My New Orlando

Each time I land at Orlando Int’l Airport, I feel more and more like this is my second home. It is the place that I have visited most and for the longest stays. This is where daughter, Ellen, lives with her two kids, Chloe, age 11, and Marcellus, age 9. It is the only address that I never have to look up in my address book–I know it by heart–zip code and all. Oddly, although the house is the same, it often feels like the emotional family “furniture” has been re-arranged during my absence. Every visit is different–no matter how long or how brief. As mom to my daughter, and grandma to her kids, I am always in a different place; like a game of checkers, the board looks different after each new play. There’s no more diaper changing here; the children are older and much more self-sufficient. They choose what to wear, what to eat, and what to play without any input from me. In fact, so little “input” is needed that I’m often left out of their activities altogether–a natural consequence of aging–for all of us. They spend hours playing their video games, I spend hours surfing the web and reading posts on Facebook and other blogs of interest to me. Technology, one can say, has all of us, no matter what age, in its grip. I’m still pondering whether this is a good or bad thing.
As the clock winds around to a mealtime, I get back into my familiar position–you know, fixing up something for everyone to eat. Now there are new “likes” and “dis-likes” since my last visit. Oh, and I am now chided by my uber-smart grandchildren to scrupulously monitor all “Expiration” dates on foods I’m planning to serve. Even peanut butter can “expire” I’ve learned. Imagine that! It’s a wonder their mom has survived this long–she must have eaten gallons of “expired” peanut butter when she was growing up in my home–we didn’t throw the jar away until it was empty. Even milk, in those ancient by-gone days, wasn’t considered “expired” until we could smell that it had soured–not a day sooner!
Another change that I notice is how little time is spent in the backyard or playing games on the patio. It does no good to suggest that the children “go outside to play” in their park-like backyard. I’ve been emphatically informed that “We are INSIDE kids.” Inside kids? Since when? If this is a new trend, I guess we’ll not need too much yard space in the future. Does this portend homes built up and up like towers? No more swings in trees? No more games of hide ‘n seek? No more ring toss? No more dodge ball? Where is this trend taking us? There was once a time when having a big backyard was a prerequisite for selecting a homesite for families. Room to run about and play provided worry-free wholesome activities that not only taught kids recreational skills, but also how to interact with each other using multiple forms of communication and negotiation. It also meant time away from parenting demands for moms and dads–much needed and cherished time! I am struck by the number of times my daughter is summoned to arbitrate disputes between her two children over the smallest issues of disparity. Sibling bickering and fighting can drain the nerves and energy of parents who try to do it all. My mom had a pat answer for un-resolvable issues between my brother and me–one that I dare not print here–but you can believe that it was effective!
I guess the best summation for the observations of my current visit with grandkids who are transitioning to teens is this: “Things, they are a-changing.” Without doubt children are growing up differently. In today’s world, kids are both freer and, simultaneously, more bondaged. compared to my times, and that of my children, today’s children are being raised by more liberal-minded parents, who, like my daughter, influenced by social media and contemporary thought, allow greater freedom of expression–verbally and otherwise. Technology leads the way in their lives, depriving them, in significant ways, I think, of opportunities for conventional forms of creativity and invention that characterized “play” in the past. For better or for worse, they are by-products of a fast-moving cyber-driven society that has lain aside many of the mores and customs that ushered us into the Twenty-First Century. Now, we who traveled through a different space in time must bravely and humbly address, and often acquiesce to the changes that re-define our roles. Orlando is a different place for me, indeed!

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