In many ways, our kids have it easier than we did, but that also complicates other aspects of their lives. It’s easier because we live in a house with two and a half bathrooms, so the fighting is over which hair appliance is plugged in, and who left the cap off of the teeth-whitening toothpaste. They are stressed out in the morning because they can’t decide what to wear, and that’s because they have so many choices. I had five shirts for school, and two pair of pants, and so it was very straightforward. My mother probably had one dress and one skirt and two shirts.
For breakfast, they might debate whether to have a bagel with cream cheese or sweetened cereal. They definitely fight over who gets to control the digital video recorder remote control.
All of the luxuries come with a price. We all get too little sleep, so the kids are up late, distracted during the evening by television, internet games, and cell-phone shenanigans. The cartoons they do watch are mind-abusing, heavy on ironic social commentary and adult-themed humor (why cartoons ever left the tried, true, and trusted format of physical violence is a mystery to me).
They also must remember to plug in their cell phone.
A very real problem they have to deal with is over-loaded backpacks. Every teacher demands that they have a binder for them, and so they must fit ten pounds of school stuff into a five pound backpack. All the binders can’t fit in their locker, either, so there’s a constant struggle to tote and find the right material.
The one bright spot is that the backpacks are so full, there’s no room for alcohol, tobacco, or firearms. It’s an insidiously brilliant approach to keeping the kids on the straight and narrow.
There has been some saber-rattling lately about the end of affluence, as future generations will not enjoy the same standard of living as we did. I believe the lifestyles will become increasingly casual regardless of the income available. It’s not like people will revert to toting water from the village well to bathe themselves twice a year (whether they need it or not). Future generations may not be able to afford digital cable, broadband internet, and new car payments, so I think people will drive used cars, and leach off of their neighbors for wireless internet to find pirated television shows.
I’m not saying that it will be a better life. They may be doomed to struggle hopelessly to recreate this golden age of wastefulness in which we are living, and it may be impossible to achieve the level of unbalanced affluence that Americans now enjoy. But it won’t be third-worldish, either. They will find love and ways to be happy. They may even take advantage of the nascent health movement, and actually lead simpler, healthier lives than we do today.
Think of it: in a world with less pressure to acquire useless goods, we might sit at home in the evening with our spouse and talk and laugh over a quiet meal of healthy food. We might turn in early, every day, to make love in a warm bed. And when we have children, we might raise them with a villager’s attitude of providing for their needs, watching them grow, and imparting to them the values of love, cooperation, and respect.
In the morning, we would all awaken with the sun, rested and impatient for the new day to begin.