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  • Susie Csorsz Brown

Same but different

We all feel as though our generation grew up at that ONE pivotal time, THE era, and, regardless of our age, we feel our growing up years were significantly different than what our children are going through. Sure, sure, not all of us walked uphill through the snow - both ways! - to the single room schoolhouse, but .... certainly our experiences were different than those of our children, especially those of us raising kids in the foreign service. I believe understanding these differences is really important to building a solid bridge of connection and communication with your kids - so they can see where you came from, and you can gain understanding into what they are going through.

My thoughts on some of the most glaring differences:

1. We played outside. We went out in the mornings on a Saturday, romped all over the neighborhood, and came home at dark. We could go on long meandering bike rides with our besties, and we could walk the mile to the corner store. We had a lot more freedom in our movements and our time than do our kids. Sure, there were those kids that had soccer once a week at the park during the late summer and early fall, but it was a very casual group with mostly-organized games. We were not over-programmed, over-scheduled and stressed out. We didn't have to pick our sport at age 4. We could try different sports, different hobbies, different past-times and it was not essential we pick the one we would master by the age of 14.

2. Our biggest worry at school was what they were serving in the cafeteria and if we could get all of our various belongings into our lockers. Bullies existed but not in a life-threatening sort of a way. We didn't have to worry about bomb-threats or someone bringing a gun to school. Big hair was in, as were tightish jeans and loads of make-up. Leggings did not even exist, nevermind become an acceptable option for lower-body wear. There was no cyber-anything as the Internet did not exist. Being 'liked' actually meant meeting people and making friends, not how many people click a little 'thumbs up' button under a pic.

3. We learned how to write; penmanship was an important part of our lessons. Time was spent in class on developing our cursive. Writing is a skill. We used complete sentences with verbs, adjectives, prepositional phrases and even every letter for each word. We could think in more than 140 to 280 character limits. ‘Hashtag’ was actually ‘pound’ or ‘number’ sign and emojis didn’t even exist. When we laughed out loud, we laughed out loud; it was a real emotion that didn’t need a smiley face.

4. There may have been one classroom computer that was turned on every couple of weeks for one program or another but the technology in the classroom generally consisted of the overhead projector on a spare desk. There was no such thing as an ipad, let alone google docs, online classrooms, or peer-reviews. Assignments were given in class, encyclopedias (usually from the library) were used to research, and then actual physical papers were turned in to the teacher for grading. Especially as we got into higher grades, bubble sheets were often a part of exam-taking. Bubble sheets and #2 pencils. There was very little group work or presentation requirements. Math was math, science was science, and there was no mingling of the two. If you learned a language (other than your own), it was through monotonous regurgitation of nonsense sounding words.

5. Video games were not especially accessible, and not necessarily something people had in their homes. Anyone with spare quarters and a yen to play could be found hanging out either in an arcade atmosphere. Sure, there were driving games and a handful of shooting games but certainly nothing as realistic as what we see today.

6. We didn’t hear horrific stories of yet another gunman every other week. We didn’t worry about gun control laws because people seemed to be better able to control their impulses and anger. Or, maybe more accurately, we just didn’t hear about the incidences that did actually occur because we were not connected to news 24/7.

7. We didn’t really think globally because our worlds were much smaller. Letters took weeks to be delivered, phone calls were expensive, and staying connected with friends meant asking your parents for stamps and envelops. Experts wrote and published books, not blogs. We were fine with our disconnectedness because, honestly, we didn’t know anything different.

I could go on and on. This is just a handful of things that have changed in the last couple of decades. Do we parents know better? Not necessarily. Probably we do, just because we have had so many more experiences to learn from, but … our kids can do things on their computers and phones that we can’t even imagine would be possible. Is it because they know better? Not necessarily, just because they are so technologically savvy and able, but … we parents know how to connect to others and consider and face consequences. It might just be that the best thing to do would be to accept that we each have something to offer and teach and also to learn. I can appreciate that. Can you?

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