When I grew up, things were simpler. While I was at the grocery store this last weekend I realized with a shock how difficult it must be to grow up in this age, especially if your parents are of the new school of parenting that is light on the discipline and follows the path of letting the child “make their own choices.”
My mom was fairly strict growing up, we didn’t have sugary cereals, and we were only allowed a few cookies. For whatever reason, Oreos were one of the cookies that we were allowed to have. The difference was, there was only one type of Oreo. Last weekend, my 23-year-old son asked me to pick up some Oreos for him. No big deal. Then he said, “Get me the Nutella ones.” I didn’t realize they made those, I told him, with a little twinge of jealousy, I might add because my diet doesn’t allow for such sugary things.
So many choices, so little time.
I remember standing in the toy aisle of the local grocery store with my grandfather. He was impatiently, but kindly, asking me what toy I’d like to buy with the five dollars or so I had in my pocket. From the telling of this story by others in my family, it was a very long time. My grandfather was a religious, gentle and kind man, and apparently, I taxed his patience that day quite badly. I might have been five years old.
Enter the epiphany I had at the store. There were 10 different choices of Oreos. From Birthday Cake Oreos to Mint Oreos. I stood there with a new view of the younger generations. I would have struggled to be a child now. My young mind always grappled with decisions like this. I still suffer from that to some extent, I’m just aware of it, so I’m able to mitigate it somewhat. Just don’t ever go sunglasses shopping with me. You’d be in for a long, long day.
What Oreos would I choose?
The scene would have been like this: My mom, who is entirely unlike my grandfather, would have told me I could have Oreos, go pick some out. I would have stood in front of the Oreos, and been physically and emotionally unable to choose. My mom would have been completely pissed off at me for taking so much time. I can tell you that simple, normal Oreos would have immediately gone by the wayside. I would have had to have something more exotic. Probably something with lots of chocolate. But the next week, I would have wanted to try a different flavor, and the next, and the next. And each and every time a new flavor would come out, I would have had to try it. And even when I found one I really liked, I would have to try other flavors because there would always be a chance that a new flavor would be better than the one I already liked. It would have been the Oreo equivalent of unquenched ambition. All those choices and I would have been strangely unhappy and upset.
I remember when double-stuff Oreos came out. It was a revolution in a child’s world. The part of the cookie that everyone adored, was now twice as good because there was simply more of it. I never got to experience the challenge of 10 different types of Oreos. But good God, there are more than 50 types of Oreo flavors. I’m trying to lose weight, there should be laws.
The times have changed
I can assume that all things in life are now this varied, and it’s this that immediately gives me pause on how harsh I’ve been on the younger generations. Why does my mind go directly to “Rule 34?” They have so many more choices and options to deal with than I did when I was younger. Couple that with the idea that we have less time, because of how much information we have coming our way. I had a few very low-tech video games that were fun, but to be honest, it was still fun to be outside with my friends. The video games now are so lifelike that one of the franchises, Assassin’s Creed, makes me sweat when I play it. That’s a physical response to a video game because it’s so immersive that it actually brings out my fear of extreme heights.
I write this to explain that these younger generations have had a barrage of decisions and options from their earliest experiences. Think of the youngest ones who can unlock their parents’ phones before they can talk. Will this generation even be aware of the massive amount of options available to them, or will it seem as natural as using a fork?
I would assume that the reverse is true as well. Like our parents used to tell us about walking to school in the snow, uphill both ways, we’ll be telling our kids and grandkids about how, “When I was young, there was only one type of Oreo.” Will that horrify or amuse the kids? I really don’t know, but I know now that I will have a little more restraint in my harsh judgment of unruly kids (and millennials) because if I were being raised right now, I would be struggling daily with an overwhelming amount of data that I wouldn’t be able to choose from or wade through. I imagine it would make me extremely neurotic. And I wouldn’t know what cookie to eat.
Please, tell me your favorite flavor of Oreo in the comments. Mine would be Nutella if I were allowed to taste them. I have in my dreams.
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