“Having children changes you” is a phrase all new parents hear, but what exactly are those changes?
One side effect of parenthood is an increased susceptibility to nostalgia, especially about your own childhood. This is not surprising. Parenting is like traveling in a time machine that returns you to places and feelings you left behind long ago. Dormant memories of holidays, games played with siblings, and treasured childhood possessions suddenly reawaken. For the first time in your adult life, you suddenly want to do those things again, and recreate those special memories for your children.
Major toy companies capitalize on this desire. Now that children of the Reagan-era have their own children, toy shelves are stocked with millennial versions of My Little Pony, Transformers, Strawberry Shortcake, Cabbage Patch Kids, and Star Wars.
I do not wish to share with Ezra the toy chest of my youth, but this does not mean I’m not guilty of romanticizing and repackaging my childhood. Rather than toys, my preoccupation with the past is focused on the households of my generation, and I am inadvertently surrounding Ezra with the cutting-edge home appliances, consumer electronics and gadgets I grew up with. My 21st century son is being raised in a 20th century home.
I came to this realization when it came time for our family to choose a new phone. iPhone, Droid RAZR, Samsung Galaxy … how do you pick which is best? We didn’t. We ordered a vintage landline (c. 1963) to replace our cordless phone (c. 1990) whose battery could no longer last beyond a ten minutes conversation. Tired of continually hanging up on people, we decided the best solution was a technology downgrade. Perhaps a rotary dial (c. 1919) is in our future?
We may sound like luddites, but we are not philosophically opposed to modern technology. So why are we so slow to embrace what the 21st century has to offer?
My answer to the smartphone question is “probably not.” Still, I suspect my aversion to new technology is less pragmatic and more sentimental. I, of course, feel less dependent and connected to current technologies than a 20-year-old. I clearly remember my life without these things, and I don't recall that time of my life being particularly difficult.
If I were asked whether advancements in household technology are continuing to improve our lives, I would respond with a non-committal, “meh.” The technology related to our basic needs have not changed much in the last thirty years. When I was a child, we had convenient and effective ways to store and prepare our food (which are pretty much the same as today); easy ways to communicate with people far away; and traveling long distances was not difficult (or slower than it is today). It seems most current advances in home technologies are outlets for entertainment. While these are fun and distracting, I think they are easy to forego. Maybe my generation had to wait and watch Star Wars according to HBO’s schedule rather than on demand, but that is a pretty insignificant complaint about life.
Did the technology that significantly improved our basic needs and comfort really peak during my childhood? That is unlikely. The more probable explanation is that I’m nostalgic for my childhood and early '80s households. Having children has exacerbated the problem.
As I observe Ezra’s childhood, I reminisce about my own, and my childhood was not filled with woeful tales like my depression era grandparents. My memories do not belong in the “walking barefoot, uphill, in snow to school, but we liked it because it made us stronger!” genre. I remember a childhood that was comfortable, simple and happy; those are the same feelings I want Ezra to associate with his childhood.
Feelings are easily projected onto inanimate objects. I suspect that is why I am subconsciously surrounding Ezra with objects from the late 20th century. I am generally not fascinated by “antiques,” and as I previously stated, I am reluctant to buy things that I do not think I will use often. Yet, several years ago I was excited to come across a mid-80’s Conair Air Popper. It reminded me of a Christmas when my grandfather used his new gift to pop corn for my cousins and me. I kept the popper for years even though I don’t really like popcorn and have only eaten it a handful of times in the last two decades. I buy used children’s record albums that are warped and scratched even though I know they will sound horrible and we could easily listen to the same music on Spotify because I love watching Ezra use our record player, and cringe whenever he is using our computer.