succumbing to peer pressure

Wednesday, June 02, 2004


I'm beginning to realize just how…radical (for lack of a better word) my upbringing was. I started this morning skimming several articles about the obesity problem in the US (cdc collects a variety of news articles and presents them on their "Today's News" intranet site) and although this in and of itself is somewhat old news, I was nevertheless shocked to compare my childhood with descriptions in the articles. I mean, I certainly wasn't raised by the Cleavers or anything, but in comparison, my household sounds idyllic. It was very important in my family that we all sit down and eat dinner together. It was always at the same time, and although it was ok to miss dinner or invite friends to dinner, either of those things had to be determined early enough in the day that you could tell Dad before he started planning and cooking. If you turned up with an extra person at 6:15, you were probably going to get yelled at (which confused me as I got older, as we always had days worth of leftovers, clearly enough to feed an extra person at the spur of the moment, but I guess it was just my Dad's semi-formal upbringing that made him think guests, even 12-year-old guests, required extra planning and presentation). Anyway. Likewise, a play date that ran late at the last minute was practically inexcusable. You simply did not miss dinner without providing advance notice. I do realize that few families eat dinner together every night, but I guess I failed to notice that few families eat dinner together ever. (the cdc points to family meals as one of the best ways to influence healthy eating habits in your kids) The other statistic that surprised me was that fewer than 6% of children studied took part in daily exercise with either parent. And, ok, maybe it wasn't daily, but my family "exercised" a lot. We rode bikes, went for walks, played soccer…I even knocked out my Mom's two front teeth playing baseball when I was 4 (which led to Megan not being allowed to use the metal baseball bat for many, many years…I feel very guilty about this, but really, who hands a heavy metal bat to a small four year old and then stands behind her as she swings at pitches?). During the summer we went to the pool every day that it didn't rain. When I was bored watching tv was the very last thing Mom suggested and, typically, was the last thing I wanted to do (despite my current couch potato status). And I realize this sort of childhood is the product of many blessings - my family was well-off enough to belong to a semi-private pool, we lived in a nice suburban neighborhood where one could bike and walk and play in the yard safely, I had a stay-at-home Mom who could entertain me and take me to the pool and to friends' houses, and both parents had the time and energy to prepare a full meal and sit down with us. I realize that my parents took these things very seriously, that they approached raising Brad and I as a job, so to speak. And I appreciate that. But I can't imagine that all those positive things truly changed the way we chose to entertain ourselves.

I guess the thing that keeps stopping me is, I'm not that old. And yet there seems to have been this huge sea change between kids now, kids a mere 10 years younger than me, and kids when I was growing up. Last summer I remember sitting at the pool with Kelly, who grew up in a fairly low-cost apartment complex with two working parents, talking about the sheer emptiness of the pool. When she was growing up, she said you could practically walk across the water there were so many kids in the pool. She had a group of friends who lived in the complex and they would all play outside together. The apartments are fairly small, so none of them wanted to stay inside…now it seems most of the kids living there rarely come outside. What's happened? Can it really be blamed on video games and television? We had those things growing up. Sure, we didn’t have playstation or the game cube, but we had computers and atari and nintendo. Even when I would go over to Julie's to play nintendo, we always spent some time jumping on the trampoline too. What's behind this huge shift in mentality, this massive change in the way kids "play"? And why can't I wrap my brain around it?

Also, just channel-surfed past fox news to hear some guy debating making changes to the Patriot Act and saying, "why can't we just wait until after all the terrorists are caught?" Like there's some finite number of terrorists, and after we catch all of them, there won't be any new ones. Where do you even start with that?


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