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Unlike Gen Xers Before Them, Today’s Tweens and Teens Are Not Waiting for Much of Anything

By Erin Mantz

Ah, the good old days of growing up in the seventies and eighties. I was a Gen X kid. Patience wasn’t just considered a virtue; it was part of everyday life. Looking back, anticipation was kind of exciting! Now, raising my kids in a world where technology and social media make everything almost too quick and easy, I worry they will never feel anticipation. It’s a feeling that doesn’t get enough credit and is going by the wayside.

There’s nothing like it. Not only did it make life more exciting, it made the day feel unexpected – in a good way. Here are five ways I remember fondly - ones today's kids will never know.

1. Wait until the kids see my new outfit at school tomorrow!

There is no waiting until tomorrow. The new shirt, shoes, socks, outfit – it’s all shared instantly – often even before or at the moment of purchase – because today’s tween is Snapchat-ing or Instagram-ing it. And sometimes, friends even weigh in with their opinions about it before it’s a done deal. Not only is the friend seeing it right away, he’s green-lighting the purchase (or not).

2. Will he call? Relationships - even baby steps - were built in real time. Waiting home by the phone, willing it to ring. And when (if) it does finally ring, whose voice will be on the other end? You don’t know until you actually pick up the phone! And if that person chickens out and hangs up, you may never know. Ever.

3. Will my favorite song come on? (Or, playing the game of “Can I advance the cassette tape to just the right place?) Sitting by the radio for the Top 40 countdown seemed to take forever on Saturday nights, but it was so exciting! Now, no one ever waits for their favorite song to miraculously “come on.” They tap their fingers or tell some kind of technological device to play it, wherever they are, whenever they want – and it plays. Gen X kids could have never even dreamed of this.

4. Picking up the photographs at the store! Remember the excitement you felt as you and your parents schlepped to the photo store after waiting days for them to develop pictures from your big event? And to discover how they turned out. You got what you got. No online editing once you got home. Sometimes, anticipation turned into disappointment. The blurriness, the lighting, the cut-off head…

5. Standing in line for movie tickets. There was something about standing in line for the latest releases in the hopes of getting in. (What Gen Xers among us don’t recall standing in lines trailing through the parking lot for “Footloose”?) Then, the rush to find good seats. Today’s tweens can get tickets online in an instant, and know if it’s sold out or not, and often even see and select their actual seats.

These ghosts of Gen X past make me sad for today's childhood - and nostalgic for mine.

If you’re from Generation X, add to the list! I’m sure there’s plenty to choose from and much to remember…

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