I went for a run at Worcester State University’s track the other day. It was hot and I’m working to get back in shape, so when I was finished and riding home on my scooter, I swung in to our neighborhood 7-11 to treat myself to a Slurpee. I hadn’t had a Slurpee in a really long time, but it seemed just the thing for a hot summer day during the 4th of July weekend.
Standing there in front of the “Wall o’ Slurpee” I couldn’t help but think back on a time now past. I thought about all of the times I rode my bike to the 7-11 as a kid. Then, the counter person got your Slurpee for them. They held the key to the Slurpee machine. It made them special that way. And there were always only two kinds of Slurpee available. Two. They changed every few days, so it was a surprise awaiting you when you arrived. Would they have cola or lemon-lime? Cherry? Grape? The BEST was when they had cola and cherry together.
This weekend I chose from 8 different flavors of Slurpee, all spinning around in front of me. Moreover, there were also 8 different sizes of cups to choose from, plus three different styles of cup (paper, plastic, or commemorative). There was even a reusable plastic thermos-sized cup with a plastic divider in the middle and a special spoon/straw, made especially for the Slurpee connoisseur who regularly samples two types of Slurpee, but dares to not let them mix together. I settled on the old familiar Coke/Cherry combo (together) and was happy to have it, but riding home I couldn’t help but think that if I got to have it every time I ever wanted it, it wouldn’t be so special. I was grateful for the one-size, two flavor choice of my childhood. I was grateful for the surprise. I also felt a little sad for kids today who will never know such.
I read an article today in the recent issue of “The Atlantic Monthly” called “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy”. Another with a bit different take was pointed out to me by a colleague, “On Parenthood, Fighting with our Kids, and Redemption.” Finally I saw this one, “Too Little Risk is Risky for Kids” with yet another message. All kind of the same message, but all slightly different.
I’m not a parent, so I feel I lack any credibility in opining about parenting, but I did find some of the points in the articles pretty interesting. Are we creating a generation of kids who don’t know what it’s like to be unhappy? Put another way, do parents care so much about making their kids happy that they create adults who think unhappiness is wrong? Are we creating young people incapable of thinking through problems themselves because they’ve never faced any problems before they become young adults? Are kids today afraid to take risks because we’re so afraid of what could happen to them if they fail? How much are parents (and any adult who encounters young people) contributing to a society that expects 8 different flavors of Slurpee because we never had to choose between two?
More and more lately, I wonder if I’m just becoming old – engaging in the same thing every generation engages in as they age. “Back when I was growing up blah, blah, blah…” (fill in the blah). I said something to this affect recently and was reminded of that “You will do it this way, because I did it this way” syndrome that wreaks havoc on medical education. Residents work 90 hours straight because that’s what their chiefs did. The shortfall of such logic seems pretty evident.
But is there any difference in it and my own “back in the day” thinking? I think so. I think living in a society of endless abundance and choice, a society that has stripped away boundaries in all directions from public/private to adult/child, a society that seems to have both forgotten how to say and how to hear “no”, is not so great. It’s not a great society.
A great society is also not a society where everyone is great. The overwhelming majority of us are normal. That’s what the word means. Norm. Most. Average. What’s wrong with that? Sure, “America’s Got Talent”, but it’s also got a lot of so-so, average, run of the mill, 3-chord strumming, slightly-off-key singing folks who by and large have no business whatsoever invading anyone’s living room. Yet, they do. Week after week, network after copying network. Ad nauseum.
This is a rambling post with no real point to it except that my belief that too much is simply too much was hammered home over the weekend. Between the Everlasting Gobstopper Slurpee stop to a July 4th celebration that went on from July 1st through the 4th… I’ve come to say, “Enough!” Set some limits, pick a thing or two to focus upon, and enjoy treats on occasion so that they remain just that. That’s the word for myself today.