Tonawanda News — With a “Batman” game playing on the WiiU in one room, “Sofia the First” airing on the the TV in the adjoining room, the iPod blaring that annoying Pit Bull song without its earphones and the laptop showing “Toy Story” YouTube videos, I had a hard time hearing Penny when she came up to me.
Or rather, I wish I had a hard time.
“Daddy? I’m bored.”
“What?” I asked in a tone that would suggest, to most people, the person with the original statement should consider saying something else the second time around.
Alas, 5-year-olds lack the ear to make such tonal distinctions.
“I’m bored. I have nothing to do.”
I took a look around the room. I could not believe what I heard. Pit Bull was still yammering on about Japanese architecture. Sorry, my friend, but I just did not want to feel this moment.
“Penny Jeannine! Have you looked around this house lately? You should never be bored a moment in your life.”
Now, this is a pivotal moment in my maturation as a father. For more than five years, I have worn the title of “parent” with pride. But I have never really felt, well, like my father. I run and play with the kids, cuddle them at will and take them to the movies.
I do not — NOT — sound old. Until now.
“When I was your age ... “
A shudder went through my body before I could even get the sentence out. Enough time had officially passed since my childhood for me to appropriately bust out the “when I was your age” line.
With those words, any lingering claims to my youth shriveled up and died like the hair follicles that surely now will more frequently fall out of my scalp.
“ ... I didn’t have nearly as much to do. I didn’t have a fraction of the toys you do. There was no such thing as the Internet.”
“Really, Daddy? How did you watch videos?”
“There WERE no videos you could just get any time you wanted. You had to use a machine called a VCR and tape shows off of TV to watch.”
“What does ‘tape’ mean?”
Ugh. The phone’s ringing, and I’m pretty sure it’s AARP on the other end asking me when I’d like to start my membership.
“Um ... like you know how the cable box can record shows to watch later? A tape is a thing that records the shows, but you take it out and can put it in another machine to watch somewhere else.”
“Oh. Why not just use the cable box?”
“There were no cable boxes. There was no cable, at least in Grandpa’s and Grandma’s house, until I was twice as old as you now. They only invented cable when I was littler than Rigby. Do you know how many channels we got? Six.”
“Wow. Was one of them Nickelodeon?”
“No. It didn’t really exist yet. And even when we finally got cable, I spent more time watching music videos.”
“What’s a ‘music video?’ “
I sighed. So this must have been why my parents sounded so disgusted all those times they told me to “just go outside already and play.” Clearly there’s a generational gap here I’m not capable of filling, at least not at this point in her life.
“It doesn’t matter, sweetie. Point is, I’d have loved to have all the things you have now. And still you want to tell me you have nothing to do?”
Seriously, I mean, kids today have it so good. I love 1980s video games, but the characters looked like bad sketches someone tried to erase but ended up smudging instead. I’d love to play games like they have now (well, I still do, actually, but not with nearly the amount of time I once did).
And music anywhere, any time? So great! There’s no more trying to tape songs off the radio with cassettes or hoping MTV will play that new hit single this hour.
They have no idea how well-off they are these days. Old-sounding or not, it’s the truth.
Penny took a moment to reflect.
“Well, Daddy, I guess we can watch some TV together.”
I found a suitable show on one of the 37 children’s stations we have. We happened to catch it right at the beginning. We sat contently until the first break started.
“Daddy, can you please fast-forward the commercial?”
“No, sweetie. This is actually on TV, not on demand or something we recorded. You have to sit through the commercials when it’s actually on TV.”
She let out a whiny cry.
“Oh, Daddy! Commercials are so boring!”
I thought about telling her when skipping commercials wasn’t even a consideration. But I opted not to. So I pitched an activity I thought would bore her into persevering through a few sales pitches.
“You’ll be fine, baby girl. It’s only a couple minutes. Or if you don’t want to wait, you could go read the encyclopedia.”
“What’s an ‘encyclopedia?’ “
“Well, it’s a book where information about everything in the world is written down. At least, it was. When I was your age.”
Contact Paul Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org.