We were active boys. We spent our days drinking from the hose, mooning friends and taking every opportunity to pants each other. We spent most of our lives outside in the real world. We terrorized neighborhoods in the right way. We played guitar, fell out of trees and lit our modified fireworks on the 5th of July. We broke our own bones, ripped apart ligaments and dislocated sockets. We beat ourselves up, we picked at our scabs, we flaunted our bruises and, when we got home, the most loving words bellowed from the kitchen, "GET IN THE SHOWER!"
This was our childhood, pre-internet.
Spanking was common, and it was the preferred method to settle our business with mom or dad. All friends were created equal. Everyone was subject to a whooping. Each parent measured each infraction differently. There was nothing fair about discipline. Discipline was the consequence of stupid choices. We didn't get disciplined for accidents; it was always for things we did on purpose. The best part of spanking was that it never lasted long. Wham! Bam! Thank you mom. Time to go back outside.
Grounding? Well, that was different. Grounding was like putting straightjackets on our very souls. It affected the whole group, limited our freedoms and our ability to communicate. No phone use, no going outside, no nothing. "But everyone is going to the..." No. "It's his birthday m..." Nope. "What if we extend the grounding so I can..." Ask again and it'll be extended for sure. No kid wanted to be home. Home was the place we ate, slept and left un-flushed poop in the toilet. That was it.
We didn't live at home, we lived in the whole neighborhood. Friends' parents encouraged us to just walk inside because they became annoyed with the knocking. We built forts and fell from homemade zip lines, and we always got yelled at for not putting the tools away. We emptied waterbed mattresses and refilled them with air to create human-launching platforms. We flew through the sky like dolls, and someone always got the wind knocked out of them. We were our own heroes that played pranks on each other. We were friends that wasted time, talked to each other and was only aware of what lay before us; it's all that mattered. We minded our own business, and we laughed out loud, together.
And then the world changed. We started connecting differently. We were given the ability to communicate instantaneously.
We traded our ropes and hammers for cords, controllers and keyboards. Our home phone lines were sacrificed for internet connectivity. As we became connected with the rest of the world, ours was disconnecting. Our neighborhood was demolished for the construction of the information superhighway. Home run derbies and pick-up street hockey games started having less and less players available. Our friends started going home well before the streetlights came on. We started logging in to places, creating online identities and sharing more and more of ourselves with complete strangers. We didn't realize it would happen at the expense of logging off the real world.
Communicating in a pre-internet world was easy and simple. We didn't misunderstand what you were saying. We felt the emotion by inflection. We used our voices, and on a very good day of play, we'd lose them. The brunt force of our adolescent words amongst each other were immature yet clear. I'm convinced that with the variety of ways we have to communicate with each other, we have yet to figure out what we should be communicating. We hastily post publicly and forget who we're communicating to.
I'm not some old fart talking about the good old days with sonny on my lap. I'm a 30-something parent that worries about how technology will continue to shape the lives of my daughters. One benefit of my childhood was experiencing this era. I've heard other parents say, "Kids these days just don't understand what it means to have fun," and blah blah blah. It's all talk. We grew up in a world where actions spoke louder than words. If you truly want to communicate what you mean, you're going to need to show them.
I triple-dog dare you.