It’s All Been Done

It was a simple conversation about how nothing seems “special” anymore, about how it’s all been done many times – the food, the movies, the trips – and suddenly we realized that we are now the people who see the world as too fast, too technologically consumed, too rich and disposable, spoiled.  And then it exploded into one example after another and our own version of “Grampa, tell me about the good old days …” (which, incidentally, has a very good message that still rings true even thirty years later…)

We talked about how we’ve been noticing it moving in this direction for some time and that we can’t imagine how anything that comes from now on could be a “surprise” or a shock to us after all we’ve seen, how there seems to be nothing left to our imagination anymore because the greatest things we can think of are either already happening or just another result of what’s already going on.  

 

We talked about how kids don’t often play outside anymore or make their own fun or even know about classic children’s stories, songs and fairy tales, and about how going out to eat at a place like McDonalds was a real treat for kids but now they’re everywhere and people are driving through, eating on their way to somewhere else.

 

We talked about a conversation I had been involved in earlier that day about braided rugs and how I remember them being made in my younger days, and that when the lady at “the store” mentioned the tools to keep the strips of fabric in place and help them to fold properly I suddenly had a picture in my mind from childhood and I knew exactly what she meant.  I don’t know if my mom had some or if I just saw them being used somewhere, but as soon as she started to describe them I knew.  This kind of conversation happens often when I’m at “the store”. (In our house we don’t have to name the store because we always know exactly which store we are talking about!)

 

We also agreed that this is one of the reasons we like “the store” so much: the people there think like we do about home and family, making and building things by hand, sharing moments that aren’t just about what you are making but why and what kind of fun you are having doing it.  It’s a store with things and people that remind us of ways that we can take back some of what this crazy world has lost and in a way reclaim it for ourselves.

 

We talked about how the world is a smaller place now and everyone can reach out and touch someone across the globe in a matter of hours because we have monstrous multi-level jets to fly us wherever we want to go.  The things we saw in movies that made our chins drop are now really just around the corner.  Many children will have seen more of the world by the time they’re ten years old than I will ever see, and a yearly or more often vacation to a tropical spot is becoming the norm for many families.  While en route, the inflight movie is showing some other wonderful place you might want to visit next.  We concluded that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all, just that it’s more expected than special or amazing.

 

We talked about old shows like Buck Rogers, and how it was exciting back then to think that somehow, someday the world might actually look like that, but noticed that now there’s no more wonder in science fiction.  Other than beaming up Scotty, the world of science and technology has pretty much done it all.  They still don’t know for sure if there’s anyone else out there to beam us back, but even the alien movies can’t shock or amaze anymore, and we’re noticing that all the movies of today that we find to be really good, whether set in ancient, modern or futuristic times, are more about the human spirit and what makes the world good in the most basic sense than they are about imagining possibilities.  They’re running out of ways to amaze us.

 

The funny thing here – or perhaps the enlightening thing – is that “WE” were not myself and another middle-aged person sharing deep thoughts.  This conversation was with my daughter who, at twenty-six, has realized that she’s already seen it all.

 

Don’t get me wrong – I love my power tools, my computer and my mobile devices for the convenience they provide (and the memory, by way of a calendar that pops up reminders for me in my less-than-with-it moments) and I’m not knocking the TV, the modern household appliances or the indoor bathrooms.  I like to be warm in winter and I don’t like chopping wood.  

 

But when I watch favourite old programs like the Waltons and Road to Avonlea, something in me wants to be there, away from this fast-paced complicated world.  I know they had their problems as do people in every era, but there’s something I envy in the idea of keeping all your money in a jar in the cupboard and not having to worry about paying for anything but food and clothing, because there were no light, heat, or water bills in the mail.  I see the simplicity, with the house and furniture that dad built, the family time around the kitchen table where people talked and laughed, the after supper time at the old radio curled up in blankets mom made, and later the husband and wife time out on the front porch swing, and I just want to grab some of it.  Life was filled with homemade goodness and it wasn’t just because they didn’t have the machines to take away the work; there was satisfaction and enjoyment in the making of things, in the making of a home.  

