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A Father's Journal / 'Back in my day,' we never said that

Published 6:06 am, Thursday, December 12, 2013
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By Thomas Lawlor

My 17-year-old daughter, Caroline, was talking to a 5-year-old kindergarten neighbor. Caroline had the same teacher at Mill Hill School as the neighbor, and they were comparing their experiences.

I overheard Caroline say, "Back in my day, Mrs. Grigg ..." I don't remember the rest. I was shocked that my 17-year-old had a day in the distant past.

Back in my day, we never said "back in my day" -- unless we were old enough to have had a day. So, Caroline, the neighbor and I went over how things had changed from my day to theirs.

In the 5-year-old's current day, everyone has stick figures of their families, dogs and cats on the back of their cars.

Back in Caroline's day, everyone had chrome silhouettes of their children playing some sport like hockey, soccer or lacrosse on the back of their cars.

In my day the only chrome silhouettes on the back of vehicles were of naked women on the mud flaps of trucks. The women had disturbing Barbiesque dimensions, which often led to eating disorders and unhealthy body images of the people following the trucks. Overall, I think the mud flaps were less offensive than today's stick figures.

Currently, every television show has a cautionary tale about the dangers of texting and driving. When Caroline was in kindergarten, every show had a cautionary tale about drinking and driving. Back in my day, we had no cautionary tales. Instead, every TV show had a mandatory chase scene where a car got up on the two side wheels -- every show. I grew up in what historians agree was the golden age of two-wheel driving on television. Even documentaries about penguins in Antarctica had an obligatory two-wheel chase scene somewhere before the end. I miss that.

Today's 5-year-olds have not experienced a time when they couldn't walk around and watch an episode of a TV show or other form of entertainment on a handheld device.

For a few years Caroline wanted a TV in her room. We resisted. Experts told us that kids should only have computers and TVs in common areas. Everyone was worried about predators on the Internet and televisions causing sleep problems. Now, every handheld device enables kids to watch TV and go on the Internet in every room in the house at all times. Sometimes I take away their devices or remove the cord for the wifi just to get their attention.

Back in my day, I remember when our friends, the Howells, got HBO. They had a big TV (small by today's standards), and my brother Patrick and I would go over to their house to watch uncut movies on TV, complete with adult language, adult situations, violence, partial nudity and a two-wheel chase scene. We were more than OK with that.

The 5-year-old's parents' new car has GPS. She may never drive a car without GPS or drive a car without self parking. All of her cars may park themselves

For her upcoming driver's test, Caroline, on the other hand, is practicing parking in the St. Anthony's Church lot. She was little when she saw her first GPS. We were living the great American dream. We went on a trip that is the aspiration of every red-blooded American family -- to drive a RV across the country to see Mount Rushmore. Hundreds of miles from Mount Rushmore, the GPS told us to turn off at the next exit. We were confused as the map showed hundreds of miles of straight driving, but we pulled over and checked the GPS. It turns out someone had been was playing with it. The person had picked Caroline, Wis., as our destination. We still don't know who was playing with the unit.

Back in my day, my parents wanted to drive to Mexico from Southern California, so they put two of the kids in the back of the pickup and drove. We were going to a foreign country in the uncovered bed of a pickup. We had no seat belts, because there were no seats. My brother John and I watched incredulously from our spot in the back of the truck as we drove into the town of Warner Springs, Calif., not once but twice.

We could have used a GPS and maybe a cover for the bed of the truck. That way, we might have stayed in the truck if we got up on two wheels.

Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Friday.