It Seems Like It’s Disappearing

What makes a childhood?  I’ve been giving that question a lot of thought since the day I first read Neil Postman’s The Disappearance of Childhood. That thinking took on an urgency once becoming a parent.

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Sweetgirl had a playdate for the girls in her new classroom last week. As I eavesdropped (because, MOM) on their conversations, I heard one eight year old exclaim to another that so-and-so in their class asked her out. One girl squealed, another put her hand to her heart and sighed (I kid you not), and another asked if it was The So-And-So from their classroom.

Wait.

Back that train up a sec.

HE ASKED HER OUT?!?!

She’s EIGHT YEARS OLD.

Yes, I am yelling.

Before I get an onslaught of negativity about not taking their little conversations so seriously and they are just testing out this growing up thing, SHE PRODUCED A PHONE NUMBER! He apparently wrote his phone number down and said, “Call me sometime.”

Full up stop.

Just stop.

Because, childhood? It seems like it’s disappearing.

When I was eight, the only adult things missing from my social life were teeth.

Neil Postman wrote about the phenomenon I was witnessing in his book.

More, and more frequently, I am struck by how we are losing our social idea of children as separate from adults. The divide between what experiences a child should have and what experiences we encounter as adults is shrinking.

It bothers me.

Does it bother anyone else?

Of television Postman writes,

“The six-year-old and the sixty-year-old are equally qualified to experience what television has to offer…For in speaking, we may always whisper so that the children will not hear. Or we may use words they may not understand. But television cannot whisper, and its pictures are both concrete and self-explanatory. The children see everything it shows.”

Television isn’t the root of all evil. (We all know money is, right?) But, what the t.v. does is “eliminate the exclusivity of worldly knowledge and, therefore, [eliminate] on of the principal differences between childhood and adulthood.

Right?

I mean, take a look at any current cartoon geared towards “children” and you will hear plenty of adult humor peppered throughout.

Reading this book opened my eyes to the ways in which media can negatively impact our children’s ability to have an actual childhood. And while it won’t leave you with warm fuzzies, it will open your eyes to the realities of the techno-world we live in.

Parenting is full of pitfalls and epic fails. I’m thankful for Postman’s ability to draw my eyes to the places where it can get especially holey. It helps me be more aware.

And I’ll take all the help I can get. Yes indeedy.

We’re winding down here in the Write 31 Days Challenge. If you’ve missed any of my other posts in the Best Books Ever series, click the button below. (They’re not all this heavy!)

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The Recording Follow-up

Just for those of you who asked, here’s the tune to “You Gotta Think Positive”.

Be prepared to be totally and completely underwhelmed.

“You Gotta Think Positive” by Sweetgirl and her Mama

This was my feeble attempt at technology integration.

My future, in this department, is insecure.

Obviously.

 

 

 

 

 

You Say Playdough, I say Plato

I don’t hate Plato.

But, Sweetgirl thinks I do.

This misunderstanding all came about because of a discussion that Sweetman and I were desperately trying to have over pancakes this past weekend.

Unfortunately, we forget that little ears, though they may be engaged in another activity entirely, are always listening.

And, oftentimes, misconstruing.

I was innocently sharing about a radio segment that I had recently heard about an intriguing new book, titled “Plato at the Googleplex” by Rebecca Goldstein. I immediately loved the premise (Plate goes on a multicity speaking tour in the 21st century). But I loved, even more, the interviewers take on how Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is such an apt description of our current society’s fascination with social media – to the exclusion of face-to-face interactions. (If your eyes didn’t just glaze over – we really ARE meant to be the best of friends!)

Sweetman immediately jumped in to share of an article that he’d recently read in The Atlantic, titled  “Why I Teach Plato to Plumbers”. If the above book didn’t hook me, this article definitely would have! The author,  currently a Community College Professor, was retelling about a letter he received from a former student, who was now a factory worker. The professor had used one little quote from Schopenhauer, during one of his courses. The student was so struck by it, that he went in search of it. By reading each and every one of Schopenhauer’s books! Essentially, the student was thanking the teacher for introducing him to Schopenhauer. Even though, the class the author taught was on Plato.

It served to remind me of the great power each teacher holds to shape thinking.

Whether at Harvard, or the local community college.

Or, in my child’s Kindergarten classroom.

And so, as Sweetgirl’s Kindergarten teacher was sharing about how Sweetgirl seems smitten with any opportunity to play with playdough, I had to explain, again, how I detest playdough. I keep it well-hidden in our home.  I only bring it out in case of extreme emergency. I can’t even think of an emergency that extreme. But, that I do, indeed abhor it, and so she only plays with it if I’m able to stand at the ready with a vacuum in one hand and a broom and dustpan in the other.

True story.

Back to our breakfast conversation, when Sweetgirl asked why we were talking about playdough, I tried to explain Plato to a six year old.

I quickly realized that is above my pay grade.

I left it at, “Plato was a wise person who lived a long time ago. PlayDOUGH is an awful thing that mama lets you play with once in a while.”

Philosophical simplification at it’s very best.

“But, why do you hate Plato, Mama?”

“I don’t” I foolishly answered.

“Can I play with it when we get home, then” she asked.

Well played, child.

I’d rather dig up Plato.

Yes indeedy.

Brave New World, Indeed

The world my Sweetchildren will navigate is lightyears away from the one that I did as a child.

 

Used with Permission, http://www.geraldthesheep.com

 

How do we teach them that there’s not only an App for that, but also an appropriate social interaction, too.

We used to ask the Grampa.  Now they ask The Google.

Tweets are no longer lovely sounds from a bird in nature.

 

It’s not all bad, though.  Sitting around the kitchen table this weekend enjoying some family time (you know, where each of you sit with an electronic device of some kind and “enjoy each other’s company?),  I received this text from Sweetboy:

 

I’ll overlook the grammar for now…

 

Does anything worry you about technology as a staple of our children’s diets?

Siri-us?

Siri has been getting quite the workout in our house lately. A workout that I’m fairly certain she isn’t enjoying all that much.

Sweetman:  “Why can’t I remember the name of the actor that played the White Shadow?”

Sweetboy: “Just ask The Siri Lady, daddy.”

Or…

Mama:  “I wonder where the closest ice cream place is?”

Sweetboy: “Siri will know, Mama.”

And just when I thought her ill-treatment was contained to our house, The Nana called.  Poor, poor Siri…

Me:  “So, Mom, how are things going with your new iPhone?”

The Nana: “I hate that Siri Lady.  Sometimes, I hit her by accident, but I don’t want to talk to her so I just say ‘Oh, shut-up Siri.  I don’t have anything to say to you!’ ”

Maybe I should steer the Sweetchildren towards degrees in techno-therapy.  It’s almost a given that Siri’s gonna need it.

Indeed.