We visited my parents last week and the kids were baffled by broadcast television.
“Fast-forward!” demanded Lizzie.
“Don’t like that ducky!” declared Henry, age 2, when confronted with yet another commercial for AFLAC insurance.
Try as I may, I could not effectively explain why the talking duck kept interrupting their program.
For the duration of their little lives, my children have watched videos on Netflix and Amazon. They have never had to sit through TV commercials.
Listening to the car radio is a similar experience.
“Can you play Katy Perry?” asks Katie.
“I want Taylor Swift,” insists Lizzie.
“‘Gangnam Style,'” begs the 2-year-old.
For my kids, all the world is a mix tape, piled high and deep with songs they know and love. They use their weekly allowance to purchase tunes instantly. They never have to wait by the radio hoping “Material Girl” or “Livin’ on a Prayer” will come on.
As I reflect back, my own childhood seems so much duller. I went to school. I played soccer. I ate sandwiches. And I waited.
That’s what childhood used to be for. Waiting. To be able to watch PG-13 movies. To walk uptown with friends. To let our bodies to catch up with our daydreams.
But my kids can’t seem to wait for anything.
My 9-year-old and I have had arguments lately that my own mom and I didn’t have until I was 13. Why can’t I watch music videos? Why can’t I wear makeup? Why won’t you take me to the mall?
I hold the line wherever I can. I am making her wait until she is 16 to get her ears pierced. (“Sixteen? OMG, Mom. You might as well make it 116. You are sooo strict.“) My kids must wait to spend birthday money until after they write thank-you letters. They wait for me at the corner when we bike into town.
But I can already tell this is a losing battle. I put up tiny roadblocks, while the rest of the world offers an express lane to tween-dom. Mean mommy is no match for the 9-year-olds with cell phones, Facebook accounts and televisions in their rooms.
So, what is a parent to do? I usually take pride in my willingness to embrace pop culture. I Pin. I Tweet. I’m all about that bass, ’bout that bass. But when it comes to my kids, I’m all about patience and caution. Why rush to give them grown-up toys and experiences?
I guess this is my generation’s angst. My grandmother was mortified whenever I picked up the phone to call a boy. “Let the boys call you,” she said. My mother hated when I drove to pick up a date in high school. “A woman should never drive in heels,” she chided. Maybe my admonitions about earrings and cell phones will sound equally arcane to my kids.
Maybe 9 is the new 13 and I need to get on board.
But I can’t. I’m the mom. It is my job to say, “Go slow” and “No selfies.” I will keep setting up those roadblocks. I will keep teaching patience. I will risk being called old-fashioned if I can let my kids be kids for a little bit longer.
Even if it means we have to sit through more talking duck commercials.
[Published on Huff Po today.]