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Last week I wrote a column on children and their imaginary friends. The private and public responses from the membership on their childhood imaginary friends were fantastic. Some made me think, some were outrageously funny, but they were all wonderful! I truly enjoyed reading them all.

Since we are in the midst of a holiday weekend, I thought that it might be fun to take a break from the more serious topics that I normally write about, and spend some time sharing with each other the questions that our children have asked us that made us stop and ponder things. These are the questions that immediately age us and cause us to think about the world that our children are growing up in and how different the world was for us "back then".  

I remember when my daughter was in high school, she came home one day and in a very serious voice asked me, "Dad – do you remember something called a slide rule?" Slide rule! When I was a college freshman, I used to teach the slide rule in a local community college! Everyone had one. You couldn't walk across a college campus without seeing them dangling from the belts of students. I asked my daughter, "What class was discussing slide rules?" She responded that it was a science history class. A history class! I instantly felt very ancient.  

I explained what they were and how they were used. She seemed to understand, but she had problem relating them to calculators which seemed so much better. A world without calculators? A difficult concept for her.

On another occasion, we were watching a television movie together and the characters were gathered around a radio listening to their favorite serials. She grinned and asked, "Did you ever do that Dad?" Again – instant old. Rather than trying to explain it, we went to the local bookstore and purchased a set of tapes of old radio shows. That night we listened to The Shadow, Inner Sanctum, Amos and Andy, and Gangbusters. We had a wonderful time trying to imagine what the characters looked like, talking about the stories, and laughing at the commercials. Imagination was needed to fill in the blanks left by radio. It brought to my attention how much television robs us all of our imagination.  

In another movie, we watched the family in the living room grow silent as the mother answered the telephone and with a look of fear on her face, whispered, "Its long distance!" I had to explain that before cell phones (yes, there really was a time before cell phones) and calling plans, long distance calls were very expensive and difficult to arrange. When you did receive a long distance call, it was almost always to tell you of the death of a family member or other bad news. As I spoke the words, I felt like I was explaining ancient history.

Other "Gee – I suddenly feel old!" questions included;  

-Did you really have to take the tubes out of the television and take them to the drugstore to test them? What are vacuum tubes anyway?
-What were "flashbulbs" and why did you need them to take a picture?
-Changing the fuse when the power went out – what's a fuse?
-Poodle Skirt? What was that?
-What was a "transistor radio" – and why was it such a big deal?
-Did neat stuff (like Decoder Rings) really come in cereal boxes?

I could go on. There have been many questions that my daughter, or other children, has asked that have made me suddenly think about the generation gap and/or my age. Some of the questions have also reminded me of the many simple joys and family activities that have fallen by the wayside in our modern times.

I would really like to hear some of your stories. What have been some of the questions like these that you have received – and how did they make you feel?

I am sure that the membership would also enjoy hearing them.  

We have all been there!

**James is a Masters level Child Psychologist and Internationally Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor who has worked with distressed families for 40 years. He is the author of the Seamus the Sheltie series of children's books that were designed to assist parents in discussing difficult issues with younger children. Both books have received multiple national awards from parenting organizations. Mr. Beverly has written and published articles on parenting in a variety of media.


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