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What Our Kids Will Never Understand

By Chris Jordan

Recently my 6 year old asked if clocks were for people who don’t have phones. I was completely baffled by this question until I realized he meant wrist watches.* I hadn’t thought about it, but as I looked around at people I saw that a surprisingly number do not wear watches. And when asked the time, most of us look at our phones.

I started thinking about things that my children find funny or quaint, the things they will never experience which were part of our collective culture growing up.

Things Our Kids Will Never Understand

1: Watches. It seems that those who do wear them now do it more for fashion or out of habit.

2: Rolling down the car windows by hand. My 16 year old son bought an old Ford Bronco that does not have automatic windows. When my 6 and 8 year olds got into the car for the first time, they had had no idea what “that twirly thing” was. They were amazed that it rolled down the windows. And then they fought over who was going to roll the window up and down.

3: Related to the above, upon seeing the roll-down style windows, my 12 yr old said, “Oh, is that why old people like you guys say, ‘Roll down the window?’

‘Why, what do young people like you guys say?’

‘We just say open or shut the window.”

Huh, I hadn’t noticed. Is “roll down the window” the dungarees of our children’s generation?

Other phrases I have recently had to explain:

“I sound like a broken record.”
They thought of record as in Guinness Book of World Records. As in I had broken the record for being the world’s grouchiest Mom.

“I’ll be waiting by the phone.”
“Of course you will, it’s always in your pocket.”

I know there are other phrases, but none come to mind right now.

4: “Snow” on the television. We watched Poltergeist a few months ago and my kids did not understand what was wrong with the people’s television. I had to explain that there wasn’t 24 hours of non-stop tv shows. All televisions did that every single night. That was what made the movie so scary! My kids did not think it was at all scary and watched the movie with the same detached incredulous awe that I remember reserving for black and white movies. The awe being, holy cow, how did people ever think this was good?

5: Cameras with film. This past summer we went to a water park and I bought one of those disposable waterproof type cameras. The kids kept asking me to see the pictures. I kept explaining to them that there is no digital viewer on the back of the camera because this camera has film. The concept of film was lost on them.

“So you have to bring the camera to the store because the pictures can only be downloaded onto their computers?”

6:  Pen pals. We did this in elementary school. We wrote back and forth to kids in a classroom in Australia. It was SO exciting. They lived SO far away. I have a friend who had a pen pal for years and years. They finally met as young adults. She ended up marrying her pen pal’s brother.

I just texted with someone who is in Japan. It was instant. Not exciting, at least not compared to being ten years old and finally finding a letter in your mailbox with weird stamps on it. The world seems smaller now, less mysterious.

7: Memorizing phone numbers. Do you know anyone’s phone number by heart anymore? Last week my phone went dead and I couldn’t call my kids from another phone because I DON’T KNOW THEIR PHONE NUMBERS!

8: The Phonebook. The Dictionary. The Encyclopedia Britannica. The card catalog. They are all obsolete. Basically any reference material that was made out of paper is now computerized.

9: Paper maps. Remember having those in the car on long trips. Folding and refolding to try and get just the part you needed visible? And never being able to get it back the way it was originally folded. Those days are long gone.

10: Along with the above, getting lost. Do people ever get hopelessly lost anymore? Well, aside from those people who had to call 911 to be rescued from a corn maze. Sure, you might not be able to pinpoint exactly the location you want to go, but your GPS can always guide you home. As an aside, my 12 year old son and I are horrible with directions even when using the GPS. When we are navigating in the car together we jokingly call it the blonde leading the blonde. Last week we drove for over an hour to get to a football stadium, using our GPS, only to discover that it was 5 miles from our house.

11: Life before Caller-ID. Gone are the days of prank phone calls at sleep-overs or calling the boy you like fifty times in a single evening until he finally answers and then hanging up.

12: Having only one phone number that was shared with the entire family. And while you were talking on that shared phone there was no expectation of absolute privacy. Now, they text. And with it the idea that they would have anything but absolute privacy is foreign to them.

13: Hawaiian Tropic Coconut Tanning Oil. That smell just says summer to me. I recently bought something that smelled exactly like this. I held it up to my kids, “Smell this. Doesn’t it remind you of summer?!?” They all looked at me like I was crazy. “No, it reminds me of coconuts.”

14:  Being disconnected. Our kids don’t know what this means. They are in contact with everyone all the time. Every thought or experience is viewed through the lens of how am I going to share this with everyone else and thus validate the experience. Part of the experience has become the reactions of other people. Facebook has made it so they are potentially in contact with every person they have even had a passing acquaintance. And they are all called “friends.”

15: There was a time when it would have been embarrassing for your underwear to show. Kids now feel no such embarrassment. Underwear to them is just the first layer of clothes.


* I guess wrist watch is sort of outdated since it was used to distinguish between wrist watches and pocket watches.  Who the hell wears a pocket watch anymore?

Photo credit: Thinkstock

About the Author

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she wrote about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children. Yes, they...

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she wrote about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.
Yes, they are all hers.
No she’s not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.
Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That’s why her youngest is a teen now.
Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.


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