We adults have ruined the world for our kids

Once again someone has sent me a trite old email about “How great things were in the past!” and “How awful things are today!”

Surely you’ve seen these before, the less-than-subtle comparison that when we were kids we knew how to be kids, unlike kids today who are pathetic pansies.

However, there are two major problems with such grossly inaccurate nostalgia trips: 

1) Life was never as good as we remember it, and;

2) If we don’t like the way life is for our kids, we—their parents and grandparents—are to blame.

First, let’s look objectively to some of the ridiculous claims about how we “survived” and are somehow inherently “better” than the younger generation.  Many pieces like this one detailed below float around, but since this is the most comprehensive, we’ll use it to demonstrate the selective memory problems so many in the older generations suffer from. This one is called:

TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED
The 1930’s 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s

(From: http://www.corsinet.com/braincandy/hage5.html)

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us. So there’s no problem with mothers smoking and drinking during pregnancy? Or are you willing to admit that no, not everyone emerged as “good” as you?

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes. And they also had a lot more problems during childbirth as a result. But you don’t remember your birth, so obviously this detail doesn’t matter.

Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints. Lead-based paint causes problems in mental acuity, which the author of this piece of propaganda demonstrates all too well.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking. And the author also doesn’t remember that children died from poisonings at higher rates than they do now, and that many children suffered from brain damage or worse when they crashed on their bikes. There were consequences. Although brain damage causes us to forget . . . 

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. And the families who died in car accidents back then aren’t around to explain how seat belts and air bags would have saved their lives.  

Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat. Stupid, but special. Again, loss of memory=brain damage. (Or marijuana use. Go ahead–ask Grandpa about the drug culture of the 60s and 70s.)

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle. So why don’t you let your grandkids drink from the hose?

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this. No one dies now, either. It’s usually kids’ parents and grandparents who freak out about them sharing. 

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren’t overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING! But an enormous amount of the adult population is overweight now, because you never outgrew drinking soda and eating sugar. Type 2 diabetes, anyone? Everyone?

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. So why did you create a society where your kids and grandkids can’t have such freedom? Why do you call social services when you see kids walking by themselves to a nearby park?

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K. It’s not kids who buy cell phones to carry around; it’s their parents.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem. But when your kids/grandkids ask to use supplies in the shed, you yell at them to not make a mess, not make any noise, and go to their rooms and be quiet. So they turn to their games . . .

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo’s, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms……….WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them! So why do you now yell at the neighbor kids when they’re outside running around and making noise? Why do you call their parents and threaten to sic the cops on them for accidentally running across your lawn?

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. Kids don’t file lawsuits; their parents file lawsuits. Why are you doing this now?

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. So why do you not let your own kids/grandkids explore this way?

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes. Kids don’t call the cops on other kids with BB guns. Adults do that. Why did you change?

We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them! So stop accompanying your children, or telling them to use a phone, or tell them that you don’t want them out on their own.  

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! So now that you’re coaching these teams and have put your kids in these sports, why have you changed the rules?  

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! So why don’t you respect the law anymore, and defend your precious “innocent” babies instead?

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! And has also produced adults that over-parent their children and limit their development. Why is that?

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. Surely you don’t think YOU’VE accomplished all of that, do you? Millions take credit for the work of just a few thousand. 

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL! And yet you’re afraid to let your children and grandchildren have that same experience?

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good. Ah, I see! Individuals don’t have any responsibility—it’s all the lawyers government’s fault!? You just claimed earlier to have “responsibility,” but only when it’s convenient? No, I’m sorry. You can’t pin all of these changes on the government. And how many of you are lawyers? We all have to take responsibility for how our children turn out.

And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were. And just how dramatically they changed the world you now live in. Yes, your parents and grandparents destroyed everything when they became grownups. Remember that when you choose their nursing home.

How many of us have naively imagined Thanksgiving looking like this? How often have we actually achieved it? Everyone smiling? Yeah, me too.

The problem is the “good ole days” never really existed. Even in the 1950s—a classical age many of our older generations hark back to—we knew this.

