The other day I was swamped by the sheer volume and complexity of news stories available in today's media. Then it hit me, it really shouldn't bother me as most of what I draw from when writing doesn't necessarily come from news snippets, but from experiences that this new 'plugged-in' generation will totally miss.
For example, the other day I was cleaning my kitchen when I was utterly floored as I listened to the story of a local kid who successful had his parents dragged in by a child protective service branch (since I live in a border area not sure if it was WV/PA/OH/MD) because when the youth was being punished his parents dared take away his cellphone, video game system, computer and related paraphernalia. Um, hello, that is the definition of being grounded. To have things of enjoyment being withheld for a set period of time until positive changes in behavior are achieved. Instead this was considered 'cruel' and the preteen was being deprived of things his peers had making him the 'object of derision' also 'denying him enjoyment of his formative years.'
Oh for pity's sake. A preteen. As in not a teenager. I must have been the worst mom ever. My kid didn't get a cellphone until he was sixteen. Let's not talk about the video game system or the internet because if I do the federales will be tracking the origin of my signal to haul me away to Gitmo for waterboarding. Sheesh.
I remember the trips to Florida, when we had the money - not two or three times a year, let alone seasonally - and certainly not to the expensive realm of Disney. And on these long trips in a vehicle sans DVD player, we were to sit, feet on the floor, hands in our lap, and eyes steadfastly out the side-windows to report on anything of interest to either parent. By the way, we were fortunate to have an FM radio, which my father never played unless it was to drown out my mom's attempts to give him bad directions to wherever we were headed.
You'd be amazed at the things you see while looking out windows - like the man with the long greasy black hair, sunken eyes and pallid skin wearing a tuxedo and tall top hat, driving a blue Schwinn bicycle with a shiny chrome basket down the side of I-95. Trust me, that image stayed in my head from the time I was fourteen, he had the image of today's age-worn Alice Cooper without the cool stage make up. Even more interesting were all the signs for "No bicycles..." and the like on the road, yet there he was, and in such odd get-up. Like a mortician for roadkill minus the shovel.
There were other things, too. Like the carload of naked people driving down the road, carefree as you please. So many folks treat vehicles like no one can looks in, as if it's a brick and mortar world instead of a fishbowl on wheels, but there you have it. Even better were the billboards and animals. We stopped counting and memorizing all the goofy slogans and misspellings that made us laugh. Or how many "Pedro's South of the Border" signs there had to be - just too many to count. And I got to see a real black panther in along the side of the road when we cut across the state. Dad liked to go to wild places to take pictures.
I never noticed a lack of having "stuff" growing up, because there was so much fun. Miss Tactile Sensitivity, that's me I suppose. So when it came time to be a parent and I was presented with the problem of hardship, of need-versus-want I didn't want to just present things in terms of economics, but to show my child how life could still be fun, to inspire him to live and enjoy life to the fullest without lusting after all the crap his friends had.
You can eat a meal and talk to the people you are seated with.
You can watch a movie, focusing on it alone.
You can spend a holiday with your family without responding to the dulcet tones of a text.
The world will not end if the internet is disconnected for two whole weeks.
Just imagine the things you can learn about the world around you...or even about yourself, if left to your own imagination for that amount of time. The world spun for millennia without it in far, far better shape. Think on that, and ponder the possibilities and ramifications.