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art by Jonathan Westbrook

Back In My Day

Stacey Lepper lives on a dairy farm with her partner and children in Whakatane, New Zealand.

Ava palmed the pod open and started to unbuckle her baby from the auto. As she pulled the straps around the tiny shoulders she reached around and flicked the switch. Her baby opened his eyes and smiled at her. Her heart skipped a beat and she couldn't help but gaze back adoringly. Would she ever get used to seeing his lips curve that way?
The beautiful moment suddenly fragmented.
"Back in my day, we never used to have those new-fangled pods for putting babies in. We made do with a capsule strapped in with the autobelt. The top was open and you could actually see your baby while you were driving. I survived alright."
Ava sighed. Her father was up for the week visiting his grandson. She loved that man but, Dear God, she wanted to throttle him at times. Apparently, everything was better back when he was growing up. But they also did it tougher. And longer. And with respect.
"I can see Gil while I'm driving, Dad. The monitor is right there on the dashboard. Pods are safer."
"Too safe if you ask me. Looks uncomfortable too. Poor boy can't even see out."
"In the olden days, autos used to be made of steel and glass and your grandparents survived. Should we go back to driving those death traps around just because the majority of the population survived? Progress, Dad."
"Humph," was all he said.
She finished getting Gil out of the car and clipped him to her front. Her father followed her up the path and only started talking again when Gil started to cry.
"Never used to go around wearing babies in my day. Put 'em in a stroller, I say. Let them see the world. Gil's probably bored staring at your chest all the time."
"Those antiquated things?" Ava said, horrified. "With wheels and you push them in front of you? How would your baby feel comfortable apart from you and being over-stimulated? How terrifying for them. Strollers went out with the ark, Dad. Gil is still just a little tired, that's all."
Ava squeezed her house key and the front door vortex slid open. She quickly walked inside, straight to Gil's room to put him to bed, hoping her father would take the hint. Briefly, Ava touched her cheek to Gil's before setting him down in the sleep station and caressing the smooth, soft skin beside his left ear before clicking the button to OFF. Gil's eyes fluttered shut and his breathing deepened. She adjusted his thick cotton wool all-in-one around the collar and turned to leave.
"Never used to have the ON/OFF switch either."
Ava sighed again and brushed past her father who had followed her into Gil's room. Although Gil wouldn't wake up, she didn't want any bad vibes infecting his sleep.
"We used to have to put them to sleep the old fashioned way. Had to work out what your baby wanted based on process of elimination. I rocked you to sleep every night in my arms," he said. An uncharacteristic soft smile ran across his lined face before being chased away. "None of these probability readouts and being able to get them to sleep by flicking a switch."
Ava honestly didn't know why she bothered replying, but she still told him that it was scientifically proven to be less stressful for the babies.
"What's wrong with a bit of stress, eh? I survived, didn't I."
Did you? Ava thought.
"Cup of tea, Dad?"
He had only just started to read the front page of the newstablet when he started off again.
"Another thing. Kids used to have respect. None of this attitude of entitlement everyone seems to have these days. We worked hard for what we earned. We didn't complain. Kids don't have to make any sacrifices for anything these days."
Never mind the free education you got. Or the fact that it only used to be five times the average annual salary to buy a house. Or that the cost of living was so much cheaper. Or that income tax has increased ten-fold. Or --
"Law's too soft. That's the problem," her father continued. "In my day, we got punishment that fit the crime. Namby pamby. That's what they are. Everyone too scared to do anything for fear of upsetting or emotionally damaging someone."
Never mind the fact that crime and reoffending has decreased since your day, Dad. Ava rolled her eyes. She had done it so much the past few days that her eyeballs felt as if they were going to pop right out of their sockets.
Please let him stop talking.
He jabbed his finger accusingly at the newstablet. "This guy here murdered a couple of people he was living with. Three weeks in cryo-rehabilitation is all he gets. Used to be men like this would go to prison for life or be put to death. What kind of deterrent is cryo?"
Ava raised her hand as if to clap it over her mouth to stop the words from escaping, but she was too late. They came anyway. Her hand hung midway between the table and her face while she spoke.
"Why doesn't your generation take any responsibility for all this lack of respect that seems to be going on? You guys bloody raised us. Those soft laws you're talking about were all sworn in by your bloody generation!"
Her father looked at her shock. "Well, I didn't mean you kids," he stammered. "Your mother and I did a good job with you lot. It's everyone else doing it wrong."
There was silence for a few minutes.
"And another thing. Kids used to have common sense back in my day…."
Ava stood up and went to put her cup in the dishwasher. As she passed her father she reached behind his left ear and flicked the switch that his generation had been too slow to find and too scared to learn how to use.
Progress, Dad.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Author Comments

I am the mother of two preschoolers. Need I say more?

- Stacey Danielle Lepper
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