This woman stacked three Costco-sized soup can type cylinders, the middle cylinder sideways, on top of a platform. With incredible agility, she placed a board on the tower and climbed atop, her concentration disguised by a confident smile and arms raised to cue applause.
The circus act progressed into more stunning feats of balance. Mouth agape and clapping, I turned to my kids to see their reactions. Liam was eyeing the cotton candy salesman, Portia was glancing, uninterested, from the performer to her popcorn as she stuffed a fistful in her mouth, and Griffin stared at the bearded man sitting near us on the bleachers.
Flabbergasted, I pinched their arms and said what all parents say to unimpressed children, "Look, guys! Isn't this amazing? Can you believe it?" To which Liam responds, "Yeah. I am gonna do that when I get home, but I'm gonna stack it even higher."
That overinflated sense of self-confidence serves kids well as childhood requires them to experience things for the very first time daily. Perhaps, though, this constant barrage of newness also leaves them unable to distinguish ordinary from extraordinary.
When extraordinary things happen, I find myself informing the kids that, "this is not normal. You should be amazed right now and realize how cool your mother is for providing such a memorable experience for you".
They nod to make me stop talking and I relent hoping that one day they'll look back and realize how special it was to come across a moose sauntering through the neighborhood or witness the sun completely eclipsed by the moon. For now, I'll just try to make as many extraordinary memories as I can with them as they eat steak with the same enthusiasm as they eat hot dogs.
This must be why old people always say, "Kids these days have no idea how lucky they are". It's me. I'm old people now.
Kids these days have no idea how lucky they are.
We used to play Oregon Trail with green graphics on a miniature black computer screen and we liked it!
We used to take pictures and then wait weeks to see what they looked like.
We used to have to rewind videos from Blockbuster before returning them two days later to avoid a fine.
Our teachers used to challenge us to a round of "beat the calculator" where we'd have to complete a math problem on paper before a classmate typed it into a calculator because, "You won't always have a calculator handy."
We used to answer the telephone in the kitchen, cover the bottom half of the phone, stretch that coiled cord as far as it would go, and then, like a maniac, yell up the stairs, "Camille! Ken's on the phoooooonnneee!!" We were basically curmudgeonly, unpaid child secretaries.
Now kids play Subway Surfer, take pictures and record video, stream YouTube, calculate tips, and make phone calls, I mean, text, from a device that makes contact with outer space and fits in the front pocket of their skinny jeans.
To be honest, I remember being equally unimpressed with the extraordinary as a kid, too. Sure, I found my experiences neat, but I didn't realize how neat until I got older. For instance, my best friend's family took me on several fantastic vacations, including Hawaii. My kids ask to go to Hawaii now and I'm like, "Sure! Just ask Santa so I don't have to pay for it." As a nine-year-old, I modeled for a doll company. A video clip of me and a friend appeared on an episode of Oprah's Favorite Things. "Neat," I thought at the time, "I'm on a talk show for middle-aged women". Little did I know that Oprah was the goddess of afternoon daytime television.
I also remember having a difficult time distinguishing fact from fiction as a kid. I remember thinking it was a fact that Cindy Crawford was the most beautiful woman alive and I wondered what the criteria was. I also remember thinking there was no basketball player better than Michael Jordan (probably an actual fact), no dancer better than Michael Jackson, and no actor better than Tom Cruise, except, perhaps Jim Carrey, whose antics kept us 90's kids in stitches.
Life is weird, though. You're born, you learn to walk and talk, you see elephants at the zoo and squirrels out your window, you watch beautiful people on television, you listen to talented musicians on the radio, you read imaginative books with creative illustrations, you eat chicken nuggets and popsicles, cereal and cheesecake, and then your mom says, "Look! An owl with a snake in its talons!" and you know it's important from her tone but you aren't sure why because she just said, "Look! A choo-choo train!" yesterday, and "Look! A parking spot right in front!" the day before.
As such, I try to keep perspective when my kids take for granted my superhuman efforts to clean, prepare meals, organize their appointments, and taxi them around as splendidly as a woman carefully balancing atop a precarious tower of soup cans daily.
But, what really puzzles me is the bizarre things that actually do impress them:
1. I'll sing a song that's been around forever like "True Colors" and my kids will say, "You know that song?!"
2. I did a somersault in the backyard as a 32-year-old and my kids regarded me an Olympian.
3. I showed them the three tricks I could remember in Cat's Cradle and they called me a magician.
4. Liam considers Top Ramen a delicacy.
5. They can't believe how quickly I can tie my shoes.
I've concluded they are most impressed to see someone accomplish a feat they've had some firsthand experience with and found challenging. They can actually appreciate the struggle when they've gone through it themselves.
I guess that's really the whole point of life, isn't it? If we decided not to give Earth a try, we'd be stuck in the bleachers chomping on fistfuls of heavenly popcorn, watching others perform feats we could not appreciate nor comprehend no matter their magnificence.
So, I am grateful for the struggle. And I am grateful the struggle comes with cream cheese, flowers, butterflies, and Oprah.