Growing old together: Even teens have 'good old days'
It was a Saturday night in early April, and I was watching Saturday Night Live. My son Kyle, who is 15, came up from the basement and sat down next to me just as Weekend Update began.
Weekend Update, the comedy news skit, has been a part of SNL in some form or another since the show's inception in 1975. In 2014, Weekend Update has a new host team, with writer Colin Jost now reporting the news with writer and cast member Cecily Strong, because veteran writer and Weekend Update host Seth Meyers moved on to his own late night talk show.
The Update we watched together was not one of the strongest I had ever seen, and certainly not one of the strongest Kyle had ever seen.
"It will never be as good as it was with Seth," Kyle said. "He was the best."
I didn't feel at that point like trying to explain that Meyers was the 17th host of the SNL news report and that many of the others before him were very good. If he wants to think Meyers was the best, so be it.
But I was touched by the fact that SNL has changed for my kids, in just the same way it has changed for all of us who were around when the show started. But SNL is not the only aspect of my children's lives that has changed over their relatively short lives.
What's funny is that when they complain about the changes that have occurred, they sound like every senior citizen who just knows things were better in the old days.
Haley, my extremely sentimental 19-year-old, is especially affected. She is a TV nerd, and whenever one of her favorite shows ends its run, she feels her age. "Why can't things stay the same?" she has asked numerous times.
She was particularly upset when Gilmore Girls went off the air, and I kid her all the time about the rumor that someday there will be a Gilmore Girls movie to tie up loose ends.
All of my kids are upset about the Disney Channel, which none of them watch any more. But there was a time when the Disney Channel and all of its episodic shows -- Even Stevens, Lizzy McGuire, Kim Possible, The Suite Life of Zach and Cody, and of course, Hannah Montana -- were appointment viewing by all of the McDill children.
We have had entire car rides in which the kids talk about those shows, or some of the Disney Channel movies -- "Wish Upon a Star," "Smart House," "Zenon," "Halloweentown" -- that entertained them time and again as they were growing up.
It's funny to hear them say how bad the Disney Channel shows are today, even though they don't watch them. They sound just like me when I talk about modern music -- except when I hear songs I actually like, which they immediately then hate, because I like them.
I don't want to make it sound like all my children do is watch television. But it is TV that they all have in common, and when the topic comes up in group settings, it is funny to hear them moan.
I realize my children are old enough now to remember the good old days. It's funny, and intellectually stimulating, and a little sad.
After all, they have already lost VCR tapes and GameBoys. My boys have had their favorite athletes retire. My daughters have seen fashions disappear. They are all in their teens, and they already have those "I remember when" stories to tell.
I have often concerned myself with what memories my kids will have. I wonder if Haley will remember our first home, or if they all will remember their swing set, or the ball pit we had in the basement for years.
I, of course, want to know what their memories will be of me. But I'm kind of guessing that is one of those questions that will never be answered, at least while I can hear it.
But I spend a lot of time giving them my memories, telling them stories that perhaps they can tell their children about their grandfather, if I am not around to bore those children with those stories myself.
Recently, I have had a chance to take my kids to one of the neighborhoods in which I grew up -- Eureka, Mo. -- which, in the 1960s and 1970s was a very small town about 30 miles outside of St. Louis that is now home to Six Flags and every fast food restaurant and hotel chain imaginable. The "town" where I spent my time is now known as "Old Eureka" and the kids have gotten a good laugh out of the three blocks that constitute the main drag.
So maybe someday they will tell their children about Eureka, but they will probably instead tell stories about what our current hometown was like when they were growing up, about the movie theater and the swimming pools and the skating rink and the baseball park. Perhaps all of those things will still be around, or maybe there will just be remnants that they can recreate with their memories and their words.
Then, after a day of wandering through their own Old Town, they will sit their children down and tell them about the Tanner family, and an old-time television show called Full House.
Based on current car ride conversations, they will probably be able to tell them about every episode.
• Kent McDill is a freelance writer. He and his wife, Janice, have four children, Haley, Dan, Lindsey and Kyle.