Driving home from town on Sunday evening, my husband and daughter had an interesting conversation about me.
“Did you know that Mom’s the most beautiful woman in the whole world?” asked the Hubby.
“No she’s not,” said my daughter from the back seat.
“Why not?” he asked.
“You do know there’s millions of people in the world, right?”
“Yeah… well, who’s prettier than Mom?”
“I don’t know. Maybe we should check the Internet.”
At six, my daughter isn’t just aware that the world is filled with a ton of people, she knows that it means that no matter who you are and what you do, chances are that there is someone out there who is undoubtedly better than you.
It could be that I was just overprotected as a kid, but I don’t remember growing up with that burden. When I was little, it was all about the keiki-version of the American Dream–Be Cool, Stay in School… and you can be whatever you want. As a kid, the sky was the limit. I remember countless days spent daydreaming about the grand, exciting future that lay ahead for me.
I’ve always dreamed big and in the process I’ve eaten my share of the disappointment that comes when you discover that there’s not really a market for an astronaut-veterinarian-artist.
I often forget that children growing up these days are doing so in a completely different world. When my mother was in grade school and had to turn in a report, she used the encyclopedia. I did the same. In fact, none of my research was done on the computer and subsequently involved lugging around dusty books that weighed a ton and probably contained ridiculously outdated information.
Kids these days have access to the Internet and all of its fresh, current information. Granted, a lot of the information that’s found on the Internet is worth a pile of dog poo, but books, magazines and newspapers have errors, too.
The bottom line is that information is easily accessible. Yeah, kids still need to pick the relevant stuff out of a mess of worthlessness, but it’s a hell of a lot faster and better than quoting some long-dead professor from a book published in the 1970just because it was the only book on the subject available at the library.
Of course, I also worry that living in the information age will cause our children to grow up quickly and ruthlessly. I think that little ones should be made to feel big and important–especially when they are tiny and dependent on others–because it gives them a sense of security and self-worth.
But the Internet fills me with urgency that I’m sure is subliminally hitting keiki full in the face. For example, I’m writing a novel. Every time I go online, I find forums, groups and MySpace pages crowded with authors doing the same thing I am. That’s dissenheartening.
Every time I check the headlines, there’s something about some super kid who graduated at six and within three years was doing brain surgery.
Maybe that’s why reality television has become so popular. As we increasingly become aware of how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things, we cling to little quirks of authentic human nature just to remind us that we’re actually one in a million. Sorry—one in 6,659,884,382.
Starr Begley would like to wish her oral surgeon–who stuffs gauze like the pro he is–a belated birthday. MTW