Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Young at Heart

iPhone 4 showing the home screen.Image via WikipediaWhen my children were younger, they went through all the normal milestones: crawling, talking, walking, etc. I'm sure I went through them when I was young, too. The thing is- I don't remember them.

However, my children are beginning to hit the age where I have started remembering my own personal experiences. Now I have something to compare.

So begins the phrase every child hates, "When I was your age..."

"But, kids," I say, "You don't know how good you've got it." And I watch watch as they try to be respectful by suppressing the eye rolls, the involuntary twitches and the sighs.

But in truth, I don't know how my parents would have reacted to this modern-day world, where we have products never even dreamed of when I was growing up.

I grew up with a phone that had a rotary dial, a cord that stretched almost the length of the house, and no call waiting or electronic voice mail. Cell phones were only something imagined on Star Trek, and they were called "communicators."

So, how would my parents have handled cell phones? Well, if having my own phone in my own room was any indication of my communication privileges, I would say I probably wouldn't have had a cell until every last one of my classmates had one. And even then, I doubt they would have allowed the texting feature unless I paid for it.

Does that sound harsh? Well, to them it was about allowing a child to grow up slowly and not giving them access to friends 24/7. Or at least I think that's what it was about.

They were probably just feeling their way along the whole parenting thing. Just like I do today.

Our family rule now is that children are allowed a cell phone when they are 10 years old. Many would argue that is way too young. But with our busy family of five, it works for us. The unspoken rule is that "if mom calls, you had better answer."

And my kids and I use our cell phones to text and call each other. I have been able to talk more with my daughter via texts than I ever believe I would be able to face-to-face.

I know of people who have let their kids have cell phones at age 6. Now, there's no way I would do that. First of all, at 6, my kids would have lost the phone in 15 minutes flat. Secondly, what does one 6 year old really say to another?

I also know of people who wouldn't let their child have a cell phone until they were old enough to purchase it on their own. That, in itself, is not a bad plan. However, it's just not one that necessarily works for our family. But then, that's just me.

I guess a lot of my parents decisions could have been based on affordability, too. Because my kids don't have "data packages" on their phones. I don't know if they would if I could afford them or not.
But I do know that I also want to limit their access to the internet and the world (via the computer & said data package). Why? So they can maintain some of their innocence and grow up more slowly.

Besides the differences in phones, I remember growing up with a tiny closet, the ability to walk to the store six blocks over without having a parent with me and thinking how "worldly" I was because I knew people who lived in Georgia- a whole state away.

Today, my closet is probably as big as my room. I wouldn't let my child walk more than about three blocks by themselves- and they had best have their phone and text me to let me know they got there okay. And I have friends all over the world through the magic of the internet.

The point? There are many lessons I learned in my childhood that I wish for my children to learn in theirs. They may not learn them the same way I did, simply because we live in such a different world than I did growing up.

But remembering my youth helps trigger some of those all-important lessons so that I can know the approximate timing for teaching my kids. And it also gives me a place to compare and contrast to try to remember what worked on me and what didn't.

My youngest child is currently counting down the months until she turns 10. I'll be very interested to see how she handles the responsibility, and how many friends she has with whom she can actually text & talk.

I'm also anxious to see how things change in the future. I mean, my youth was great. But how can you compare a rotary phone with an iPhone? Like Billy Joel sang, "The good old days weren't always good. And tomorrow's not as bad as it seems."
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