Steve Wiley on Parenting, Eye Rolling, and "When I Was a Kid"

Steve Wiley is Jackalope Ranch's Parent Hood. He's a slightly unorthodox father of five who will weigh in weekly with his mildly rebellious views and observations. If you'd like to see how he came to write this column, watch the intro video. This week, he breaks a childhood oath and lets fly with a few "when I was a kid" thoughts

Tell Us About When You Were a Kid, Dad

I remember being a kid and hearing adults say "When I was a kid..."

Of course, what usually followed was some sort of comparison between the two time periods, usually highlighting how much easier us stinkin' kids had it than those hardship-laden adults did in their day.

See also: - Parent Hood: Discussing Your Rowdy Past with Your Kids and a Punk Legend - Parent Hood: Trying to Stay Indie When Your Kids are Corporate Billboards

Whenever an adult would use the ol' "when I was a kid" comparison, it would usually induce the same reaction: My awesome eye-roll. I could convey a lot of emotions, phrases, and feelings with that eye roll -- mostly attached to not-nice thoughts I was directing at my parental units -- thoughts I hoped my kids would never think about me when I was at the helm.

I promised myself that I was gonna be so cool to my kids that I wouldn't have to worry about it -- we'd all get along and I'd see things from their perspective -- and under no circumstances would I go into any of that "when I was a kid" shit.

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

Now that I am at the helm... it turns out that's a promise I just can't keep. Well, I could keep it, but I'm just not going to do so.

It's not that I've forgotten my "be cool" pledge -- I do try to be as cool as possible -- it's that I've got parental responsibilities that prevent me from keeping them truly satisfied with me.

In other words, I won't give them everything they want.

So regardless of how cool I try to be, there's not a chance my kids aren't going to think some "not-nice" thoughts about me. It's happening already. The eye rolls (which are weak compared to my youthful masterpieces). The sarcasm. The glares.

Alas, just like my annoying parents before me, now I'm a conehead too.

So what the hell... I'm gonna start saying "When I was a kid".

Besides, these spoiled kids today do have it easy, dammit.

It's gonna be great.

I Coulda Done a Hundred, Easy

It'll be easy too. I'll be heading to my 30-year High School reunion this summer, so a lot of time has passed since I was a kid (just the exponential rate of expansion in technology alone provides me endless material).

In addition, I grew up in an overgrown town (pop: 35K) in North Dakota. We were in the middle of the country (the reddest shade of red)... and back in the seventies, that meant we were in the middle of cultural nowhere. None of these big-city amenities my punks enjoy. By comparison, I had hardship when I was a kid (not really, just by comparison, but don't tell my kids).

So let's do this. No time to start like the present. Without further adieu (like three adieus wasn't enough)... here's just a few of the "harsh realities" (I am reminding my beloved weasels) that I endured back in the day:

When I was a kid...

1. ...we didn't have our own phones. I didn't have one, and neither did any of my friends. There was only one phone line per family, and it was stuck to the wall inside the house. Sure, you might have had two extensions, but there was only one line.

When your Mom was on it, you couldn't use it. When your girlfriend's dad was on the phone, you got the busy signal (call waiting didn't show up until my mid-teens). When you and your friends all went out for the night, there was no way to reach each other (which was a plus for us in terms of parental supervision, but that's another blog).

When I was a kid...

2 ...we had to go to the library to write a book report. Well, that depends on how many pages your teacher needed. If it wasn't a big report, you could use the encyclopedia (even then, we had to go to my Grandparent's house to use theirs, because we didn't have an encyclopedia set)... but anything substantial required library time.

There wasn't any Internet (hell, our High School only had a few computers at the time, and I hardly remember using them at all.) So no Wikipedia, No Google, no Twitter - just our old pal Dewey - as in the Dewey Decimal system (danger, this part of the story will require further explanation for kids).

3 ...if you didn't see it in 1974, you had to wait until 1975. That's right, kids, if you missed Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer the night it was on, you didn't get to see it until next year. No VCRs yet, let alone youtube, so when it was on network TV... that was it. The network that had it showed it once per year. My kids can hardly believe this one. You couldn't watch it every night in December, Dad?

Luckily, my grandma was our fail-safe program alert system (there's an app for that now, but we had Nan). She would call and remind us all. "The Grinch is on Channel 10 tonight. Don't forget". Not on the machine, because there was no such thing yet. She'd relentlessly try until she got someone on the horn. Thanks to Nan, nary a show did we miss.

Hey, this is fun once you get started.

How Many Words Can I Write, Kind Editor? I could go on and on, except there's gotta be a limit to my weekly rambling. I may be back with more at some point, because now that I think of it, it's a fairly positive thing to do. In spite of trying on the phrase as an exercise in curmudgeonly sarcasm, I ended up looking at it optimistically.

You see, all tongue-in-cheek snarfiness aside, when you really think back and compare, you realize how much easier we all have it today.

... a lot better than when I was a kid.

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