One of the many things I struggle with in my daily life is being a good mom. Not a great mom, which I am, but a good one. Sometimes I just zone out when my son is telling me about the 20th level of some random Pokemon game, for example. I’m more likely to park him in front of the television when he has a day off (and I’m still working from my desk right beside him) than to take him to the park or engage him in more meaningful activities.
Since the New Year (New Beginning, right?), I’ve been making an effort to connect on a more human level, as opposed to that whole parenting world of necessity, making sure they’re fed and bathed and clothed and healthy and that their homework is done. My son received a Scrabble game for Christmas, so we’ve been playing Scrabble some evenings. And the other day, I was quizzing them on nursery rhymes.
It turns out, they didn’t know any (or, in my daughter’s case, the ones she knew were convoluted: “Old Mother Hubbard, lived in a shoe with a dog that didn’t know what to do.”).
This is an oddity of the Internet generation: They have access to all the information the world holds, but there no longer is a collective knowledge base. Kids know a lot, but no one knows what everyone else does.
When I was growing up, there were certain things you just knew, unless you were being raised in some odd fundamentalist commune anyhow. You knew that the cow jumped over the moon… and the dish (not a fork!!!) ran away with the spoon. You knew the preamble to the Constitution, even though you had to sing it to the tune of School House Rock. And you knew all the lyrics to great American songs, such as Polly Wolly Doodle and Oh, Susanna.
Okay, so maybe I’m painting an overly broad stroke, based on growing up white in middle class America. Perhaps not every child in the 1970s could rap, “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?” However, I really don’t think I’m going out on a limb if I surmise that every cultural and socio-economic group in this country (perhaps, world-wide) had a common culture 40 years ago. We had points of reference that didn’t need to be explained; everyone could understand what was being said because we all knew the subject matter.
Today is Stephen Foster Memorial Day, a day commemorating a dead white guy who wrote catchy Americana tunes that I (and pretty much every American over the age of 35) sang when I was a kid. So, today, I may venture down upon the Swanee River or Netflix Yankee Doodle Dandy and teach my kids a thing or two from “back in the day.” If you have songs from your youth (or if you’re too young to know these songs), I hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on a time that wasn’t better but showed us we had more in common than our differences.