When Shakeel (14) disagrees with me about something, he often tries to argue that, "Things were different in your day. You didn't have the technology we have today. You just don't understand how the world works". That is, of course, just before I punish him for sassing me by taking away his Playstation.
And yes, I am struggling to keep up with the way the world is changing. But, like I try to explain to them, not all these changes are positive and it actually saddens me that my kids are growing up so far removed from the far-more-wholesome lifestyles many of us had when we were growing up. A few decades ago the streets were always abuzz with activity as children played OUTSIDE from the moment they got home from school until they had to go inside.
Granted, children today are swamped with homework and have far less leisure time than we did back then, but my kids prefer to spend the free time they do have in front of the TV or computer instead of playing outside. I was absolutely mortified the first time I offered to take my kids to the park and they refused because "running around is too tiring and, besides, it's too hot".
I remember one day in particular when my friends and I were playing a game that involved the boys chasing the girls around the block (I don't remember the rules exactly). But what I do remember - running down Clare Road Wynberg - apart from the feeling of my lungs burning and my little legs aching with exhaustion (probably after being chased around the block for the 3rd time) was the absolute exhilaration of that moment. I realised that I was having so much fun.
I also think back to the icy weekday winter afternoons when my cousins and I would search for tadpoles on my grandfather's smallholding, parts of which used to dam up during winter. Those memories are so precious.
It saddens me that my kids are not experiencing such priceless moments in their daily lives. Yes, we take them on outings to beautiful places and they go on holidays to scenic destinations where we do share amazing moments and create special memories. But it is not that to which I am referring. When my kids think back to their weekday afternoons and just their daily lives as a whole, what will they remember fondly? Hours of homework followed by an hour or two of illicit screen time they manage to sneak in while I'm too busy to police them? That thought saddens me.
But the funny thing for me is that they don't regard themselves as being in a less fortunate situation (if compared to our upbringing). I'm not suggesting that modern day changes and technological advances are negative per se, as so much of our lives has been improved and expedited because of these developments. In fact, I too would be reluctant to return to a world without Internet. But, it has also caused us to lose so much. When my kids were younger, they would ask me to tell them about the fun we'd had as children and they'd even lament the fact that their lifestyles were so radically different and so dull in comparison. But, as they are getting older, I know that the older two cannot conceive of a life without modern technology for the purposes of entertainment. They laugh at the thought of us using our imaginations for entertainment instead of TV (even though we had TVs). In fact, apart from McGuyver, the A-Team, CHiPs or whatever the main attraction was on TV that night, TVs really didn't dominate our lives.
They find it strange that we got our news from newspapers every single day and not from news websites. Shakeel, who enjoys demonstrating his DJing skills using the Virtual DJ programme, laughs at the music to which we listened back then, while I respond with the words my father spoke to me, "How can you listen to this rubbish? What we listened to back in our day - now THAT was music!"
I'm always amazed when Shakeel's friends spend time in our company without, for a moment, looking up from their cell phones. Apart from it being extremely disrespectful to whoever is in their company, how does one maintain friendships when your time together is spent chatting to OTHER people on your BB or Whatsapp? This is why Shakeel only got a phone recently - a hand-me-down from his dad, with no facility to chat, thank goodness. Yet, from the beginning, I could already see the negative impact this was having on him and his relationship with the rest of the family. Instead of speaking to us, he would sit and play games or download music and Naruto memes. But the final straw, the moment that caused me to snap and lay down the law (concerning his phone) in the most intimidating and scariest way, came when, one day I called for him to help me with something and he didn't pitch. After a few minutes, Tharaa (11) came to tell me that he had his earphones plugged in and was listening to music on his phone. Despite my infuriation, I realised that it was our fault - we should have laid down the law more clearly BEFORE giving him the phone.
My older two enjoy teasing us about our age with questions such as, "Mommy, how long did it take you to get to school by horse and cart?" or "Mommy, you won't understand - you were born in the previous millenium" or " How did you celebrate the first day with electricity?"
Some of their questions are genuine inquiries, as they are unable to comprehend a world without cell phones and internet, but sometimes I get the impression that the latest technological advances with which they are growing up also seem to give them an annoyingly superior air. But that is when I remind them firmly (and sometimes a bit harshly) that irrespective of how much the world changes, what will never become outdated are the values with which we are trying to raise them, of which respect is tantamount.
So when I saw this on Facebook this morning, I immediately thought of my older two kids.