My childhood couldn’t be more different than the one I’m giving my kids. It’s a combination of a different time and the people involved in raising the kids. On one hand, I’m sad I’m not giving my kids the same childhood I had, but, on the other, I’m oddly relieved.
I wonder if my mom once said the same thing.
This is What My Childhood Was Like
I was fortunate to have what I had. I grew up in a big house with a big backyard, my own room, plenty of books and toys, and parents who bent over backwards to give my siblings and me what they didn’t have.
I grew up in the 1990s and early 2000s. Basically, the time when cell phones and the Internet were beginning their stranglehold. My dad was a lawyer, so he walked around with a heavy laptop and drove around with a boxy car phone. I also have vague memories of a gigantic cell phone. Wait…mobile phones are probably about as big these days…hmm…
Anyways, compared to what my kids have, and even what my classmates had back then, I had a fairly low tech childhood.
We had a wall phone in the dining room. I remember walking up and down the long hallway and around the round dining table while talking to my friends. My mom heard every word I said. After all, only my dad had a cell phone, and that was strictly for work. We didn’t start to get actual cell phones until probably the early 2000s. When I had to call home, I had to use the school’s payphone that hated my guts. In high school, I would borrow my mom’s cell phone when I had after school orchestra rehearsals. When I went away to college, my parents got me a room phone, and sent me off with my mom’s old cell phone, which I always forgot to bring with me whenever I drove.
There was a time, when I was in late elementary school and early middle school, that we used my dad’s work account to get online. That meant we couldn’t go online until after 4pm. Anyone else remember the dial up sound? We used to sing along to it. My mom used it once to help me with a homework question when I was in 7th grade. It was her idea and not mine because, at that time, Googling was not a thing. I think I was in 7th grade right around the time Google came into being. I never learned the joys of the Internet until I was in college.
Fun story: Facebook was only a couple of years old when I started college. I read about it in the school newspaper and thought it was a literal book of faces. You know, a kind of guide to who’s who on campus.
I didn’t have cable TV until I was halfway through high school. Gasp. How did I survive without Nickelodeon and MTV? Easy. We didn’t watch much TV to begin with and were addicted to Disney movies and the I Love Lucy and Tiny Toons reruns that my mom taped for us. I also had friends who didn’t care that I didn’t know what they were talking about. It’s a good thing my friends were readers, writers, artists, and a wannabe play director.
When I tell my kids I grew up without devices, with almost no Internet and cable, and with a phone that only worked with a big piece stuck to the wall, I wonder how they’ll react.
This is What I Did Without All That Technology
I played and read and daydreamed. Books were my constant companions, and I had a younger brother and sister to play with and boss around. There was no shortage of things we could do in the backyard.
There were morning walks and evening family walks. Family game nights. My mom taught us two types of hopscotch games, and we grew gardens under the orange tree. The grass would cut our hands whenever we tried to learn how to cartwheel, and the discovery of thorns and an overabundance of ants in the higher branches of the trees put a quick end to tree climbing. We played croquet and attempted badminton. We rode bikes and drew with chalk.
Our favorite thing to do was take branches from the tall bushes lining two sides of the backyard and pile them up under the massive orange tree. It was like having a tree house on the ground under the tree. The gardeners probably thought we were nuts.
And then there were the days we were stuck inside, when it was stormy or just too hot.
We had a bucket of Legos for years and years and two sets of Jenga. There was always something to build, though my favorites were to make a Lego boat and the outline of a house with the Jenga blocks. My mom used to watch us drag toys to each other’s rooms, where we made loud noises and yelled at each other. We played board games and card games and set up shops where we sold our odds and ends to each other.
I’m sure there were days we complained of boredom, but our solutions were to turn to toys and games. These days, kids usually get a device shoved into their hands.
I’ll Always Remember Those Days
I can’t help but compare my childhood to my children’s. They’re still young, but I wonder if they’ll grow up to have as much fun as I did. Will they remember playing with each other or playing with devices more?
It’s a different time. There are more technological advances than when I was a kid. But if I can remember the magic in my childhood, then I can do my best to offer a bit of magic dust to theirs as well.