Morris Wright in 1957, wrote this about the beloved Norman Rockwell paintings that I’ve used in this blog:

“We might say that Mr. Rockwell’s special triumph is in the conviction his countrymen share that the mythical world he evokes actually exists. This cloudland of nostalgia seems to loom higher and higher on the horizon . . . and disappears from view . . . leaving the drab world of common place facts and sensations behind.” [emphasis added] (Approaching Zion, Hugh Nibley (1989), page 523. )

Here’s another plug for “Those were the good ole days” that never were.  https://www.facebook.com/1035wimz/photos/a.180388971978038.49555.121975634486039/871131596237102/?type=1

And another that touts many poor decisions as “ok” and “Hey, we survived.” However, I appreciate that she prefaced her list with this:

Now, as a parent myself, my own parents like to tell me I’m too overprotective.
“Really?”
“Well, you survived,” they say.
“Yep, but it seems like the odds were against me.” http://thestir.cafemom.com/big_kid/165499/21_Things_80s_Kids_Did

Another “We had it so tough but we also had it so great, so we’ll just ignore all the other bits.” https://amyunjaded.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/70s-80s.jpg

This one’s more balanced, with an interesting comparison of a few decades ago with today. There are advantages and disadvantages to both times, and let’s remember that. http://preventdisease.com/news/15/020515_10-Differences-Child-Grew-Up-70s-Compared-To-Today.shtml

Check out this video by Nature Valley Granola, and ask yourself: who bought all the gadgets for their kids and grandkids? Who’s responsible for teaching them how to really play outside? It seems that some adults are realizing that hey—all of this is our fault. And we’re also the solution. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is5W6GxAI3c

The next time someone older than 30 (yes, don’t trust anyone over 30!) sends you a nostalgic turn of the belly via email or social media, challenge them with this: Prove that life really was better “back then.” And don’t let them use only their hazy and selective memories. Make them use real data. 

Don’t worry. They won’t. They can’t. They’re still not sure what “Google it” means.

In many ways our society is far better than it ever was. Yes, we have huge and glaring problems—I rant about those enough, so I won’t do so here—but we’ve also done a few things right. For example:

We’re far more compassionate.

  • Many decades ago a relative of mine committed suicide. His grieving family was shunned, and even a basic burial was denied him. Today, we’re far more helpful to those suffering from mental illness, and we open our arms to love those left behind when someone loses the fight.
  • To those of various religions. Only fifty years ago this was a very Protestant country. Catholics and Jews were commonly snubbed. Ask your grandma about the fear of a Catholic John F. Kennedy running for president. Although we still have far to go, we tolerate others’ beliefs far better than we ever have. Mormons like me haven’t been run out of a state since the 19th century.

We’re far more accepting. 

  • Of different races. Seriously, we are. Ask anyone who grew up in the south in the 1940s and 1950s. Ask them what they remember about where the blacks and whites lived, and where they got drinks of water, and where they worshipped. We’ve made HUGE strides. The problems we have now are frequently manufactured and piddly in comparison.
  • Of homosexuals. The closet door has been open for a long time now.
  • Of different lifestyles. Just a decade ago anyone who was a vegetarian was snickered at. Now, a lot more people are looking to eat healthier, smarter, cleaner. “Alternative” is becoming “mainstream.” We’re less worried about “fitting in,” which is marvelous progress.

We’re far better about acknowledging and fixing problems.

  • Not so long ago, alcoholism was ignored. It was a condition whispered about, but rarely helped. Just ignore it and the problems will go away, was the shallow hope.
  • Oh, and advertisements used to feature doctors, babies, and even Santa to sell cigarettes. Admirable, very admirable.
  • Abuse in the home was also another “Don’t talk about” issue. Kids would come to school bruised and battered, wives (or worse, husbands) would have black eyes from “accidents,” and it was very rare that anyone ever stepped in to help.
  • Same with sexual abuse. We tend to think that’s a recent problem, but it’s not. Kids who were sexually abused in the 1970s were told to just “forget about it,” and their parents would as well. Employ the trusty, “Ignore it, and it’ll go away,” like that giant elephant in the living room which grows bigger and stinks more horrendously every day.

We’re far better at talking. 

About all those issues above, and many, many more. Some senior citizens think we talk too much—they derisively call it “gossip”—but frankly, I wouldn’t want to live in any other generation. Yes, we’ve got problems far worse than many of our ancestors faced, but we also are tackling them in ways they never dared.

“But the older generation, with its propensity to remember everything far better than it ever was, will be a harder sell.”  ~Chairman Nicko Mal, Book 3, The Mansions of Idumea

Please tell me Perrin and I aren’t the only ones skeptical about politics

I have to confess that with the election season already upon us, and with more than a full year to go, I’m already sharing Perrin’s skepticism about politics:

politics quote

I may go into hiding for the next 13 months. I’m still suffering from lingering trauma caused by the 2012, and I just can’t go through it all again. (See you all about mid-November, 2016.)

I nearly gave up because of half an ounce.

“Half an ounce?! No!!!”

I’m normally an up-beat person. My mantra over the past 15 years has been, “I will make this work!” It’s become a challenge to take whatever fragments I’ve been given and put them together into something I really didn’t think would function, but does.

