Kids don’t know how good they have it!

Published 8:58 am Thursday, March 17, 2011

Column: Thanks for Listening

Lately I have been reading books and the occasional blog about what it was like living back in the 1970s and 1980s.

I find it funny how the era that I grew up in is now being the generation that is coming back in style. People are referring to it as the great ’80s. I also laugh when I see the ’80s’ songs being referred to as retro. The Bangles and A-Ha retro? Wow! It makes me almost grow a mullet once again.

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When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their stories about how hard things were. When they were growing up they always would be walking 25 miles to school every morning … uphill … barefoot … both ways.

I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way I was going to lay a bunch of crap like that on my kids about how hard I had it and how easy they’ve got it over my time growing up in the ’70s and ’80s.

But now that I’m over the ripe, old age of 40, I can’t help but look around and notice the youth of today. I am so sorry, but you’ve got it so easy! And I hate to say it, but you kids today, you don’t know how good you’ve got it! Let’s look at the facts:

1. Internet

If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the library and look it up ourselves with the Dewey Decimal System.
 Now, you Google it!

2. E-mail

Back in the day (which was a Wednesday, by the way) we had to actually write somebody a letter — with a pen!

Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox, and it would take, like, a week to get there! Stamps were 13 cents!

Nowadays, if you get a letter, you think that someone kidnapped your child or something.

3. Child Protective Services.

It did not exist.

My parents would spank me if I needed it, but they did so with love. Love hurts sometimes.

4. iTunes

There were no iTunes. We had eight-track or cassette tapes and also 45s (those are vinyl records with two songs on them, by the way) that if we stacked pennies on the record player arms, it would sound just right.

Many times we also would call the radio station to play a song and wait to tape it on our cassette players. Please, everyone younger than 30, Google eight-track, cassette and record player so you understand what I just wrote.

It wouldn’t hurt to check 45 adapter, too.

5. Cell phones

We had rotary phones that were on our walls and there was only one in each house.

I know this is shocking, but we actually interacted only about twice a day on the phone if at all. The first call was to say where we should all meet our friends. The second call was to say we were just grounded and could not come.

If you had three sisters, like I did, you never used the phone and you just drove your bike around until you found your group of friends.

The text messaging that goes on now we called face-to-face interaction. If you wanted to tell a joke, you told it to your friends, who were in the same room as you. If we argued, we did it together, with actual emotions and not small yellow balls with the emotions on them.

6. Video games

We had a video game console that only played one game — Pong — before we eventually got the Atari 2600, which could play game cartridges. And those games would interest us for about 10 minutes before we wanted to do something else.

For that, we played outside with our friends. We played kick the can, flashlight tag, whiffle ball, basketball, hockey, baseball, you name it, and we played it until our mom would yell for us to come home.

Do you remember yelling, “Just five more minutes”? I do.

7. Television

We had no remotes. Well, we did, but we were the remotes. Whatever Mom and Dad told us to turn it to was the channel we were watching. Also we had four channels — CBS, NBC, ABC and PBS — and I still think we had better TV shows on those four channels than we currently watch. Reality TV for us happened outside our house, and we called it living day to day.

8. Respect

We respected our parents for the love they gave us, the food they put on the table, and the roof they put over our heads. It seems like today respect by kids is bought by a fancy handbag or a pair of name brand sneakers. We had chores and consequences if those chores were not done. We also rarely had sick days from school because the list of things to do at home if we stayed was bigger than anything at school.

Just so you know, this did not make us saints back then, and we still acted like we knew it all. Funny story: My dad used to say to us kids all the time when we got too big for our britches, “You should move out now, while you know it all.”

I always remember that saying when my children might be getting a bit too full of themselves, and I use it, too.

Maybe this generation gap and the saying of “Back when I was young” is something we all have to go through. Each generation tries to capture something about how they grew up and to highlight it. Each highlight is then spun through our own competitive nature as I think we all want to think of our time of growing up as the best.

I think the best way to handle each generation is when you look back, you thank the good lord and your parents for helping you turn out well and then you learn both good and bad from each trial and you try to pass on that wisdom to the next group that doesn’t want to hear it, but should. We need to stop and listen more and talk less.

Tribune Publisher Scott Schmeltzer’s column appears every Thursday.