Thursday, September 24, 2009

Parenting in the Age of Science Fiction

            I’ve been away on business for the last few days. You’d think that traveling would mean I’d get a better night sleep than at home, with the absence of my late-night loud little lass, but my hotel bed wasn’t the most comfortable, which meant a fair share of tossing, turning, and tender muscles. So, I got back from the trip more tired than I would have liked, conked out at 7:30pm last night, then woke up for an hour and went back to sleep for the rest of the night.
            It was nice to get away, but in all honesty I missed my two ladies, and in those moments where I didn’t have anything I “needed” to do, it felt weird to actually have my own space. Funny, how I used to take for granted my own space, then I lost it almost entirely with the baby, only to get into this mode where I don’t expect space and get almost shocked when I’ve got it.
            The interesting moment for me was when I called Michelle and we set up the video chat. There I was, looking my daughter in the eye as I spoke with them. “Hi my sweetie!” I called out.
            Celia crawled out of Michelle’s lap, onto the desk and reached up to the screen to try to give me a big kiss. It was so sweet, I smiled from ear to ear and said, “Oh my darling! I love you!” She grinned and looked back at Michelle for affirmation. Michelle and I chatted a bit, then we waved goodbye.
            After the computer was turned off I shook my head in disbelief. What we just did was science fiction when I was a kid, and here Celia is going to just take it for granted. To her, this is just what you do when your dad goes on his business trips. You video with him so you can see him.
            In all honesty, I feel like the whole parenting job is going to be tougher than it was a generation ago. Don’t get me wrong, all the most important stuff is still timeless; showing love, teaching boundaries, feeding and clothing and playing. These are the timeless truths of our lives that will never change. Languages may change, but the fact that we need to teach them to our children remains the same. Clothing styles may change, but we still need warm clothing in cold weather, and light clothing in hot weather.
            But the information age has brought a new dynamic into things that my parents never had to think about. We individually have access to more information, media, and images in this very moment than ever before in the history of humanity. You can’t walk outside in a city without being bombarded with images and messages, let alone listen to the radio or watch television.
            This is a different era. And I wonder what sort of protection and wisdom I need to pass along to my daughter to guide her through this. I myself always turn off the radio when the advertising is on, and rarely watch TV. It’s such a small thing, and even so I’m still wide open to a constant barrage of information from every angle. It keeps coming and coming until I’m so over-saturated I pay less attention to everything. My daughter is already swimming in this sea of messages and information. If I don’t intervene she’ll probably learn to treat information rather casually.
            I want her to cherish intellectual items. I’m sure we won’t achieve anywhere near the level of appreciation people had for a good book or piece of music a hundred years ago, because I’m nowhere near that myself, but I want her to at least appreciate a song she hears before moving on to the next one, or the book, movie, article, or educational lesson. I can just imagine the new temptation, with television images flitting past more quickly than ever, to simply suck all this “stuff” in to the point of not really observing or appreciating any of it.
            I want her to be drawn to write poetry. To sing a new song. To read and to discuss the things she’s been exposed to, rather than letting them slide off of her. This may be the greatest challenge her generation will face. I hope I’m up to the parenting challenge to lead her into it. Only time will tell.

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