But every once in a while too many of those fragments pile up. For some reason, it’s the little things that get me down, not the big ones.

etsy business card

My business card. Just print, cut out, stick in your wallet.

I have an Etsy shop, and because various websites have highlighted my Harry Potter clock and sock sign, and my Geek/Nerd clock, I’ve been successful enough to quit my part-time job. Now I stay home making products, devoting more time to homeschooling, cooking healthier, ghostwriting a biography on the side, and—oh, yes—editing book 5.

Several times a week I bring my labeled packages to my local post office, but last weekend the postal worker said, “Hold on a moment. We recently noticed a problem.” She put my package on the scale and it read one pound and barely half an ounce. “You’re just a tiny bit over. Anything over one pound puts your packages in the next price range.”

I was stunned. “But they’ve always weighed just under a pound!”

007

The digits of doom and despair . . .

She shrugged in sympathy. “Something’s changed, though. You’d be amazed how little things can add up.” She suggested I rework my shipping, and I went home worried and embarrassed. Had I been cheating the US postal service lately with packages suddenly too heavy?

And that’s when the spiral hit. Maybe you never do this, but a perfect storm of scenarios can make me sink rapidly. My despair spin looked like this:

  1. I’m done for.
  2. Because the packages are too heavy,
  3. my shipping charges will skyrocket, and,
  4. my profits will be cut dramatically, so
  5. I won’t make the money we need for the bills, and
  6. I’ll have to get another job again,
  7. because I’ll have to shut down my Etsy shop!

Those seven steps took me all of about 20 seconds.
It was just one of those days, when the weight of a tiny pebble hit me like a boulder.  By the time I got home four minutes later, I was utterly dejected. Having little hope, still I borrowed a scale from a neighbor (I have since bought my own) and, remembering my mantra, mumbled, “I’ll make this work.”

I came up with that phrase 15 years ago when we had our sixth baby and a foreclosure notice. Several months of little to no work meant we could no longer afford the house we thought we’d live in for the rest of our lives. No matter what we tried, we failed at. It felt like God didn’t want us to succeed, at least not there.

In desperation, I agreed to follow my husband who thought we should move to the other side of the country and try a different kind of life. We packed up whatever would fit in a U-haul truck, my little children said good-bye to their friends, we gave away some of our pets, said farewell to all of my family, and, with only a few dollars and a humble job awaiting us, we trekked to the east coast and moved in with his family who could offer us three bedrooms for our clan of eight.

Struggling with post-partum depression (my baby wasn’t yet two months old), financial disaster, and living in a state I didn’t know and with zero friends for our family, I miserably decided, “Somehow I have to make this work.”

And so for the next few months we tried. Because we were in a suburb of Washington DC, I took my kids as often as I could to the Mall and the museums, and tried to find ways to enjoy our new environment. But it was tough. Housing was impossibly expensive which meant we couldn’t find a place of our own, my husband’s commute was over an hour, and there wasn’t a mountain to be seen anywhere. But still I kept thinking, “I have to make this work. God sent us here for a reason, so I have to make this work.”

After a few months my husband was offered another job in a much cheaper area. He moved into the heart of Virginia, and five months later we were able to join him. That was possible because someone miraculously bought our former home the day before it was to be auctioned off. That same week an old house became available for us to rent, across the street from my husband’s work.

Commute time, one minute by foot.

virginia house

Our rental house in Buena Vista, VA. We were the last occupants of this magnificent home.

There were some catches, though. The house was officially condemned, to be torn down in a few months to make way for new construction. But until then, the owners agreed to let us live with mice in the attic, skunks in the crawl space, roaches in the kitchen, and vines growing through the siding into the house. When it rained, we set up buckets to catch the water. But, at $350/month, I knew we “had to make this work.”

And we did. I was so happy to be together as a family again, and in the dingiest house I’d ever lived in.

Miraculously, another five months later we moved into a brand new house which we loved for five years, and when we sold it we were miraculously able to pay off the debt we still carried from the old house we had lost.

Those were heavy weights to wield, but we made them work.

So why, several years later, did I freak out over less than an ounce of weight?

Sometimes the smallest things feel insurmountable, like the brick in my path which makes me fall to my knees and weep. But strangely, if someone were to throw a brick wall in front of me, I’d rub my hands together and say, “I’m gonna tear down that wall!”

Maybe it’s the niggling smallness of it, the constant tiny bits that just wear us down. A pebble in a shoe bumping against the toes is much more annoying than a rock one has to climb over. Day after day after day, it’s the little things that just get to you. pebble and boot

I had a few dozen of those niggling issues last weekend, so hearing that I had “a weight problem” pushed me ridiculously to tears. “I don’t know how I’ll ever fix this! It’s all over!”

