The callous, embittered phrase “back in my day” is as pervasive as it is eyeroll-inducing. Tell me you’re an old man without telling me you’re an old man. Live long enough, and you will inevitably utter it*; especially now, when the development of new technologies has made such an experience gap possible for even the youngest of parents to have with their kids.
When you’re young and on the receiving end of it, the subtext seems clear: “I am old and bitter because the new ways of doing things make me uncomfortable.” And I definitely think there’s some truth to that (having occupied both ends of the spectrum at this point), but when I have these feelings regarding my own son’s experience, it’s from a place of wonder and disbelief. “You’ll never know how much better you have it.”
To be clear, I’m not talking about anything particularly profound. No, I am once again talking about the wonders of streaming services.
Some mornings, it’s nearly impossible to get Miles out of bed. Other times, and this is happening with greater frequency, he’s up and ready to go at 5:00. There is no in-between (and “in between” is, incidentally, is where Jaclyn and I typically find ourselves). Sure, sometimes Miles will climb into bed with us, but on the mornings he can’t get back to sleep, we’re quick to tell him to leave.
“Can I watch TV?” he’ll ask. And in our barely conscious state, one of us will reply, “YES WHATEVER FINE.”
Miles will go to the movie room, turn the TV on, navigate to a streaming service (usually either Paramount+ or Netflix), and find whatever show he wants to watch (he’s currently on a Blue’s Clues kick). Once we wake up, he’ll turn the TV off and start the morning routine.
We don’t have cable and haven’t in over a decade, so Miles’s experience with broadcast television is limited to hotel visits, staying with my parents, and the occasional live show we pick up via antenna**. All he understands about entertainment could be summed up thusly: “I wish to watch PAW Patrol and so I shall. And it shall be the precise episode of my choosing.” And believe me when I tell you, Miles absolutely scrolls through seasons of that show with intent.
To me, the rise of streaming content has made it both easier and more difficult than ever to watch things. Easier in the sense that I do have the perspective to remember having to block out specific time for specific shows growing up. Harder because, with all of these options at my fingertips and ready to begin whenever I want, I’m often overwhelmed and end up just not watching anything at all. But for Miles and the other children of his generation, this is merely how media is consumed. It’s no wonder navigating it is as easy for him as walking around.
No, I’ll never understand what this experience is like for him. And that’s fine. I’m glad he’s growing up in this world of boundless options. Especially because when I fall back asleep, I know, whatever time it might be, that he can easily find a favorite show to occupy himself with.
* Probably won’t be saying it about “walking miles through the snow” anymore though. Yay, climate change!
** I’m not sure who has a shorter tolerance for commercial breaks: Miles or my dad. There can be common ground between two very different generations.