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Are We Raising Our Kids Better Than Our Parents Raised Us?

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The 1970’s and 80’s were a different time. Men drank, women smoked, people enjoyed Tang and SPAM. The SAHMs of today were yesterday’s housewives, and they were okay with it. Kids were kids and parents were law.

I miss those days. I grew up in those days. As I watch the parents of today ask the Easton’s and Brynna’s of tomorrow, the future rulers of the free world, if they’d mind quieting down as they run through early morning tumbling classes, I cringe.

I do my best to hold my tongue, attempting to keep my own parental views to myself, but sometimes when their unruly offspring go too far (throwing blocks, screaming as parents smile and continue to talk about the weather) or when my patience has been pushed to the limits, I speak up.

Okay, maybe I just make some passive aggressive jabs… loudly. Things like, “Wouldn’t it be nice if people could control their kids?” Maybe I’m out of line. Maybe I’m a bitch. But let’s face it, I’m an honest bitch, and someone has to speak up. We as parents need to end the reckless sense of entitlement we’ve fostered in our progeny. I don’t mean for this post to come across as a rant or a lecture. Rather, I want to go back to the days of the simplistic (I know some of you would argue neglectful) parenting style of the 70’s and 80’s. I can’t help but hear our own parents and grandparents whisper, “You’re doing it wrong.”

While they wouldn’t be entirely right, they may not be entirely wrong. So, keep reading if I haven’t pissed you off too much….

Playing was simple…

Little Bruce from down the street knocked on the door and asked if Rodger could come out and play. There was no scheduling, no prearranged play dates, our iPhones, with color-coded calendars as complicated as ancient Slavic languages, weren’t frantically pulled out. If this were 1977, Mom would yell for Bruce and he and Rodge would go out and play with sticks, stones, and trees. Nature was their toy and sparked imagination; something I wonder if my own kids have lost. Then, when Mom calls Bruce and Roger for lunch, she simply hangs her head out the door and yells their names. They come when called (gasp!) and settle into lunches decided upon by the parent, no choices. As my son stands behind me reading this, he says, “I don’t know what to play.” We are now activities directors, and kids no longer know how to be bored.

Toys were toys…

The Slinkys and Shrinky Dinks, while not gone, have been forgotten, tossed aside for the wonderful world of electronics. Our idea of an electronic was Battleship or Simple Simon. The Etch A Sketch… while impossible, was simply fun to shake. Today, we have iPads, Kindles, laptops, Xboxes and each year they come out with better versions. As children are whooping it up at birthdays and holidays with the latest and greatest, parents know their kid’s happiness is transitory; in just a short time a newer, better, faster (but just by a bit) version will come out with a price increase because let’s face it, today’s gadgets are like cars, depreciating as we purchase them. Our kids want the best and we, out of guilt and keeping up with the Jones’ syndrome, often give it to them. I’m guilty of this… so I’m not judging and if I am, I’m including myself.

Cartoons were on Saturday…

Saturday mornings were a big deal. Mom bought sugar cereal and this was the one day we were allowed to eat it. My own grandmother wouldn’t buy our weekday cereal unless sugar was the third (or fourth) ingredient listed on the box, but on Saturday morning we could get jacked up on sugar and watch cartoons until lunch. Now, cartoons are on everyday and can be found 24/7. Entire channels are devoted to them. When my daughter was up sick and I wondered if it would be possible to find a kid show, I had several to chose from… at 2AM… on a Tuesday. Growing up we only had Saturday. And, we watched what our parents did if we were lucky enough to get to watch TV. I was raised on a steady diet of Aaron Spelling, Norman Lear and soap operas, where I taught myself the wonders of kissing and serious stares.

Kids did what their parents did… period.

We weren’t given options. They didn’t ask if you’d like to go to the beach or amusement park. If our parents said beach, we loaded into the back of the wagon, slapped on our water wings and followed them for a day of crispy (remember, no sunscreen) and often painful fun. You came home red and blistered, but your parents told you you’d had fun and you believed them, because they said so….


Catchphrases were different from the ones I use on my own children. The _"I’ll give you something to cry about," and, “no ifs, ands or buts about it” have been replaced by no treat tonight, no show or early bedtime. How I miss the old days….

Food was NOT organic…

French fries, eggs and cheese drizzled with hot pepper juice: my favorite meal from childhood. YUM! Because either it wasn’t filled with chemicals and preservatives, or our parents just didn’t care… I’m still trying to figure this out. Now, we have to be mindful of ingredients that may cause our three-year-olds to have breasts and bring about menstruation at an astoundingly young age. I read a recent statistic stating that 3 out of 4 people will get cancer in their lifetime. You’d imagine all this would force me to buy organic, but I can’t afford to. Back in the day we ate SPAM, and Fluffernutters. Kool-Aid and Tang were our drinks of choice. Kids weren’t allergic to everything. Today EpiPens and hand sanitizer are pocketbook necessities. Poor kids face lives without ice cream or peanut butter. Eating seemed simpler back in the 70’s and 80’s, though I can’t figure out why.

Yes, I am guilty of doing half the things I’ve mentioned. Yes, I’m a hypocrite. But what I hope for myself and for all of you, is to fall somewhere in-between the carefree and possibly neglectful parenting of the 70’s/80’s, and the very involved, bordering on coddling, parenting of today.

I hope I am aware enough to realize that parenting is hard and we all just do our best to make it through… no matter the decade.

Nicole Johnson is a fiction writer, blogger and stay at home mom raising four children, a dog, a cat and a husband. She fears birds, anything with the potential to cause fire, and Disney World. She loves scary movies, books with ambiguous endings and all things dark, absurd and funny. Her blog, Suburban Sh!t Show: Tales from the Tree-Lined Trenches chronicles her life in the sh!t show, and she can be found on Facebook and Twitter, which is her new obsession because it forces her to get to the damn point.

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