by Julie Seedorf
I spent the weekend with my children and grandchildren. At any given time someone was either on their iPod, their cell phone texting, reading on their kindle or playing games on the Xbox. Earbuds made their way into ears so each person could listen to their own music or their videos. I wasn’t any better, doing the same thing along with the other adults in the house. It wasn’t just the kids, we were all engaged in our own thing at one time or another–some more than others.
We did have some rousing games of cards, putting away our electronics for periods of time. I was going to lament to my children, making the statement it never used to be like this when I was growing up, when I had a flashback in my mind to my teenage years. It did used to be like this when I was pre-teen and a teenager. The venue was just different.
I have always been an avid reader. I devoured books from the time I was able to read and…..I loved music. As a teenager I would hole up in my room for hours at a time and read and listen to music. I didn’t communicate very well unless……my friends called me on the telephone. But even with the interrupting phone calls I would head back to my room and my books. Phone calls never lasted long since we had party lines and only one phone in the house that everyone had to use. We were limited to a 10 minute phone conversation.
I remember my parents telling me I had to put down my book at the table and eat. No reading at the table. I remember taking a book along with me wherever we went. And I remember begging my parents to buy me a book or two or three whenever we went shopping. We didn’t have the internet or elsewhere to get a book by the touch of a key. We had to shop for books or go to the library. At the time we didn’t have a library in town so we used the school library or the church libraries.
One year we were on vacation at my Uncle and Aunts in Northern California. Their house was a cabin in the mountains overlooking a valley. It was a rustic cabin and there was little to do. I now wish I could go back to the cabin and revisit the scenery and see that valley again. I remember it as being beautiful, but I spent all my time in the easy chair reading, because in my teenage opinion there was nothing else to do.
I also couldn’t get rid of a book once it was read. In fact I still have a book I read as a teenager called Freedom Summer by Sally Belfrage. It made an impact on the way I saw life in 1965. I also have all my Trixie Belden, Cherry Ames and other memorable books. As I grew older I loved Harlequin Romance Books. In between raising my children and taking care of my house and doing all the other things I needed to be doing, I had a book in my hand. I couldn’t rid of those either. I had bookshelves and bookshelves of Harlequin Romances. Books and music were my technology of the 50’s, 60’s, and onward until the real technology entered the picture.
I am as hooked as my kids and grand-kids on technology, but I try and restrain myself when I am with them to be a good example. I must admit at times I want to pull the earbuds out of their ears and say “Talk to me!” While I was visiting their home, I downloaded three new books, checked my email, participated in an online party, listened to some of my audio book for approval, texted with friends in Canada and elsewhere far away, kept up with pictures from what the rest of my family was doing, made sure my twitter account was running smoothly and read some interesting blogs. I even texted my granddaughter with the text, You’re in your room again?
We had a fun time and the upside to my loving technology is that I can communicate with my grand-kids about their technology, and keep in touch with them when we are not there.
I must admit for a few moments I felt my parent mode check in and thought about saying something about the way they are spending their time. Then I remembered they are almost teenagers. I remembered my teenage years and needing time to myself with my friends and my hobbies. These kids are doing the same thing we used to do except they have a different avenue of doing them.
My grand-kids are involved in sports, hobbies, outside activities, music and friends. They are not always involved in the technology available to them because they also lead busy active lives outside of the online world. They are doing what teenagers and middle school children do, explore life. Their parents also are online savvy too, keeping up with the trends and the accounts their children use, watching over them and teaching them safety the same way my parents monitored the books I read and the music I listened to.
I realized this weekend it is all in the perspective of what we believe when contemplating what young people now are using as their form of communication and hobbies. I can decry technology and criticize the new form of communication, or I can embrace it and join in the fun, realizing it is no different from my youth, only time has marched on and it will continue to advance. My grandchildren may find themselves in the same dilemma when they are parents, realizing forms of communication have moved on with their children. They may have to change their perspective. I have.
I believe that writing is derivative. I think good writing comes from good reading.