 

My mom taught me to sew my own clothes when I was nine years old and while I rarely sew anything now, that skill got me through many years of sewing things for myself, my husband, my kids, and our home, and if I need to sew I certainly can!  It was the first of many crafts I learned along the way (whenever a new one came along, my mom would buy supplies and give them to me to learn to do it!) and while the hobbies have changed, the enjoyment of making things is always there.  My mom still knits and quilts and has made sure that even her grandchildren have baby sweaters stashed away for when they have their own families.  I am grateful for the homemade things we had growing up and that my mom passed on to me the skills and the desire to make things with my own hands.

 

I honestly don’t intend to sound like the senior who constantly reminds young people about the olden days and how things were better then, because some things are better now.  It’s just that once something good comes along it seems to go so far that we lose the “something good” that we had before.   

There are many good things about modern life, and I’m happy to take advantage of those that interest me.  But I don’t really know if they make the world a better place or just a different one. 

 

I do know now that making and building things myself has given me a sense of taking back something that’s been lost, reclaiming something from a simpler time and making it happen here and now for me.  I know that next time there are little boys riding their bikes through the ditch along our backyard I will be thankful for the reminder that some kids do still play outside and make their own fun.  And I know that I’m glad my daughter is adamant that her children will learn about fairy tales.

I guess I’ve officially become old fashioned, but I’m OK with that 🙂

Generation gap? I don’t think so …

I know I’m middle aged and that sometimes as we get older we notice the younger generation doing things differently than we did them.  I understand that new information, research, and experience can change ideas when it comes to health, fitness, psychology, etc. but there are some things that make me wonder if certain people are victims of a reverse evolution process we don’t know about.  

The first time I saw a picture of a bride and groom sitting on a motorcycle in a mud hole with smiles on their faces and dirt and mud splashed all over the wedding dress, I assumed it was on purpose since they appeared to be having fun, but I was more than a little puzzled.  OK, honestly I was appalled and disgusted.  So off I went to my trusty source of information on all things “modern” – my daughter – to ask what the hell was going on.  She informed me that there is now a new thing called “trashing the dress”  and that lots of brides are doing it.  HUH?  Yes, that’s what I said.  OK, honestly I probably dropped a few expletives in disbelief.

Why on earth would someone do this?  With what I am hearing about the cost of weddings (a whole other discussion if my opinion on that were to be presented!) it is inconceivable to me that anyone would take a beautiful part of their wedding and trash it on purpose and make sure there are pictures to prove how stupid “cool” they were.  Some might ask what they are supposed to do with the dress after the wedding anyway, which clearly shows me that this “new thing” is a short term idea with no connections to nostalgia or sentiment.

I’m not saying brides should all save their dresses forever, and I’m not going to tell anyone what they should do with theirs.  But the idea of completely ruining a perfectly good dress doesn’t compute in my brain.  My mom saved hers –  not for me to wear, as she didn’t buy into the practice of pressuring a daughter by pulling out her own dress as soon as the engagement was announced.  She cut it up to make a baptismal gown, a fitting use of a special item and a way to save even just a small part of it for a future generation to appreciate.  I still have it.

I didn’t cut up my own dress up for a similar purpose because I wanted to make special baptismal gowns for each of my children to have for their own treasure chests.  I don’t expect my daughter to wear it – it is NOT her style and I truly hope she never fits into it because it isn’t “petite”! – and I don’t know what I will end up doing with it but, if nothing else, there’s some great fabric in it that’s already paid for and could prove very useful should a need for it come along.

There are people who sell their dresses and get back some of the money they put into them (a practical decision) and some who donate them so that others who can’t afford to buy one can still have a nice wedding dress (a generous decision).  But simply trashing it for the sake of some goofy pictures and a new fad is beyond me.  

