I understand that everyone’s experience is different, but I am getting a little tired of the proliferation of articles comparing childhood in the 70s to childhood today. Parenting blogs glorifying the disco decade and lamenting how horrible today’s kids are seem to be missing the point. The 70s were not some Garden of Eden for children, the same as children today are not all tiny megalomaniacs. If a contemporary parent allows their kids to slack on chores, dictate what the family does on the weekend, speak disrespectfully or demand expensive possessions, it’s not because the 70s were wonderful. It’s because the parent allows it, end of conversation. There were rude, entitled little assholes in the 70s, too.
Yes, my 70s childhood was great – we played outdoors, read books, made up games, rode bikes without helmets, and did our chores. With the exception of the bike helmet, my kid does the same things, plus she is smarter, has better opportunities, and can be expected to live a longer, healthier life. She can’t conceive of riding in a car without a seatbelt or attending a gathering where all the adults smoke in the house and around the kids.
The next time you are tempted to shout “This, right here!” after one of those “the 70s were wonderful” articles, just remember what we had to wear, disco music, there were 7 channels to watch, and Corinthian Leather hadn’t yet been exposed as plastic. We lived with the possibility of a Russian nuclear attack, soaring inflation and an evolution of the two income family as a requirement rather than an optional status. A cancer diagnosis was a death sentence, and gays and minorities were routinely discriminated against, harassed, and assaulted. It wasn’t a perfect world by any stretch. However, the values we learned in the 70s are no different from what parents today have the ability to teach their children, but in some cases, choose not to. It doesn’t have to do with the decade, but with individual parenting choices.
In 30 years, there will surely be articles lamenting the way midcentury children are being raised and comparing them with millennial children. Hindsight is not only human nature, it is also a romanticization of how things were. Let’s not fixate on how parenting happened circa 1975, but instead focus on what we parents can do today to raise our children to be good people. If that means letting them have the more expensive shoes or clothes, that’s your choice to make, but own it as YOUR CHOICE. Don’t blame trends, or parenting blogs, or even the good old days. You are the parent your child will blame while they are in therapy. You are the parent they will either emulate or do the opposite of when they are raising their own little people.
It is easy to get caught up in the parenting one-upmanship (and I guarantee our own parents struggled with these types of issues too, but they managed, even during the wasteland of no internet during the 70s and the yawning decades of no tech before that) but please, resist if $200 toddler sneakers aren’t the right choice for your family. Want them to appreciate their privileges? Make them work for them, volunteer at a shelter, mow the lawn, whatever is the right thing for your family. Choose to raise your kids with the values you want them to have. Just because you have internet doesn’t mean they get to use it 24/7/365. They will appreciate your efforts as adults when they are hearing from other parents about how spoiled and undisciplined, outspoken and rude children are becoming; they will have the secret weapon of good choices in their arsenal to raise your grandchildren to be good people.