I grew up in the late 70’s and early 80’s, and like many children of that era, I like to revel in its awesomeness. My childhood was idyllic: filled with love, relatives, playing outdoors, and only a few scheduled activities apart from school. Things were just simpler then: no Internet, no cell phones, no laptops or iPods. The world wasn’t half as crazy and dangerous as it is today, and parents were more laid back about everything from school to sunscreen. Except for the matching plaid pantsuits we wore, it was a great time to be a kid.
So when I had my son and daughter, I didn’t just fall back on what I knew, I purposely sought it out.
Of course there are plenty of good things going on today in terms of kids’ shows, books and games, but a steady dose of 70’s and 80’s helps me keep the simplicity and innocence of that time in my children’s very modern lives.
Instead of Spongebob’s holiday specials, my twins watch Charlie Brown, the Grinch, and Fat Albert. They watch vintage Electric Company with Rita Moreno and Morgan Freeman (yes THE Morgan Freeman””he was Easy Reader!) They watched “The Magic Garden” on DVD and now watch “Reading Rainbow” on our iPad. When they get older, I can’t wait to bust out “Little House on the Prairie,” “Happy Days” and “The Brady Bunch.”
Kids today have no concept of television that can’t be rewound or recorded. When I was little, my little brother and I would cry as we watched the Magic Garden’s white gates close at the end while Carol and Paula sang, ”See ya! Hope you had a really good time, bye now!” But we knew that if we were there on our brown shag carpet in the living room at 3 o’clock the next day, we’d see Carol and Paula again.
For my kids, when the episodes ended on our DVDs, they used to say ”Another one!” and I’d say, ”Nope, you have to wait until tomorrow. Carol and Paula will be back.” I think having to wait builds character. And if it doesn’t, it at least lets them appreciate our Tivo a little bit.
My kids have loved books since they were born, and while we have plenty of Magic Treehouse, Mercy Watson, and Fly Guy books, the kids’ bookshelves are also filled with the stories, heroes and heroines I loved so much as a kid: The Rescuers, Where the Wild Things Are, Heidi, James and the Giant Peach, Pippi Longstocking and Little House on the Prairie. Junie B. Jones, with all her bad behavior, name-calling and mispronunciation can suck it, because we’ve got Ramona Quimby, who at least tries to be a good kid.
The toys of the 70’s and 80’s are must-haves in my house as well: all the non-electronic fun of Perfection, Trouble, Spirograph and Shrinky Dinks can’t be beat. Thanks to my parents, my twins play with my original View Finder and Fashion Plates set and thanks to my husband’s parents, they play with his old Legos and Matchbox cars. These toys are a treat for me, because I never have to put batteries in them, or listen to them sing the alphabet in three different languages.
Outside, my twins have Big Wheels, sidewalk chalk, pogo sticks and stilts. And although it frustrates me to no end, the simple ”rope-through-a-board” swing that my husband made for them gets more play than the expensive fort/swings/monkey bars playset does.
Music was a huge part of my childhood and my husband’s as well.
My kids have never heard of Justin Bieber””their favorite bands are The Rolling Stones and They Might Be Giants. They love ”AM Gold” CDs which feature 70’s greats like the BeeGees, KC & the Sunshine Band, and the Jackson Five, singing songs that are impossible not to dance to. The scope of my children’s music knowledge is pretty fantastic.They can recognize almost any Beatles song, and they can sing along with kid-friendly Bon Jovi, Journey and Guns N’ Roses too. I like a lot of current music that’s out there, but I have to censor so much of it. It’s easier just to pop an AM Gold in the car stereo and not worry about it.
One of the best things about growing up in the 70’s and 80’s was the laid-back pace. The ”overscheduled child” problem we see today just didn’t exist. My mother wasn’t constantly driving us from one class to the next””the most we did outside of school was baseball, softball and one musical instrument each. Summer vacations stretched out before us with only a week or two dedicated to a trip or vacation.
When my twins turned three and all my friends were putting their 3-year-olds in summer camps, they were near-horrified to hear that I wasn’t doing the same. ”What will you do all day? You’ll go crazy!” they warned. But when I was little, I never went to camp and I loved every minute of summer. Most days were spent just riding bikes, swimming and playing sports, or reading on a blanket in the sun. And that’s what my kids do now””we spend the summer together, hanging out and having an underscheduled blast. They love being home, and I love having them home.
My kids have the best of what I had in the 70’s and 80’s, with the best of what I can give them today. While I feel like I’m doing a good job as a parent, it also doesn’t hurt that I get to be a kid again, and relive all the fun of my childhood through them””this time without the plaid pantsuits.