It’s really easy to get nostalgic about the past, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I grew up in the 80s – in a time where “electronic device” meant my Speak-and-Spell, and summertime meant I ran around my neighborhood beating on front doors until all my friends came outside to start a new game of Red Rover. We jammed to Paula Abdul, and Tiffany – and the monthly Skate Night fundraiser at our local roller rink was the social event to be at.
It seems like it was an easier time for kids, right? Things were safer. Things were simpler. Things were better.
But what about for parents? Oh, to be a parent in a time without neighborhood Facebook groups. In a time without the fear of being arrested for letting our nine-year-old walk to the local park. In a time without the constant guilt weighing on our shoulders when our kid spent a little too much time of his Saturday afternoon navigating Minecraft. Parents back then didn’t obsess about making sure their kids had lunches cut and shaped like their favorite Disney character. They didn’t worry about themed birthday parties with fondant cakes and party bags that rivaled those for celebrities attending the Oscars. Things were laid back. Times were better. Parenting was easier.
Everything I just wrote above? That’s crap. It’s simply not true. Okay, sure the lack of technology back then might have been “easier”, but the underlying problems were still there – just in different forms. Parents still wondered if their kids were watching too much TV. They still obsessed about their education. They still worried about healthy food. They still obsessed over whether their kid was committed to too many activities. It’s not that things were easier; it’s just that the problems were different.
A couple of weeks ago I was on the phone with my mom – complaining to her about all the stress in my life. I worried about my youngest and his progress in pre-school. I whined about never having time to get things done at home. I vented about being a “working mom” and all of the guilt that goes along with it. Basically, I had a giant pity party on my cell phone and unloaded everything into my mom’s ear.
She said, “you know, when you and your sister were young, I worried about all of these things too. I felt guilty about not being there to greet you from the school bus. I wanted to be there like the other moms with a plate of warm, home-baked cookies and cold milk – and I was constantly afraid you girls would resent me for that not happening”.
Wait, what? Did my mother really just say that? My mother (who in my eyes was the BEST mother a kid could have asked for) just admitted to me that as a working mom in the 80s (that time in American history where an entire generation of women were going back into the workforce), she was afraid we would hate her for not having warm cookies ready for us? I laughed so, so hard. “That’s ridiculous,” I said, “you were a great mom. You made every day count. You went above and beyond all. the. time. I can not believe that you thought we would resent you over warm cookies?!”
I then mentioned to her that warm cookies after school weren’t even acceptable anymore. If I told friends I made my kids homemade cookies as an after school snack they would probably side-eye me for not providing them something that was actually healthy, and then ask whether or not they were organic or gluten free. Because that’s what we do, right? We feel the need to one-up previous generations and their issues – why?!
My mother had reservations about her parenting and her kids in the 80s. Her mother had reservations about parenting and her kids in the 60s. And while I never got to speak to her about it, I’m sure my great-grandmother had her share of issues with parenting and her kids in the 40s. These were not “better times” for parenting and raising kids – they were just different times. They had their own set of problems, and came with their own types of guilt. Instead of romanticizing those times of yore, maybe we should all focus on enjoying the next generation as they grow up. These years are fleeting – lets stop wasting time looking backwards and start looking forwards again.