Five Things Your Parents Seemingly Will Never Understand

Every Friday, I’m compiling a list of five things that meet one criterion. “What is that criterion,” you ask? Well, it’s going to change every week and you’re just going to have to try and keep up.

Five Things Your Parents Seemingly Will Never Understand

There are invariably going to be stark cultural gaps between a kid and his/her parents, regardless of which eras of human history are involved; Will Smith was very prescient in pointing this out, 20 years ago (rapping, acting, dancing, pointing out unmistakable sociological realities over a hot beat… what can’t he do?).

However, there is no greater chasm between generational cultures than the one between Baby Boomers and their offspring, the 21st Century Kids (note: if you use “21st Century Kids” or any derivative as the name of an awesome comic about a superhero team, I would like story credit). No 60-year span has encompassed quite as much change as that which fell between World War II and Gulf War II and below are five bits of evidence that embody this inescapable truth:

5. The purpose of the GUIDE button on the cable remote.

All parents pay for a premium television service of some kind. There is a feature (an exceptionally useful and informative feature designed primarily for people like parents) built into the basic design of this system wherein every channel’s programming from now until next Friday is presented and explained in clear text form, to help navigate and schedule one’s televisual consumption. Everyone on the planet is familiar with this ingenious guide. However, do parents choose to utilize this remarkable aspect of modern media? Of course not. There’s only 1000 channels. No, please, take your time and flip through each, one-by-one, with the UP and DOWN arrows; I’m loving it, on this end of the couch.

4. Specific video game console titles.

No better indicator of this one than the fact that 98% of parents still refer to all gaming systems as “Nintendo” (I want to write a letter to my grandkids now and tell them to get ready to deal with their parents calling every futuristic and new device as “that Playstation”). Families everywhere have bought billions of systems and games that had nothing to do with Gamecube or Wii, and yet the Baby Boomers apparently decided (at a secret meeting, I’m convinced) to collectively give up on learning any system’s specific moniker. “Instead,” they announced, “we’re turning the name of the most famous system from the 1980s into the official, universal terminological nomenclature for any television-assisted interactive device based around hand-eye coordination.”

3. Nobody can read your handwriting because you write in cursive and it’s 2009 outside.

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. Just write in print. It’s actually easier and less confusing. (And yes, schools are largely removing cursive from their curriculums, now – doesn’t that make you mad? I had to learn the freaking lowercase Z for NOTHING.)

2. The usefulness of text messaging.

Look, I like talking to you on the phone, Mom and Dad. I do. But sometimes I just need to tell you one thing in under 160 characters and that’s all; I don’t need a soliloquy on the state of this spring’s landscaping nor a blow-by-blow account of your Thursday itinerary with grandma. Conversely, when you call to tell me one thing, you tend to take your time and garnish the marginally important singular statement with light-years of exposition, long pauses, and that weird “uhh” sound you make in the back of your throat. And I don’t want to sound impatient or rude but I really don’t need to hear any of that.

We could eliminate all of the aforementioned problems if you would just utilize the other primary function of your cell phone – by the way, that’s what that flip-open keyboard is for. It’s really not that difficult a skill to learn… unless you’re purposely remaining ignorant in order to slowly torture me, telephonically (which, I’ll admit, would be pretty diabolically impressive).

1. There is no need to save that newspaper article.

My parents do this ad nauseam. Some article from the regional paper has one paragraph of useful statistics about some story regarding water treatment in Washington, DC? Save it. We might need it later. [sigh] Um, Internet? Maybe?

The nice postscript to this trend is that generally, if you simply tell your parents “there’s no need to save the physical version of this article, it’s online,” they’ll defer to your wisdom… and in the case of my parents, the caveat “if I can’t find it later online, it’s your ass” is also included. However, my ass is still intact and my basic point is validated because neither parent has ever needed any article, at a later date. Ever.

Justin Brown is a writer and artist living in Virginia. He channels most of his mind's molten river of creativity into his blog Esteban Was Eaten!. For even more information about him, check out his website.

  • john

    I can totally relate to number one, only that it doesn’t end with newspaper articles. my mother is japanese and her parents were interned in WWII, so my grandparents when they were young had to sell everything they owned, including businesses, end their educations, give up possessions for pennies on the dollar, for they could only take what they could carry in either one or two med size suitcases. now, my mother saves EVERYTHING using the premise that ‘we might need it later’. no, we won’t need that can opener that has been broken since i was five (i’m now 21). it won’t ever work again, nor will i fix it, just let it go, damn!

  • Paige

    I’m going to disagree with number three. People have written in cursive for centuries, and for good reason. It is a much more sophisticated way or writing, and in my person opinion, its a helluvalot faster. I think its a shame that future generations probably will not even know how to sign their name. I know a ton of young people who use cursive for their everyday life. If someone cannot decipher cursive, than their own damn incompetence is to blame.

  • L M Fogel

    I still save the occasional article from the NY Times or Wall Street Journal. I file them away sometimes I refer back.