The Cyber-Free `80s

Life was better then….

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Cyberbullying didn’t exist in the `80s

Here I was, driving down the street one afternoon. It was in a residential area, so luckily, the street wasn’t extremely busy at the time. Suddenly and without warning, a teenager jumped off the curb to cross the street without stopping to check for oncoming vehicles, and no, there was no cross walk either. Lucky for me, I was quick to react and hit my brakes in time. The youth didn’t even look up but kept on walking. He didn’t even twitch a muscle. Why was this such a strange event? Well, that’s because he had his smartphone glued to the front of his nose and nothing was going to interrupt him from reading whatever was so interesting that he forgot to pay attention to basic pedestrian safety. Uhummm….

In today’s day and age, owning a smartphone, texting, chatting, taking pictures and sharing everything about your day-to-day is considered normal. Let’s face it, even the president sends tweets! But then I experience the negative issues involved in all of this. I watch my own kids  show the same behaviors; always reaching for their smartphone and wanting to read who wrote what about whom so they can reply or comment immediately. Not to mention all the cyberbullying going on resulting in depression and self-harm and suicide. Parents are overwhelmed, not knowing how to deal with these serious situations. I come across articles about this topic every day, in magazines, newspapers and the internet. The increased need for child and teen psychiatrists has exploded because of all the mental abuse and cyberbullying  taking place all over the world. It does not, in my opinion, make this a very safe and joyful time for our children to grow up in. Nothing is private anymore. Children, teens, and of course, also adults, prefer to pass their time in a cyber world with that little screen stuck to their noses. I always joke with my daughter, telling her it would be less strenuous for her arm and hand if she just glued that thing to her nose! She always replies, “Oh, mom.”

Growing up in the 80’s was so much more fun, carefree and interesting. We spent our free time doing sports, hobbies, playing instruments and just being outdoors. We’d go roller-skating or just ride our bicycles and hang out and meet with friends. Generally speaking, children and teens were under less stress at school and could concentrate totally on their studies. We didn’t need hundreds of tutoring institutes in our city, because we really paid attention at school and weren’t distracted by the ever-present “pinging” of incoming messages or the ever-present fear of what the “pinging” was about. When we got home from school we had peace and quiet. It was a real treat to go to the movies maybe once a month, or watch TV in the evening with our parents. Sadly, a lot of this doesn’t seem to happen anymore. Family life is not what it used to be.

I miss the 80’s. The music was better. Growing up was easier. Life was better without all that “pinging,” stress and lack of privacy. In those days, high school was very much just like the musical – and even in that movie they didn’t have smartphones glued to their noses!

But we had fun anyway.

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An Act of Kindness in Germany

One day my daughter,  who is 19 years old and has a slight physical handicap, came home from her work experience at a local senior citizen home and told me the most touching story…..

While standing at the bus stop in the pouring rain, a young man ran across the street and handed her his umbrella.  Then he turned around and ran back across the street, boarded his bus and disappeared without saying a word. It happened so quickly that she couldn’t even thank him for it before he quickly ran off. She said he was a refugee, new to this country and didn’t speak German. This act of kindness literally brought tears to my eyes.

Living in Germany, we hear and read reports about people and families in foreign lands having to flee their homes for safety almost daily. One can’t ignore the constant criticism and the political haggling about it all. People give them a place to live and then complain that they live there.  I try to avoid watching the news.  There are simply too many sad and depressing things going on in this world and I can’t help wondering if actual acts of “kindness”  have become a rarity. Why are people so negative and quick to judge and criticise people they don’t even know?

Ironic as it may seem, this act of kindness wasn’t performed by a native German resident but by a foreigner facing the hardships of being accepted by a new country, its people and its customs.

“Dear young man, wherever you are.  Thank you for being kind to my daughter.”

Is there really a Santa Clause?

As a mother of two lovely daughters, I enjoyed looking forward to the Christmas Holidays every year – Don’t get me wrong, I still do! It’s just that now they are teenagers and the way we celebrate Christmas has changed.

I actively spent weeks preparing for Christmas, creating a budget, making our Christmas lists, comparing prices and shopping for toys and other childrens’ goodies. We all looked forward to our yearly Christmas cookie baking day – always followed by the kitchen clean up evening. We exchanged presents on Christmas morning while listening to Christmas music playing in the background. It was so beautiful hearing them talk under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning about the wonderful things Santa had brought them.

One Christmas, my oldest which was six at the time, said she had actually heard Santa’s sleigh with his reindeer land on our roof Christmas Eve. How I envy that innocence and magical imagination that children possess! Little did she know, the sounds she heard were actually her parents carrying all the beautifully wrapped presents from their hiding places and putting them as quietly as possible under our Christmas tree. Every Christmas they’d get a personal letter from Santa full of compliments and praise. Their eyes would twinkle and their faces all smiles.

Then one day I was asked the dreaded question, “Mom, is there really a Santa Clause?” There it was. Like a balloon just popped by a pin. As the responsible parents you are, you have no choice but to tell them the truth and all because the kids at school had to spoil all the magic. It’s such a shame; but you tell them. You explain to them that there really is no Santa Clause and that now they are old enough to understand. Santa isn’t just a story about a fat man in a red suit with a white beard, a sleigh and reindeer bringing presents to children around the world…..

Santa is FAMILY and Christmas is LOVE.

Goodbye Dolls and Trains

100_2087We all have these wonderful memories of our children at Christmas when they’re sitting under the Christmas tree opening their presents. The kids would tear off the beautiful wrapping paper and then they’d pass the boxes on to me to do the rest.  I couldn’t get the toys out of the original packaging fast enough!  This was no easy task, since I believe that toys are purposely packaged extremely well to make our lives more stressful on Christmas Day. Remember the dolls with their buggies and cool outfits? Or if you have boys, remember the cars and train sets?

What I didn’t know then was that one day the toys would be gone.

As my children got older they simply lost interest in their toys. They sat untouched, collecting dust in the cupboards and on the shelves.  My girls sprouted into their teen years and the dolls were forgotten. Instead, their interests changed to CDs, DVDs, mobile phones, gaming consoles, makeup, clothes and …… boys. Now that’s a scary thought, especially when you picture them running around the house in their little princess costumes at the age of four!

I guess as a parent, this must be the first stage in preparation of our children eventually leaving the nest. But what about all those beautiful and expensive toys and dolls sitting on the shelves?  Two options.  Box them and hide them away in the attic for almost forever or give them to children that would appreciate them NOW. I decided on the latter.

Today, a young family came to pick up the toys.  They searched through the boxes with eager looks of anticipation and wonder on their faces. They gave me looks of appreciation and embarrasement. I helped them load all the boxes of toys into their car and then sadly watched as they drove away.

I was glad, of course, that the toys would be cherished but never imagined I would be so sad to see them go. Our babies are no longer babies anymore.

They’re growing up.