Friday, April 07, 2006

These Kids Today

BY MICHAEL WATT Ask Mr. Long Island

Who’s got it better than our kids?

We had tri-cycles. They get Big-Wheels, motorized Big Wheels for the really well-to-do. We had pinball. They have video games so real you can get athlete’s foot just by playing. We had the occasional ride to school if it was raining really hard. They have door-to-door, round-the-clock taxi service that would be good enough for the President of the United States if it included Secret Service protection.

My sister Joan took her daughter Joan, a swimmer who has won medals for her efforts up and down the Eastern Seaboard despite being only 14 years old, to a tournament at Harvard University. Apparently they got them real thick fancy towels there on campus, just one of the many nice amenities my sister did not have access to when she represented the best Massapequa had to offer on behalf of the Marjorie R. Post Town Pool swim team.
My cousin Chris introduced her pre-teen daughter Jordan to a friend who worked for an airline. Jordan, who was getting ready for yet another airborne journey across the pond to Europe, seized the moment and inquired of Chris’ friend as to whether she had enough juice with the airline to “upgrade her into First Class” for her impending trip.

My 15 year-old son Alex has watched a sporting event from a luxury box and/or 50-yard line at every arena in the tri-state area. I was 22 before I saw my first Yankee game, and that vantage point was the $2-a-seat bleachers.

My favorite story came from my friend Ken, who with his wife is raising four extremely nice kids in a seven-figure house on his six-figure salary. Ken was one of eight kids growing up and his first family vacation, according to Ken, was when they all piled into a station wagon and drove his older sister off to college. His kids have been on all kinds of nice vacations – on planes and everything - and not one of them is old enough to smoke yet.

Raise your hand if you think your kids have it a lot better than you did when you were their age. Hold ‘em up high. Yep – I thought so and I know what you mean. Every Christmas morning I make the same dumb joke: When I die I want to come back as one of my kids.

Ironically, each of us with our hands up probably heard the same thing from our parents – that we had it better than they ever did. And we did, of course. I know I had everything I needed as a kid. The difference, however, is that we wear our kids’ situations as a badge of honor, whereas some parents from the previous generation seemed a little bitter. I am generalizing, of course, and I guess I would be bitter too if I grew up in a Depression and then a World War, only to have my kids bitch about the fact that the dishwasher does not know how to empty itself.

Take my 11 year-old son Max and his baseball equipment, for instance. When I played ball I had a pair of spikes and a glove and without trying to sound too Dickensian I paid for them myself from the money I earned on my paper route or, later on, washing dishes at a catering hall. Max, on the other hand, has an equipment bag that is bigger and fancier than the luggage my wife, Sharon, and I used on our honeymoon. The bag has the logo of the travel team he plays for, PLUS his name PLUS his number. In the bag are cleats, hats, practice shirts, two game jerseys (home and away, both with his name on the back), sunglasses, a first baseman’s mitt, a pitcher’s mitt, an outfielder’s mitt and an aluminum bat that cost more than my first car.

Even though I must confess to feeling a twinge of jealousy every time I see my sons sporting a jersey with their last name on the back (I missed out on that as a kid), I am more amazed and amused than bothered by all this. I feel good that I can provide such things for my sons (Alex is equally well-appointed when it comes to baseball gear.)

But then I wrestle with the notion that my generation hands over way too much to the kids we are raising. Employers across the Island tell me tales of young workers wondering when they get their trophies just for showing up for work. On the other hand, I do not want my sons working every weekend like I did in high school and college. I want them to enjoy life, to develop recreational habits and hobbies and maybe even go on a trip or two as they get older.
I’m not sure what the answer is; I’m not even sure if there is a question. I do know there are few greater joys than watching a child enjoy something you made possible. Besides, the way I see it sooner or later my guys are going to be taking care of me and I am firm believer in what goes around comes around.

Thank you for reading this column.

1 comment:

Susan said...

This is a great article. I am a mother of a soon-to-be 3 year old. I promised myself that I would limit the amount of toys I buy him to a large rubbermaid bin. So far so good...except for the toys that flow over and are now scattered all through out the house. hehe.