But still I worked it, because I just can’t bear to quit. I bought new packing supplies and weighed all of my products (identical items had different weights!) but still couldn’t find the problem. Aggravated, I thought, Fine! I quit! Which I really didn’t mean, but the words came clearly to my mind, “You’re going to quit over half an ounce? That’s not like you.”

No, it wasn’t like me, but I was being petty and indulging in a little pity party. I’d been working on major projects for other people, and hadn’t had time to spend on my own work. (Not regularly visiting Edge leaves me edgy.)

My next thought was, “You’re treating this like a ton, but you know it’s only half an ounce. You can beat half an ounce.”

Yes, losing our house and moving 2,000 miles away—that was a ton.

So was moving back west, which we did when our 8th baby was just four weeks old, and I drove our 15-passenger van all the way from South Carolina to Idaho in four days, and the U-haul my husband drove broke down every single day.

IMG_0728

The fuel gauge was also broken (along with the braking system), and this is where the truck stopped one day, out of fuel. Yes, just that close to the gas pump.

We’ve also again faced the crushing weight of under-employment, and the medium bone-breaking weight of medical bills, of debt, and of major appliances dying.

But here’s the weird thing: as I look back on those problems that fairly crushed or merely bruised me, I see that weight as only a few hundred pounds: difficult, but not impossible. We made it work! No big deal!

My perception has changed not just because of hindsight, but because we didn’t carry that weight alone.

Fifteen years ago I began to finally learn what Christ meant when he said “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; . . . For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” One day, about two months after we had moved to the east coast, I was so discouraged by our plight that I finally said out loud, “Dear Father, we moved, but we’re still in a mess. We can’t have a home of our own, my kids can’t find friends, and I really hate so many trees that make it impossible to see where I’m going! I give up. What do you want me to do?”

The moment that I said, “I give up,” something clicked. What I was “giving up” was having things my own way, and insisting upon my will.

That day I gave up all my expectations of what I thought my life should be, and I handed it all over to God.

Things began to change. I found myself praying for ways we could serve others, and a few problems quickly arose where all of us needed to help. While we were focused on helping others, we were much more satisfied with our situation.

Since that miserable-yet-important year, I’ve discovered that we can get by on much less than we expected. For example, our family of 10 once lived in another rental house for four months without a couch. We survived with three camp chairs in the living room and a few blankets on the throw rug which covered a wooden floor. It was far from comfortable, but we made it work.

I have to remember those days when the weight wasn’t as terrible as I thought. I especially needed to remember that last weekend when, after several hours of experimenting, I stared dumbfounded at my clocks and wondered how I could reduce packaging without increasing risk of breakage.

I kept reminding myself, “It’s only half an ounce. How dare I give up over half an ounce!” I felt like that scene in “Apollo 13” where they try various configurations to start-up part of the spacecraft without it going over a certain voltage, but they failed again and again.

Finally I headed into my bathroom to brush my teeth (somehow that always clears my mind) and as I did so I prayed, “Dear Father, this may sound silly, but I’m so frustrated. Why are my packages overweight now? How can I fix this?”

As I reached for my toothbrush the thought came clearly, “The boxes are overweight. They were made differently, and now they’re too heavy.” In my mind I saw myself cutting off part of one flap—enough to reduce the weight, but not too much as to compromise the structural integrity.

004

It’s embarrassing how many hours it took me to come up with this solution.

I ran back to the boxes (brushing teeth could wait), cut off half a flap, weighed it with my product and packaging and—yes! Removed all the weight I needed!

002

Magic numbers! Under 16 ounces!

“Really?! That was the problem? That’s the solution? We made it work!”

006

Ship ’em all out, Ethel–we’re good to go!

As I did a bizarre little dance celebrating that my business-which-was-never-out-of business was back in business again, I sent up a few prayers of gratitude as well.

I felt as if the heavens answered back, “You’re welcome, again. But you didn’t have to fret or despair. Why do you take upon you these burdens, then decide to heap on a few more just to make yourself fully miserable? No one’s asking you to do that. In fact, how many times have you read, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; . . . For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light?

Oh. Yeah.

Someday I just may remember that God can easily handle half an ounce, and also a full ton. And I’ll skip the part where I make myself miserable. Some day I’ll just instantly “ . . . drop my burden at his feet, and bear a song away.”

“Remember the saying, ‘The smallest annoyances—”

“—grow into the biggest pains.’” Perrin sighed and finished the familiar phrase. “‘It’s not the boulders in your way that slow you down, but the pebble in your boot.’”
~Book One, “The Forest at the Edge of the World”