- Steven John
- Kids have to go through certain rites of passage, regardless of when they’re born.
- However, my kids‘ lives will be strikingly different than mine in several key ways – like how the internet will shape their lives, their knowledge of environmentalism, and the lack of freedom to roam that I enjoyed.
- Though my kids will never know the feel of a typewriter, they will know an America where we’re approaching equality for different types of people.
In many ways, my kids’ childhoods will be just like mine, just as my own youth shared so many similarities with that of my parents, they of theirs, and back on it goes.
All kids have to go through certain rites of passage when it comes to friendships, relationships, struggles in school, the establishment of an identity, and all of the other million and one things that make us who we are.
In many other ways, my kids’ childhood will be starkly different than those halcyon days of my youth. The world has changed, and the way people approach parenting has changed.
Here are five ways my children’s young lives will be distinctly different than mine:
1. Freedom to roam
I was born in 1982, and whether or not the statistics back it up, the America of the late 1980s and early 1990s just seemed safer than it does today. My parents and the parents of friends never batted an eye when we elementary school-aged kids would disappear down the street on our bikes or run off into the woods after breakfast and not return until dinnertime.
I used to wander miles away from my home with no way for my parents to find me nor for me to quickly contact them, and it was simply never a problem – the parents knew us kids would always come back.
My kids? Once they’re grade-school aged, I’ll let them go wherever they want … on our property. When they’re a bit older, they can go to the end of the cul-de-sac on which we live.
2. Information everywhere
I grew up before the internet existed. In fact, I was still writing school papers by hand until my middle school years, when Word Perfect enabled me to type instead of scrawl.
In my day, when you wanted information, you went to the library and cracked open a book. In a time before smartphones, Wikipedia, and a million blogs, students could practice deeper learning and generally trust the information they found. Also, we got to enjoy the delightful running of mouths that occurs during conversations when no one can fact-check your claims.
Today, as soon as they’re old enough to have regular access to the web via a family computer (and, one dreaded day, their own phones), my kids will have access to answers to any and every question. For the most part, this is great, but sometimes information found online is biased or outright wrong.
3. They will come of age as we approach equality
The other day at dinner, in the organic course of conversation, my son casually said, “Or maybe he’ll marry a boy,” as my wife and I opined on the future of a friend’s relationship with his girlfriend.
My throat caught as I realized fully what I had long hoped and suspected: My son and daughter will never think twice about the normalcy of same-sex relationships. The US remains far from the finish line when it comes to genuine equality and tolerance, but we’ve moved in leaps and bounds toward it, even in the 35 years I’ve been alive.
In my youth, the word “gay” was an epithet hurled about the playground that landed with a sting. My kids will use that term (or the accepted descriptor of their day) as an adjective with all the ferocity of the words “tall,” “young,” or “blonde.”
4. My children will live with knowledge of violence
- Motortion Films/Shutterstock
The Columbine school shootingon April 20, 1999 was not the first such event in American history, but it was the first one that I clearly remember – and it was arguably the first such event of an era of similar horrors. Before that day, I had never once thought such a thing could happen. I was also a freshman in college when the Twin Towers fell on September 11th, 2001.
My wife and I can shield our young kids from the knowledge of domestic massacres and global terror for a few more years, but there’s no way they’ll make it into their mid-teens not knowing the kind of violence human beings at times inflict on one another.
Statistically speaking, the world is actually less violent today than in decades past, but near-constant media coverage of shootings, bombings, gas attacks, and so forth, the perception of a violent world is hard to avoid.
5. An environment at risk
- Bernhard Staehli/Shutterstock
The modern environmental movement was launched well before my birth in 1982 – it is often considered to have commenced with the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring.”
But even during my youth, climate change and other such calamities were rarely front and center in the news. Today, we hear about our climate crisis all the time, and the overwhelming consensus in the scientific community is thathuman activityis to blame for a significant portion of earth’s woes.
My four-year-old son has already been alive for multiplerecord-setting years for global temperatures. And my daughter, born just this past March, will likely live through multiple heat records soon to be set.