Friday, September 16, 2005

And We Had to Walk Uphill to School, Both Ways..

So it seems that the world that our children live in is much more kid-centric than when any of us were growing up. I was thinking back to my childhood, and the contrasts between then and now are quite large.

We play Mr. Personality's music in the car. Raffi, Disney, classical, you name it. Once in a while, we will try to sneak our own music in, but after a few minutes he asks for his stuff. I don't remember my parents playing any specialty music for me, and I had to sit and listen to whatever they dictated. I can't remember if they had a tape player or not, but certainly there was no Radio Disney like there is now.

Crayons and coloring books at restaurants? Are you kidding? I am not even sure if they had specially designated "kids menus" at all back then. There are practically no chain restaurants that do not have children's menus. Maybe that's why we didn't eat out very often. Or because we were poor, or a combination of the two.

I was lucky enough to have two big birthday parties that I remember. One was at a place called Farrell's, which was really an ice cream parlor that served hot dogs and hamburgers. The other was a roller skating party, where I invited only two boys. One of which I had a crush on, but he had a crush on another girl there, so that party kind of bit for me. Other than that, most of the time I just invited a friend or two out to dinner, or to my family party, that sort of thing.

I don't think we had anywhere near the type of specialty foods that are made for children nowadays either. There was no such thing as oatmeal with candy "dinosaur" eggs, or eighty types of "sports drinks" or a bazillion other items you can find at any grocery store. We thought we had hit the jackpot when our mom let us melt exactly three chocolate chips in our Cream of Wheat. I think we had Macaroni and cheese, some chips, some candy, and that's about it.

My sister and I had Barbies, Legos, Lincoln Logs, and a few other toys, but there wasn't any of the product tie-in that most toys have now. It seems that every children's movie or television show has a plethora of toys associated with it, whether the movie is popular or not. Dora, Bob the Builder, Thomas the Tank Engine, Teletubbies, Boohbah, Sesame Street, Blue's Clues, and the list goes on and on. The only "character" products I remember owning were lunch boxes and some Winnie-the-Pooh dresses. But perhaps I am having a selective memory on that one. I probably would have killed for a Nancy Drew backpack.

Yet somehow, without all this laser-targeted marketing, I think I managed to turn out just fine. My family (for better or worse) has always been close and tight knit, even without all the media centered bonding opportunities that abound today. Despite what many moms and dads think, all the toys and posessions in the world cannot make up for inattentive, distracted parents.


Heather said...

Sometimes I worry about how much focus there is on filling our children's every desire these days. I'm seeing it in my older kids - a self-centredness that may just be a function of their age, but may also be related to how much they've been catered to - by marketers, etc. Annie Lamott talks about her son and laments that he seems so "entitled" - like he deserves everything. I really don't want to raise that kind of kid, but it almost seems inevitable in this culture.

Mel said...

And I like to think that that's exactly what I offer my kids: an inattentive, distracted mother. You just can't beat benign neglect as a parenting philosophy, I think.

Elizabeth said...

American children are spoiled because American parents and adults are spoiled.

Americans in general have a sense of entitlement so it stands to reason it would trickle down to our children.

As for what we had when we were kids, Elvira Kurt, a comedian from Canada, does a hilarious stand-up routine about playgrounds back in the 60s and 70s when we had see-saws and jungle jims on CONCRETE. It's an insanely funny routine. You an watch it from her website

Suzanne said...

I worry about the entitlement problem, too. Just yesterday my son went on a whining jag about wanting to buy a toy at the store in which we were shopping. I have a backbone of steel when it comes to this sort of thing, so he went home empty-handed. I wonder, though, how stalwart I will be as his exposure to mass marketing increases, along with his own powers of persuasion!

Piece of Work said...

Suzanne, I am right there with you. Right now, I feel like I am pretty firm about not buying things--my kids share a room (that's just because our house is miniscule, though), wear hand-me-downs, and don't have very many toys. As in, we have two very small toyboxes, and that's it, plus books galore. But I think it's been so easy so far--they don't know enough to beg for more. Once they get older and start going to friends' houses, or watching tv, it's going to become such a struggle!

Gina--sounds like your childhood mirrored mine, and I feel like I turned out just fine, too. The fact that you value good parenting over things means the Mr. Personality will turn out ok, too.

Elizabeth--to make a blanket statement about "American parents and American children" seems pretty snotty, not to mention unhelpful here.

Mel-- I love that! "you just can't beat benign neglect as a parenting philopsophy" Mind if I steal it?

Gina--sorry for highjacking your comments!!!

Angry Pregnant Lawyer said...

Farrell's!!!! I was so sad when they closed up shop in the DC area. I have fond memories of when someone would order those big-ass ice cream desserts, and the whole staff would raise a commotion. Oh, so fun!

And Elizabeth is right--not about Americans, IMO, but about Elivra Kurt, whose bit about how kids today have it so easy makes me crack up every time I see it on Comedy Central.

Elizabeth said...

Well you know what, POW, I really wanted to go into a treatise about how we got to be a consumer nation and how that consumerism shapes our attitudes and the attitudes of our children but I got distracted watching Martha Stewart's new show on my big, plasma screen TV and then I fell asleep on my nice,comfy couch and then I went out to eat at a really nice restaurant where they serve little shrimpy thingys in a really fancy schmancy shrimpy dish.

Then, I thought I'd write a white paper on how we continue to think that we can drive gas guzzling cars without suffering any consequences and how our suburban bubble will soon burst because we continue to use up energy that is quickly running out. But again I got distracted by how dirty my new Hummer is and I took it to the car wash where they do all that whoop-dee-doo detailing and then I needed to go buy a new pair of Nikes (I hear the people who make them work for .50 a matter, I don't really care about such things).

Then, I thought I'd write an essay about how kids in the 1960s and 1970s, compared to kids in the 1930s, were a bunch of spoiled brats but I got distracted trying to scan some photos from my childhood with my new boffo scanner. Then I needed to manipulate the photos using Photoshop and then I decided to make a little online scrapbook and so I went on the Internet looking for clip art and fonts to use and now that it's all done I'll take it to the nearest Kinkos and make copies for all my relatives and then send them out FedEx overnight.

But before I did any of that I called my great aunt who lived during the Great Depression and asked if she thinks Americans today are spoiled and feel entitled. She said, 'Hell yes.' Then she went off about rationing sugar and butter and how no one had a job and soup lines and such. Can you believe what a snot she is?

P.S.- Perhaps you need to revise your list:

"96. I am really non-confrontational.
97. If you tell me something I don't agree with, I won't say a word."

Anvilcloud said...

I'm sure that it's a first world phenomenon and not just an American thing, but, being richer than everyone else in the history of the universe, Americans might do it up a tad more. but I can assure you that Canadians can't possibly lag too far behind. How did we ever get along without meet the teacher nights that serve to real purpose, for example? How about those incredible graduating from elementary school extravaganzas? There's nothing much left after one of those. There is something to be said for deferred gratification. There are things that I haven't gotten to experience until relatively late, but I sure appreciated them.

From a guy who lived before McDonalds and who hadn't encountered pizza until his mid-teens.

Great post by the way he said as he put his pants back on.

Gina said...

Amy and Elizabeth, you both love beer. Doesn't a love of beer transcend any and all disagreements?

Piece of Work said...

Ha ha ha! Well, I suppose if Elizabeth loves beer that's *something*! And she certainly made me giggle.

Karla said...

Three cheers for beer! (ok that was lame, but I felt the need to make a comment and that's all I could come up with)