Not that I want this to be a Great Depression. I hope it’s not. But if it is, I see kids emerging from their dens when their X-Boxes break and their parents can’t afford to replace them. I see kids dropping out of travel soccer, when their parents can’t afford the gas. I see kids figuring out how to retool their bikes and skates and maybe even their MP3 players when their parents can’t immediately buy them the newest, niftiest models.
In other words, I see fancy toys and vacations and enrichment classes falling away. And the only thing left is…childhood.
And the only things left to play with are…other kids.
I know I have a tendency to romanticize the past — not to mention poverty. (And sticks.) And I suspect that for all the heady joy of feeling “grown up” and responsible, helping the family pick peaches in Salinas, California might not have been quite as fulfilling as it looked to a suburban girl reading “The Grapes of Wrath” on the patio while her dad grilled skirt steaks on the hibachi. (Thanks, Dad!)
Still, it can be argued that affluence has been really miserable for our kids. Easy money — or easy enough money — bought them all the stuff they used to make and do on their own. Professionally built tree houses. Batting practice overseen by a private coach. Dance recitals with real roses and expensive costumes and a slick DVD at the end. Kids have been treated like grown-ups on a cruise: Only the best, let-us-do-it-for-you, oh my, just three lessons and already you are a pro!
For grown-ups, a cruise can be a nice interlude — a fantasy time of pampering and luxury. But for kids, when pampering becomes part of everyday life, it’s a drain. Having Beauty Home Contractors build your tree house is about as fulfilling as having Beauty Home Contractors run a race for you, or steal your first kiss. These are things kids should be doing on their own: working, failing, fearing, falling, and eventually, in some manner, succeeding, even if the tree house ends up half the size and twice as rickety as Beauty Home would have made it.
Same goes for fancy dance recitals, girls. If you always wait for the class and the videographer, you’re going to missing a lot of fun.
So while I don’t want all our 401ks to dry up, and I really don’t want my kids to have to pick peaches for a living (although when the Joads fried dough for dinner, it always sounded delicious), there could be a silver lining to a worldwide financial meltdown.
Or if not silver, maybe plywood. And that’s good, too.