Family nights in the 1970’s meant gathering gather around the console TV and munching on popcorn from a big Tupperware bowl. I’d watch my mom heat oil in our dented black kettle, adding kernels at just the right moment. She’d gently shake the pot on the stove-top so the popcorn wouldn’t burn.
Today, I have a 22-year-old daughter and twin 4-year-old sons. If I asked my daughter to make popcorn without using a microwave, I’m sure she’d figure it out. Because, Google. As she gets ready to leave home and make her way in the world, it occurs to me that there are some lost arts: things my mother and grandmother (and probably the men in my family, too) know how to do that have sort of stopped with me. Things I haven’t passed on.
Technology exploded during my lifetime, bringing a plethora of conveniences and shortcuts (oh wait … we call those hacks now) that generations before me didn’t enjoy. I can plan menus, pay bills, and catch up on gossip in record time with minimal effort because there are apps for all that.
But is that a good thing?
Motherhood and … well, pretty much everything looks different today than when it did when I was growing up. Here are some differences that leave me wishing for simpler times:
1. Letter writing
My mom had stacks of pretty stationary that she put to good use. She wrote her family, her childhood friends, and her college roommate. In cursive. Five-year-old me always recognized the delight in her eyes when the mailman delivered a letter. Sometimes, mom would read snippets out loud to me. Sometimes, there were pictures enclosed: shiny pieces of photo paper that breathed life into the words and people in the letters.
Now we have email and Facebook. I can’t remember the last time I took time to sit down and write to someone with pen and paper. My younger kids will learn to type on a keyboard and back up a file by the time they’re 10 but they won’t learn longhand unless I teach them.
Technology has made connecting easier, but do we lose something when our only way to stay in touch is digital? Do our kids know how to properly address an envelope? When do we teach that? I find this all a little sad because an email in my inbox doesn’t make my heart leap like an envelope in the mailbox does.
2. Cooking from scratch
Convenience foods are … well, convenient. I can buy pre-sliced veggies, chicken salad that doesn’t require me to touch chicken parts, and microwavable pot roast that don’t require the use of a pot.
Could my daughter make pie crust, homemade marinara, or coffee that doesn’t involve K-cups without the help of Pinterest? I’m going to go with no. I’ll be first in line to sign the praises of Pinterest, but should that be a substitute for handing my daughter (or my sons) an apron and saying “let me teach you?”
3. Looking put together, even on Monday mornings
We all love our mom uniforms AKA yoga pants, but it almost seems we’ve attached a badge of honor to perpetual sloppiness and minimal showering. Is motherhood so taxing that we forgo real pants and basic hygiene as a matter of habit?
My mom was at least as busy as I am now. She had to actually measure coffee for her percolator and write words on paper instead of posting status updates when one of us kids did something cute. She wore makeup and pretty clothes when it was her turn to drive the carpool. There was no “crap, I’m not wearing shoes or a bra” moment if she had to actually get out of the car. Am I sending the message that being a mom equates to not caring about my appearance? When did leaving the house without taking a couple of minutes to look put together become the exception, rather than the norm?
Unlike me, my mom didn’t have a smartphone permanently fused to her palm. When she got together with her friends, she focused on what they were saying and enjoyed their company without feeling the need to obsessively check her texts because texting didn’t exist yet.
Being plugged in sometimes inhibits our ability (and our desire) to wind down. As parents, we talk about being stressed out but we don’t place much emphasis on relaxation. Instead, we choose multitasking, competing with each other to see how much we can pile on our plates. I have dozens of memories of my mom enjoying herself. I don’t know if my kids will say the same. I’m definitely giving them memories of me complaining about my to-do list or wishing out loud for more hours in the day.
I’d want to try and find a way to enjoy the modern conveniences we’d all be lost without and still give a nod to some of the lost arts that I’m sure my mom and grandma assumed I’d pass on to my kids. I think I’m going to start by stepping away from my computer and looking for that stationary I know I’ve got hiding somewhere.