That leads me to the next “new thing” that rattles my brain: the smash cake.  Again, I went to my information source and was told that now, instead of simply taking pictures of your cute little one year old on their birthday with their piece of cake smeared all over their high chair table and their face, parents are opting for the smash cake, which is a separate cake in addition to the actual cake that is served to everyone else at the party.  This extra cake is made especially for smashing and photographing.  HUH? Are these the “trash the dress” parents?  Not necessarily, but apparently “everyone is doing it now.”  OMG.  

And get this: because so many parents are now ordering expensive custom cakes for their children’s birthdays, they are actually ordering and paying for the extra custom smash cake too!  Breathe……… I cannot imagine making this into some kind of ritual, but if my drugs ever failed me and I found myself needing to do this, I think I would opt for spending $3.00 on a cake mix to whip up a smashable cake myself, or better yet just cut a piece of the one I just spent upwards of $100 on for the other guests, let the kid smash that, and put the rest of the money into the college fund.  I have nothing against custom cakes if people can afford them and choose to buy them; they look amazing.  I have an issue with wasting money and food and teaching kids that it’s funny.

Maybe all of this blows my mind because I was raised in a practical home where money was hard earned and carefully budgeted and when I got married I sewed my own dress along with all the dresses for my bridal party and they meant something to me (of course not everyone can do this, but you get the point).  Maybe it’s because my mom baked our cakes herself (which was in itself a special gesture on her part) and found creative ways to make them look like all sorts of cool things, and later passed the cake book onto me so I could do the same for my kids (we have great pictures at a fraction of the cost of today’s smashing photos).  Maybe it’s because I’ve always tried to find practical ways to do things and use things and make the money count.  Maybe it’s because I’ve never been one to jump on the latest idea train and ride it until it goes over a cliff. Whatever the reason, I just don’t get it.

Is this about a generation gap?  Is it about differing ideas onhealth, fitness, psychology or any other new information that has come to light in order to help parents and families navigate the 21st century?  Nope.  In my opinion it’s a gap in logic and common sense.  It’s happening because some people have more money than brains they know what to do with and they jump on board with every new thing that comes along so their scrapbooks and memories look just like everyone else’s.  God forbid a child should have to go without the same toys, clothes, parties, etc. that “everyone else” is getting!

Luckily for me, my source of information on all things modern is sentimental, nostalgic and traditional.  She’s looking forward to baking special cakes for her own kids and doesn’t care if they compete with something expensive that some other kid might have.  She has a mind of her own, common sense, and enough of an individual spirit to sit back and see all of this for what it is: a ridiculous fad.  Whew!  At least I won’t have to worry about hanging muddy wedding dress pictures on my wall …

New moms: It’s not all about you …

 

I am noticing lately that there are numerous articles and posts about how single friends just don’t understand the new lives of their married-with-children friends.  There are actually lists of things for singles to read to help them realize that life has changed for their friends and what they should or shouldn’t do about it, things telling them how to “adjust”.  HUH?  

Let’s be honest, once there is a baby in the picture, yes, life changes.  Mom is tired and it takes time to settle into the new routine of caring for a baby 24/7.  But it isn’t some kind of tragedy that removes her from having a regular life, enjoying friends and outings; it doesn’t mean that life stops and she can just no longer do the things that keep a friendship going because she is too consumed with her new role.  Single friends might not know what it’s like to be up all night with a baby or have to pack up a carseat and a bag every time you leave the house, but perhaps the new mom also needs reminders about the importance of friend contact and finding ways to keep relationships alive, and that it isn’t all about her, her schedule, her convenience.  She has embarked on a very long term life change that has been managed by millions before her, and a lot of the adjustment is up to her.

I think back to my own experience of having a first baby, and I remember being tired, but I also remember enjoying going out and about with my new little bundle.  My husband and I went out for dinner and our new baby slept happily on the table as a tiny newborn and later in the booth beside us.  I still went shopping, cleaned my house, did laundry, cooked, went to appointments, and visited my single friend who also visited me.  When our second baby came along it wasn’t much different; it was more work, yes, but I grew into it and kept going.  We were out several times a week, even if it was just to Gramma’s house, and I continued to get together with my single friend.  

