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.