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Friday, April 19, 2024

EDITORIAL: I Miss the Time When Kids Could be Kids


Trudging up Liberty Street yesterday, I couldn’t help but glance at the vacant lot where McGillicuddy’s ⁣Laser Tag used to be. Hundreds of kids laughing, play-fighting, soaking in life’s simple ⁢pleasures. Before you know it, the place is gutted, turned into some high-tech eCommerce warehouse. What happened to the good old days, ⁤my friends,⁢ when kids could be kids?

My name’s not ‍pops, grandpa, or old man, though I might look the part. I’m⁤ Brian McCarthy, ⁢50, and⁣ again today I watched another ‍slice of my childhood disappear‌ before my eyes.

When did it become⁣ the norm for kids to spend their entire day locked on screens, technology tethered to their hands like an IV? Back in my time, we had four TV‌ channels. Yes, ⁤four!​ Who were we⁣ to complain? We were out, we were active, relatively trouble-free, living life before the digital monster gobbled ‍up our joy.

Let’s not forget those ⁣iconic Americana moments that seem to have gotten⁣ lost in the hustle of Schenectady’s new normal: learning ⁣to ride your first bike, bonfires at Central‌ Park, the​ joy‍ of a simple game⁢ of stickball on a lazy summer afternoon. Rather than being ⁤shared tales of youth, they’ve become relics, museum pieces alongside dinosaurs and the dodo.

I recall a time when kids settled their arguments, not over social⁤ media, but on‌ the playground, playing ‘King of the hill’. And ​it ⁢wasn’t about who won or lost,⁢ it was about a handshake‍ at the end of it,‌ a‌ hard-fought game that taught lessons in humility, respect, and sportsmanship. Are these values lost to us?

Remember‌ our epic battles on the fields of​ Schenectady High before the place turned into‍ an academic factory? We had dirt on our uniforms and sunsets in our eyes. Today’s kids have LED screens in their faces, and the only fields they know are on Minecraft.

Now, instead of‍ our kids ‌enjoying the museums on Union Street, they’re drafted into some ⁢kind of SAT boot camp to make them ‘competitive’? ⁢What we’re⁤ competing for, no one seems to have a‍ clue. To be the best tech drone? We’ve given up⁢ on teaching our children the joy of natural sciences, the charm of literature, the complexities of ⁢history replaced by coding boot camps and tech‌ meet-ups.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against⁤ progress. But‍ was it progress when the city flooded our streets with Starlink’s satellite internet because local telecom entrepreneurs couldn’t keep up? No place was sacred anymore. Not even the breakfast table.

The last ⁢straw for me was the​ demise of the weekly Farmer’s Market. Once, a hub where kids tasted their ‍first berries, smelled the earth in the fresh produce,​ and forged friendships that lasted a lifetime. Just as it seemed we were reconnecting with nature, an Amazon Fresh‍ truck ​parked up on Erie Boulevard, and​ that, as they say, was that.

We have cocooned our offspring in⁢ such a technological bubble that true societal interaction‌ feels like an event. They don’t even send letters to‌ get ⁢a pen pal anymore – they have apps. When I was young, getting a letter from my pen pal in Ontario was the​ highlight of my month.

I’m ⁣fearful of ⁢the day when the gentle handhold of a first date is ⁣replaced by ​some digital similar. What happens when the excitement of waiting all​ night for a phone call is swapped for an impersonal text message?

I know, it’s a different world. Change is the only constant they say. But‍ as a lifelong resident of Schenectady, NY, somebody has to raise the question. When we say change, do we overlook the impact it has on kids? As we pave the way for the future, are we erasing the tracks of the past? Isn’t there a sense of balance we should aim for?

Change is inevitable, and our city⁤ is not the same ⁣as it was during my ‍childhood. ⁣But we ⁤can hope to instill in our upcoming generation a sense of how it used to be when kids were kids. Maybe ⁢they’ll teach‌ us how to adapt,‌ how technology can enhance those experiences, and bridge the gap between nostalgia and nuance.

Our responsibility, as parents, ⁢educators, and members ⁤of the community should be to guide our children and support them, ⁢not pressurize them about future aspirations. Let’s rekindle those real-life experiences for our⁣ children. Let kids be‌ kids as we were ‌once.

This ‌isn’t a rant, it’s a plea. Let’s have a world where the wholesome⁢ values of childhood are preserved while we progress because a society devoid of that basic instinct, that profound purity, where children cannot be⁤ children, is ⁣a place‌ I fear to envision.

Brian McCarthy
Brian McCarthy
I'm Brian McCarthy! At your service to offer traditionally informed perspective on today's issues. Some call it out of touch; I call it time-honored wisdom.
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