who expects everything to be handed to him in life.

Of course, bullying and being picked last are no fun for anyone. I'm not saying we shouldn't try to minimize these things. But I do think dealing with issues like that helps kids learn important life skills. If we insulate them from everything, how will they learn to get along in the real world?

So I guess I'm a bit of a cranky curmudgeon myself. (And the armchair quarterbacking is easy since I don't have kids.)

Madame D said...

Oh, my son totally has it easier. Especially with the parents I had. Ugh.

hemlock said...

On one hand, I'm extremely jealous of my younger sister. There are 12 years between us, and it sometimes feels like several generations. She has never wanted for a thing in her life, while I always thought that if I wanted something I had to pay for it... therefore I often felt responsible for my own lack of experiences. Clothing allowance? Check. Brand new downhill skis? Check. Multiple trips to lovely locations all over the world? Check. Summer camp every year? Check... I could go on.

I am bitter.

On the other hand, I have to constantly remind myself that although my sister gets all the things I always wanted as a kid, I actually got my parent's time. As a kid we cross country skied togeter. As a kid we would actually spend time together. My sister? She hasn't had that luxury. She has spent a lot of time by herself, and with babysitters. I feel for her.

As for how much harder things are, I think it's just different. Harder in some ways, and easier in others.

happy and blue 2 said...

I think rich kids have it easier. But I think it's harder for the rest.

I blame parents for kids not having consequences for their actions..

lawyerchik said...

In a way, I agree with you all, but in a way, I think I had it easier than kids do today.

F'rinstance, I could stay outside by myself until the street lights came on without having to worry about being kidnapped by some child molester or shot in a drive-by (I was a city kid, too). I could go - unaccompanied! - to the library that was, like, 10 blocks away.

I could play in my neighbors' back yards and go inside and have Koolaid and then go back outside, and my mom did not have to know where I was every freakin' minute of the day.

I took violin lessons at school - because schools had the budget for extra-curricular activities that built confidence in students whose best skills weren't always right under your nose.

Teachers let us work out our own problems, instead of dragging our parents into everything because of their fears of liability.

Parents encouraged us to work things out ourselves, and actually suggested that fighting with someone the right way could make you friends.

I got to go on long-distance trips with my grandparents during the summer because it was educational to see the country - even if all you saw was flat space. I rode an old plow horse bareback at my grandfather's family farm, because they still had a family farm, and they still had a plow horse. It hadn't been converted to agribusiness with huge tractors.

I think I lived in a bigger, safer world that had more opportunities than kids do today, and while the "cool factor" of some of the choices is higher now, more isn't necessary better. Sometimes it's just more.

Nerdgirl said...

Yay, yay and yay!!

Children in the UK now get paid to go to college (the bit before uni), and if they attend all classes they get a bonus at the end of term.


Nerdgirl said...

Yay, yay and yay!!

Children in the UK now get paid to go to college (the bit before uni), and if they attend all classes they get a bonus at the end of term.


Nerdgirl said...

Yay, yay and yay!!

Children in the UK now get paid to go to college (the bit before uni), and if they attend all classes they get a bonus at the end of term.


Candace said...

Sure, they have some great stuff (how much better would the walk between classes in college have been had we had iPods then?) but just yesterday I was lamenting the loss of record shops. I remember spending HOURS in record shops when I was a teenager. My kids will most likely never do that. Some of my best memories are of things they'll never get to do, like lawyerchik said (although, our school still does offer the extras: Christopher takes string bass at school).

stampydurst said...

Personally, I think the challenges growing up made us tougher. I never had a helmet (could explain somethings), wrist guards, trips to the ER for minor injuries, etc. I walked across the TOP of monkey bars, and when I fell off I landed on asphalt - not some bouncy recycled tires. "Everyone" was not student of the week - you had to work for those honors. And I sucked at sports, so often I sat on the bench.

So, aside from the whole head injury thing, I always wonder what is going to happen to the kids of today when they get in the real world and aren't guaranteed playing time. When "everyone" isn't employee of the month. And when they're forced to realize that sometimes falling hurts.

Marit said...

I never even got to go to summer camp. My mom locked us out and bought us bikes for the summer. Occasionally, we'd get some change to chase down the ice cream man.

I'm VERY jealous of kids these days. When you wrote about creative high schools---I would have LOVED that. My cousin is in one, and she is taking design classes that I had to wait for COLLEGE to take. I think that these schools are awesome, because who needs math anyway? ;)

eclectic said...

One of the truest joys of being a parent is knowing that your children's childhood is a sacred time in their lives, and being able to provide them with time, attention, a few toys, a few adventures, and a lot of love while they experience it and grow through it.

Little changes in basic human nature from generation to generation, and in many ways kids today are exactly the same as kids have always been. It's just their context is different. Which is what makes each generation unique in their sameness.

Sure, I'm envious of some of the toys, tools and conveniences available today, but I think, "WOW! What's going to be available for my grandkids?!" and I get excited to find out when that time arrives.

Michelle - Xiolastarr said...

I'm not too jealous of them because as a child I actually had a childhood... When I had free time I went swimming, and toboganning and to the park and I painted and found bugs etc.

But now I think many are watching too much video games and TV. I kind of feel sorry for them.

What are their childhood memories or imaginations going to be like?

whfropera said...

but those teenage girls could become this:

and i am SO a grumpy old maid, too!

JP said...

The only thing I'm jealous of kids today is that their toys are way cooler than the ones I had growing up!! =) But I look at all the demands on them, and the way that every moment of their lives is school, sports, clubs, or something else and I wonder if a simplier, less is more approach would be better. It also seems while I grew up in the Cold War era, with the threat of nuclear war, the kids today have actually seen shooting in school and airplanes run into buildings. So I think if I were given the choice I'd take the 80's all over again.

east village idiot said...

I guess I don't envy kids as much. I feel bad for them - at least in my circles -

1. they live in the age of where nuclear destruction is very much a reality.

2. they live with a level of terrorism that makes people afraid to travel and go on planes. In new york you can't help but feel that way.

3. they live in the age of AIDS where sex can mean death. that is very sad to me.

4. they live in a time when people super duper hate the U.S. because of our foreign policy.

5. Girls are sexualized at such a young age in our culture - it's sad and it's not empowering.

6. Getting into a good US college is becoming intensely difficult.

I think what sucks is that you didn't get the sort of education that you so deserved. It's obvious that you must have been a very bright, creative and sensitive girl - you have all those qualities as woman. Take a chance and do all that stuff now, especially the belly button ring for starters. You are one brave motherf*cker -- now it's time to get a joy infusion. You deserve it!