I was born in the 80’s, but most of my childhood memories are from the early 90’s. My husband and most all of my friends grew up during this time period too. Parenting was different in the early 90’s. It was the mid-point between the distant parenting of earlier generations and the helicopter parenting of today. Our parents loved us, but they didn’t hover over us or try to satisfy our every desire. No one had cell phones in their pockets, and books and adults still had the answers, not Google. Only a few people had computers that took ages to connect to the internet by dialing up, making a loud eeh-ooh-eeh-ooh noise, at which we were all amazed. We had fun, but no one entertained us or set up playdates for us, unless it was our birthday. In general, our time was not that scheduled. We explored the things we were interested in and played with the kids in the neighborhood. And whichever parent or adult was around felt free to parent us along with their own kids. If we got out of line, they didn’t mind telling us so. The blog post that follows is the first in a five-part series of lessons based on stories from that time. I hope they help you to remember how to bring out the awesome 90’s parent in yourself this summer!
During the muggy nights of June and July, when I was a kid, I remember running outside once it got dark, to chase fireflies. I watched the grass sparkle and the trees light up like they were laced with strings of twinkle lights ― floating orbs, glittering like stars in the night sky. I grasped at the darkness, clapping my hands together to capture one blinking little light between my palms, then peering through my fingers to watch it glow before sliding it quickly into a jar. Listening to the chirp of crickets and tree frogs and smelling the sweet scent of honeysuckle as a warm breeze blew through the trees, I felt alive, happy for the freedom of summer, and fully focused on this moment of pure joy.
As adults (and even as teenagers), most of us have nostalgia for moments like these ― for a time when some things were still a mystery ― before cellphones, tablets, and our worries and plans distracted us from being fully present in the moment.
Now, we have phones in our pockets that hold the key to every piece of information with just one click. Social media sites with their profiles and pictures of other people and families looking happy, appearing to live it up while on vacation to Italy, while making their five-course organic meal, or while redecorating their house just like something out of HGTV, making us think that happiness lies in acquiring more, doing more, or being more.
With each ding, a new email arrives or a text message, with a request or a task to be done. We are constantly “on”. Our work carried with us, in our pocket, demands attention and a quick reply, no longer contained between the hours of 9 to 5.
As a business owner and working mom of two small children, I feel the pressure to constantly be connected. Sometimes it is hard to balance it all, to prioritize. There is always an email to check, a task that needs to be done, or something to look up. Sometimes I am just tired, and it is tempting to check out by browsing Pinterest or scrolling through my Facebook feed. I am often so distracted that I fail to realize that life is happening around me, and I am missing it from behind the screen of my phone.
But this week, my phone broke. It just stopped working completely. While I wait for Verizon to send a new one, I am stuck with an old phone that we had lying around in a drawer. Basically all it can do is place and receive calls. It is essentially like being back in the 90’s. I thought that I would be miserable, but surprisingly, I am not. I actually feel happier. Do you know why? Because it forces me to set limits, to do one thing at a time. And I believe that we are happier this way, when we focus on the task at hand.
I know from my tutoring and teaching experience that everyone wants to talk with someone who sees them, who is interested and engaged and present. Kids especially deserve this. I have to remember that, although I live in a world that is constantly trying to distract me, my kids just want a mommy who sees them and is present in this moment. They want a mom who chooses to show up and experience the love and joy, awkwardness and pain of life with them.
I have to remember, that our kids see our example and they follow it – distracting themselves with devices instead of playing, interacting, or concentrating on the present task. This causes them to grow up too quickly, losing their child-like ability to focus with their whole heart on the present. As a study skills tutor, I know that this also affects our preteens, teens, and young adults. A group that often expresses to me their trouble concentrating on the task at hand and the unhappiness or undesirable consequences of this choice.
As it pertains to technology, this is a problem that our parents rarely faced. It is a lesson they could not teach us, that is just as relevant to those of us with children as it is to those of us without children. Although they lived in a different world, our parents did teach us what we needed to know by providing us with a childhood where we could experience the joy of the present. Watching the actions of children just serves as a reminder, that when our schedule gets crowded with tasks, and our vision with distractions, true happiness is achieved through presence.
I remember all of this as I see my one-year-old reach her chubby fingers towards the sky to grab at the fireworks, then touch my face and smile, as I watch my girls dance in circles and then fall over laughing, their eyes filled with joy, and most recently, as my 6 year old runs through the yard, like I did so many years ago, capturing a little light in her hands, and placing it into a jar. She holds the light up so that her whole face glows saying, “Mommy will you join me?”
Early 90’s Lesson #2- Enjoy the Moment
-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.
Owner | Parrish Learning Zone, LLC