The Gap Generation

I look young. I get that. I have been blessed with my father’s genes that way. He still brags about being “proofed” in his 50s. I just roll my eyes when I hear the story for the umpteenth time (she was required to ask everyone for ID). Just because I look like I am a tad bit younger (I was once accused of being an 8th grader out at carpool duty) it does not mean that I grew up with the internet, cell phones, social media or the instant news cycle. Yet, I feel that most in my generation straddle the bridge between the industrial and information ages.

Tom Brokaw wrote of the greatest generation, a generation of elders who fought world wars and stabilized the home front. I could not agree more. Talk about a generation of resilient, creative and determined folks. When I try to think of my generation (those 35-45, or so) and what name I can give it (not gen x or gen y- how unoriginal) I come up with the “gap generation”. I think it is appropriate since we are in between the industrial age (many of us were taught in the strict assembly lines of elementary schools) and the information age (it is Twitterific). Not to mention, we have all shopped at the Gap at some point. I am also part of a “last generation” that was able to get on a bike in the morning as a teenager, not really tell my mom where I was going, come home for lunch and then head back out until dinner time. No cell phone, no gps or text messaging. While I do love my pda, gps and text messaging capabilities, life was good when you had a dirt bike and a group to ride with. We built race tracks in the woods, rode a tire swing over the Bronx River and spent all the money we had at 7-Eleven on slurpies (I am sure there were some other things we did too but no interstate laws were broken- I think). I just “ratted” myself out but I figure the statute of limitations on the “house rules” ran out a while ago.

Then I get to college. We still had land lines in our room. The internet was only something you heard of (Prodigy anyone?). And yes, no email account for me. I was the only guy in our apartment with a computer. It was a glorified word processor, but it worked for us. Thankfully I never had to worry about a cell phone camera and Facebook while I was in college. A tweet was literally a sound made by a bird. So, why do I say all of this…..

It bothers me that my kids will not experience a childhood where they had a freedom to explore without the distractions of modern communication. Yes, it will be good in its own right, but still not the same. The beauty of the gap generation was not big hair, pegged jeans, z cavaricci’s or capezios, it was that we were the last “group” to be able to be kids (like the olden days as my dad would say). Creativity was our license and our bike, skateboard or feet took us everywhere we wanted to go. There was no technological leash that tethered us down nor were we overprogrammed. At the very least we can help bridge that “gap” for our kids.

I may sound hypocritical here and somewhat negative about the information age, as I almost sent this entire post from my Android phone. I am a full participant in, and fan of , the “age”. I am all “geared” up with tech toys. That said, I do wish that our kids had more opportunities to be free and “learn by doing”. I know our world is different today, especially post 9-11 and Chris Hansen’s Dateline NBC reporting, but we need to find ways to give our kids the opportunity to experience the freedom of a childhood that allows them to create, explore and problem solve.

So, here is to jumping in leaf piles on the front lawn, creating forts out of cardboard boxes and going outside to simply “play”. Then take some pictures with your smartphone and post them to Facebook. People may be astonished that these activities actually do still happen. Phineas and Ferb can teach us a lesson or two about what to do in our spare time (stay tuned for part deux of this post). Maybe the Flynn boys (and their sister Candace) can help us get some of the creativity back that we seemed to lose in the “gap” between generations. To quote my friends on Phineas and Ferb, “Carpe Diem, you can’t argue with latin”.