5 Ways I Had It Better Than My Kids
Since I crabbily complained in an earlier post about all the ways my kids have it better than I did, I figured it was only fair to look at the ways my childhood was more awesome than theirs could ever be. Yes, kids, it's true, I don't just envy your world. I pity it, too. Want to know what you're missing? Here are 5 ways childhood was so much better when I was growing up.
1. Freedom - When I was off from school in the summer, my mom would open the front door in the morning, and out I'd run. I'd meet friends from the block, play in the creepy woods behind the pool club, eat bugs, hitchhike, whatever I felt like. We had a strict don't ask, don't tell policy on what went down all day, by which I mean my mom would ask, "What did you do today?" and I'd tell her, "Nothin'." And that was that. Can you imagine doing that with your kid today? Parents are all up in their kids' business now, and with good reason. My policy with my kids is "Stay where I can see you," and it'll probably stay that way until they go to college.
2. Parenting advice - 30 years ago, everyone's parents read Dr. Spock. Maybe it wasn't perfect, but it made things much simpler. You did it his way, or you were wrong. Now everyone has their own way of thinking. Tiger moms, helicopter parents, attachment parents, martini parents, homeschoolers, free-range parents. A kid can't do anything without his or her parents playing armchair psychologist on them, and there's no consensus as to what's best for kids anyway, so no matter how you're being raised, somebody out there is confident that you're being royally screwed up. I swear there's a conspiracy of therapists behind this, just salivating over their next generation of patients.
3. Food allergies - I know peanut allergies have been around forever, but they weren't quite the pox over childhood that they are today. When I was a kid, other kids' allergies didn't affect my life a bit. I never had to check a package for gluten or wheat or tree nuts or any one of a million other things before I could bring it to school. And no one in my class needed an EpiPen to protect them from whatever was in my Smurfs lunchbox. Lucky me, because I was the pickiest eater in the world. One thing I know for sure is that if I hadn't been able to bring a peanut butter sandwich to school every day, I would have starved to death.
4. Pop music - I won't claim that pop music was totally sweet and innocent when I was a kid, but when things got a little raunchy, there was at least a tiny layer of innuendo protecting it from my sensitive ears. It wasn't always subtle, but even when I was belting out, "Relax, when you wanna come!", my parents didn't need to change the station, because I had no idea what the hell I was singing. Nowadays, Katy Perry chirps merrily about having a ménage a trois -- and that's in the clean version of her song "Last Friday Night." Even rap music used to be kid-friendly. If I heard a rap song growing up, the only question I might ask my parents would be "Dad, what's Hollis?" When Jay-Z comes on, the least of my worries is that my kids will ask what Paris is.
5. Parental distractions - Go to any playground and you'll hear a million kids shouting at once, "Hey Mom & Dad, watch this!" The difference is that when I was a kid, my parents actually used to watch. I'm sure they weren't really wowed by me going head-first down the slide for the 500th time like it was the most amazing feat any human had ever accomplished, but they looked over anyway, because it had more entertainment value than anything else around. "Great job!" they'd cheer weakly afterward, if only because it was better than the soul-crushing boredom of saying nothing.
Nowadays, forget it. Kids know their tricks are lame, because they can't get mom or dad to look up from their iPhone for 5 seconds to see them. When you hear "Hey, watch this!" at a playground, it's most often followed by, "Just a sec!", if there's any response at all. Looking back, I realize how sweet I had it that my only competition for my parents' attention was my big sister. Kids today have to go toe-to-toe with Facebook, YouTube, Angry Birds, text messages, last night's "Revenge" and, if they're really unlucky, Dad brainstorming ideas for his next Lifetime Moms post.
Not that I'd ever be guilty of that.