My grandfather wrote a few pages remembering his childhood in Germany in the 1880s. My father wrote more pages remembering his childhood in Wichita, Kansas in the 1920s. Life changed considerably between my grandfather’s childhood and my father’s. Automobiles and planes and electricity and telephones and many other labor-saving devices were invented and marketed. The basic structure of family life didn’t change much in that time.
I remember my childhood in Kansas City, Missouri during the 1940s and 1950s. More inventions and more labor-saving devices, but still the same basic structure of family life. My children’s memories of childhood will be of the 1970s. While there were more inventions giving more comfort and saving us all from manual labor, the basic structure of family life went through some major changes and I’m not convinced that those changes were ultimately good.
We all have air conditioning and microwave ovens and televisions and dishwashers and automatic transmissions and cell phones and instant news and more, but we also have working mothers and working fathers and working kids and fast food places and less family time and less family influences and more television and less talking among ourselves and more crime and less family values and more broken families and more troubled kids.
Somewhere along the line we lost something important that we once had. We’re not even sure what it is we miss, but we know that it isn’t present in our daily life. There was a family closeness and communication and examples to follow and expectations that we knew we had to live up to and that is all surrendered to the new lifestyle that we all have now. What we have now has taken the role models out of our lives and substituted television shows to teach us how to live. All problems are superficial and easily solved within one hour.
We are now into the second or third generation of children becoming adults who learned their roles not from their parents but from the culture around them. And now they are sharing what they know or don’t know with their children. We seem to be spiraling down and losing those family concepts that were passed along for so many generations till now. People don’t sit around the dinner table and share their daily experiences any more. They eat their dinners while watching television and often don’t even get a chance to communicate what is really happening in their lives. We are all lost in our own instant world without the benefit of advice from those who really care.
It’s going to take a lot of effort and careful scheduling to bring our families back from this precipice. If we don’t succeed, then the brave new world that follows will lack.