I’m not talking about living a party life with a baby; obviously lifestyle changes are inevitable, but I never had to explain to my single friend that from there on, I wasn’t able to get together, or make plans with her ahead of time because my schedule was so all consuming that everything had to revolve around me.  She was happy to continue to be involved in my life and in the life of my growing family and became an auntie of sorts to my kids.  She was part of their birthdays and Christmases, and she even babysat them once in a while because she enjoyed spending time with them and they loved her.  The friendship mattered so we BOTH made the effort.  

The bottom line is this: do YOU care about maintaining the friendship or not?  

I feel sorry for the single friends out there who are left in a quandary about what is expected of them now that one of their peers is a mommy.  Do they run to see the new baby because they want to or hang back until invited? Do they pitch in and help or do they hang back and give the new mommy her space?  According to the many resources available online which are sometimes posted by friends, they really can’t do any of it “right”.  I think these modern day articles and subsequent Facebook posts that are shared and liked by other married-with-children friends serve to further reinforce that the single person is the one who needs to change.  Isn’t friendship about working TOGETHER to stay connected?

In response to some of the “helpful hints” I have seen or heard about from new moms for single friends, I would like to offer this: 

1)  Be careful what you post online and be sure you are comfortable with the possible results. If you continually post things about how tired you are and how you just don’t have time to do anything but sleep and look after your baby, and how much work all that is, don’t be surprised if your single friends back off because you’ve just made it clear you have no energy for anything else.  They are waiting for you to have time for them and will likely respect what you have expressed about your limitations.

2) If you make it clear in posts that there are only specific times you are accepting company, and a single friend isn’t available during those times because they either work full time or live in another place, don’t be surprised if you don’t see them at all.  They might be near your place one day and think to call, but remember your instructions about not disturbing you, and will respect your wishes.

3) If you are promoting the idea that when friends visit you and your new baby they should be cleaning your house or doing your laundry instead of holding your baby or talking with you, don’t be surprised if they don’t stop to visit for that half hour they might have had to stop while in your neighbourhood between taking care of their own appointments or personal business, because they want to see you, not spend the short time they have being your maid.  Any friend with common sense will offer to be helpful, but setting ground rules for visits is a turnoff.

4) If you want to get together with a single friend, recognize that some advance planning might be helpful FOR THEM, because they are probably still working full time and can’t just drop it all to come to you because you decided last night that you’re up for a visit during a work day!  If you really want to include them in your life, make the effort to show them that.

5) Remember that roads go two ways and if you are able to get together with other married-with-children friends and post about it online where single friends can see it, they might begin to wonder why you have time and energy for those things but not for them, based on your “I’m too tired and my single friends don’t understand” posts.

6)  If and when you do find time to keep a relationship with your single friend alive, try to remember to show interest in what they are doing and don’t make the visit all about your new baby life.  They want to hear about you, they are happy for you, they care about your baby, and are often looking forward to having one of their own, but they also want to know you still care to hear about them. 

Most single friends understand much more than you give them credit for, and they quickly come to understand when they have been put into the zone of being less important in your life than others who have kids to play with yours.  If you care about maintaining a friendship with your single friends, some of the work is up to you.  If you notice that as time goes on, you see less and less of your single friends, remember that it takes two, and if you were busy setting the tone based mainly on what works for you, they might simply have moved on.  

It seems to me that some new moms of today are making this whole thing a lot more complicated than it has to be.  And before anyone says that the world is different now or that I’m too old to have a perspective on this, I know moms out there who make having one baby look like a reason to expect everyone to dote on them, and others who make having five or six kids look like a cakewalk.  Of course, personality comes into play and I’m talking about normal healthy people, not those who have some other factor affecting their mental health.  In general, I just notice a lot of modern thinking that makes me shake my head.  I was happy that my single friend still wanted to be part of my life!  The last thing I would have wanted was to discourage her by making it seem as though I was leaving her behind.

Just saying …