We often hear how hard it is to be a kid. Cyber-bullying is everywhere. Our children’s mistakes end up on the Internet, where they exist for eternity. There’s a school shooting every few minutes, it seems. And standardized test after standardized test have turned their once-creative classroom experiences into lessons about the test, conversations about the test and practicing for the test. If you’ve ever tried to help a fifth-grader with math homework, you probably have gobs of your own hair missing too. Let me get this straight…to subtract, you want me to add? Why can’t I just carry the dang ONE?
But we don’t often think about the amazing advantages these kids have, especially in Mt. Lebanon. Some of the things we Gen-Xers never dreamed of are daily blessings.
- The security of cellphones. For as annoying as it is to see your kids staring down at their phone when you’re trying to talk to them, knowing they have one with them late at night at a party is infinitely more comforting to a parent. If your child needs a ride home or sees something he doesn’t think is right, a phone is right there, to call you, or 911. The days of putting a dime in your shoe and wondering where the nearest pay phone was when your gas tank got a little low are over. Even when they go to college, the thrill of getting a text from your progeny is wonderful, and much cheaper than the toll calls we used to log (on the ONE phone in the dorm’s lobby with three other people waiting for it. But that’s a whole ‘nother conversation.) Remember, if mom can’t find you, she thinks you’re dead. Truth.
- Mobility. Travel is not a luxury for this generation. It is a birthright. International study programs were around when we were young, but these kids are on the move way more than we ever were. My eighth-grader has a host of field trips this year, including two days in Washington, D.C. and four days in New York City. Bonding with his friends and seeing the world without worrying about Mom and Dad helicoptering in over his shoulder is a true gift. Even closer to home, fifth grade trips to Linsly Outdoor Center and middle school physics day at Kennywood…well, they’ll remember that long after forgetting the first 11 lines of Beowulf.
- Girls are welcomed to math and science fields with open arms. When I had a problem in ninth grade algebra and went to my teacher for extra help, I was told “I don’t know why you can’t figure this out. It’s the easiest thing ever.” Only the girls naturally gifted in math were encouraged to study it. Now, with the greater push for women in STEM careers, girls are told they can do anything. And they can. That goes for the playing field too.
- Instructional help 24 hours a day. Along with its evil side, the Internet provides learning opportunities for our children any time they need it. From watching a teacher solve a proof on YouTube to working through math problems at the Kahn Academy…even games for elementary students to drill spelling words and work on grammar…learning is way more fun today. Through MOOCs (massive open online courses), kids can take Ivy League college classes risk-free (and tuition free) and learn what they really want to do before they ever know the difference between the registrar and the bursar.
- Safety. We may laugh that we survived without car seats, seat belts and helmets. But what parent alive doesn’t want to kiss their child’s car seat engineer after the kid emerges unscathed from an accident? The Mt. Lebanon police are IN the schools, talking to the kids. They know their names. Our kids nag us about our smoke detector batteries because the fire department wisely instructed them to. Most of our kids will never know anyone with measles. Or polio. Or smallpox. Or even whooping cough. And none of their friends will die from it. In their lifetime, they will see more cancers cured, possibly an end to AIDS and new limbs created on 3D printers. They will lead the way to fixing these things, especially that kid down the street playing ding-dong-ditch, who picks his nose when he thinks you’re not looking. Lucky little menace.