So…You Think You Can Trance?

I realize that I haven’t changed, or matured, all that much since childhood, but recent observations have me wondering whether I used to be like this.

 

Two Book Crossover 11.13

This morning over a very informal and late breakfast, I’m having a conversation with my soon-to-be-nine-year-old nephew, Alex. Okay, it’s not something that you’ll want a transcript of, or ever see on Charlie Rose, but it’s reasonably coherent and intelligent. The commercial break ends and then,  in mid-answer…

 

Nothing. Not even crickets. Just a glassy-eyed, vacant stare back into Nicktoons or whatever station it is.

 

Lest you think I’m picking on my nephew (well, he was Exhibit A), I’ve seen the same thing play out countless times with Benny, my five-year-old. While he is sometimes able to multi-task, usually the allure of the television, video game or other obsession is enough to stop more personal communication dead in its tracks.

 

This is a different world. When Benny has a play date with his best friend, especially if he visits him and his two brothers, there is likely to be a scene of them sitting in the same room, with each playing his or her own game. Every now and then, they will attempt a four-boy activity (or at least, a three-way one that will include the just-turned seven year-old with the two fives, excluding the three-year-old), but that game or semi-imaginative scene will usually dissolve within a few minutes.

 

I won’t pretend to be an expert on the play-and-communication patterns of youngsters, but I’ve been a part of enough indoor and outdoor sessions to notice, and decry, this trend. I’m also not the first to comment on this; is this something that I should be worried about?

 

Life marches on, and one sign of aging gracefully is not to bemoan new worlds that we don’t recognize or adapt to so easily. I’m afraid of romanticizing too much about bygone days, but I’m also worried about a world of too much technology and too much unbridled individualism. To that latter concern, I ask this question: How often do you see kids playing pick-up games of any sport, or any sort?

 

None of this is to suggest that my childhood was any better than those of this generation. I also remember watching a lot of TV, even though the first television set I grew up on was more like a  glorified radio with a peephole. And you haven’t lived till you’ve seen Gilligan’s Island in 18 inches of glorious black-and-white.

 

As I’ve graduated to a better TV, I still watch way too much of it. However, I think that my mom and dad were able to at least talk to me when I was watching Gilligan, Maxwell Smart or Bullwinkle. Or, I’d at least acknowledge that they were there, even if I said something like, “Don’t bother me. I think they’re about to leave the island. Really.”

 

There are still times when I certainly don’t want to be bothered when I’m watching TV, but I don’t think that I effect that glassy-eyed stare which silently announces that my trance cannot be penetrated.

 

No, I reserve that look for when my wife asks me when I’m going to clean up the basement, take out the trash or get a real, full-time job.

 

Kids.

 

(Matt Goldberg) is the author of five books and hundreds of eclectic, published writings. He is also available to help you craft the article, speech (and even book) that will help you best reach your intended audience. Contact him via matt@tipofthegoldberg for all inquiries.

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