The sad thing is, kids today don't know what the rewind button is. Kids today have it rough.
I mean, they are seriously being denied some of the best things about being kids because we, as a society, have them stressed out about all of the crap that could go wrong.
Think about it, when we were kids, we hung upside down from monkey bars that were installed on asphalt, we drank out of garden hoses, we ran around the neighborhood, unattended by any parent, until the street lights came on. We got into fights with our friends that may or may not have involved pulling hair, punching, and kicking, but we resolved them ourselves. If I had gone running to my mommy at every sign of conflict, I would have been labeled a wuss by my friends and my mom would have pulled her hair out. So today, I am going to take a serious look at why being a kid today totally sucks and why my childhood (and probably most of yours) rocked.
1) The FDA, USDA, and most other big government agencies didn't really give us much thought. See, they knew that our parents were adults and therefore trusted them to handle us and what we ate. No one was concerned about childhood obesity, high fiber, low fat, exercise regimens or any of that crap for kids. As a result, we got awesome sugary cereals, caffinated sodas, and mind numbing cartoons on network television every afternoon and by 4:00, when they were over, we went outside to play -- unsupervised -- until dinner. Now the powers that be have determined that sugar is a product of the devil himself and should only be given on your birthday and Christmas and only then after a perfectly balanced meal. And since they have cut P.E. from every day and recess time is now limited to make room for State Standardized Test prep, kids are not getting much physical activity. They can't afford to go outside to play because....well...that is part of reason #2:
2) Speaking of cartoons, ours were better. If you missed Tuesday's episode it was no big deal because cartoons were fun and ridiculous and had 2-3 characters max and only last 5-10 minutes. Now they are 30 minute melodramas that run in seasons, have 6 or 7 MAIN characters, a supporting cast, and if you miss too many episodes, then you're lost. It's like we're grooming kids for grown-up television -- which I guess makes sense since we've got them worrying about high cholesterol and fiber intake by the time they are 6. What is ironic is that today's cartoons are designed for kids and the Warner Brothers that I knew and loved as a child were initially intended for adults. The Bugs Bunny cartoons were banned for being "too violent" with all of the shotgun toting hunters who never actually kill anything, TNT loving coyotes who only ever succeed in blowing themselves up, and the anvils -- we cannot forget about the anvils! All that violence and no death, was deemed dangerous for kids who could not possibly appreciate the irony and sarcasm. Well they won't NOW because they've been ruined by the realism of today's cartoons. (Unless you're a pre-schooler. If you're a preschooler watching Nick Jr. then you still think that the world revolves around you and that everyone and their brother will stop whatever they are doing to focus on making YOU happy. There is NO violence, ironic or otherwise, because everyone acts as if they've been assimilated and share the same personality.)
3) We never worried about being grabbed off the street by strangers. Adam Walsh type incidents were nationwide news for a reason -- they hardly ever really happened. Sadly, they have become more common, but even now, if you ask any cop (at least any television cop) 90% of child abductions are committed by a friend or family member. Not that we weren't warned by our schools or our teachers because we were, but kids these days are so freaked out that if I round the corner of the aisle at the grocery store ahead of my nearly 5 year old she begins screaming "Stranger Danger" at the old lady picking out her pancake mix. I think this sort of ties into the whole shiny happy world that we create for our younger kids -- we talk to them about how dangerous strangers can be and then they watch Nick Jr. and are confused because in that universe everyone is so friendly, caring, and nice. Then we say "Don't talk to strangers! Stay where I can see you or someone might grab you!!" and they're like, "Huh? So I need to make friends and be nice, but I can't talk to anyone because everyone is nice and might take me away from you...what?" We were cynical little brats and we never would have gone up to a panel van that had "Free Candy" spray painted on the side. Don't believe me? Go watch any old 70's or 80's kid movie -- "E.T.", "Bad News Bears", or "Goonies" (for the love of God, if you haven't seen Goonies go watch it right now) and you will see what I mean.
4) And speaking of movies, we had teenage fantasy movies like "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" where a kid plays the system to have an ultimate skip day, "War Games" where a kid hacks into government computers, "Weird Science" where two kids left at home for a whole weekend computer generate Kelly LeBrock while wearing bras on their heads, and "Red Dawn" where a bunch of kids take their guns into the hills and fight off the Russian invasion by themselves. Today if they tried to make any of these movies they wouldn't be believable because the school sends an automatic email if you kid is 3 nanoseconds late for class, there are parental controls on computers, and guns? Really? For KIDS?
5) And there were no commercial free movie channels. There wasn't even FOX. You got ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS. It was FREE. It came through the arial antena on our parents roof, you didn't pay for it. And by midnight, they played the national anthem, (or if you were blessed enough to be raised in Huntsville, AL like I was, they played a reading of the poem "First Flight") and then it was static until sometime in the early morning when the Three Stooges came on. You had national news at 5:30 and local news at 6:00 and then you watched Wheel of Fortune or The Muppet Show or Bewitched or whatever your local stations chose to put on in syndication until Starsky and Hutch or Little House on the Prairie came on at 7:00. (Central Time of course.)
6) Later on we had MTV. Not "16 and Pregnant" MTV, REAL MTV. They played music videos all day. EVERYday. And later we had VH1 where they ALSO showed music videos all day. I could lay on the couch slurping on a Coke and eating Lucky Charms out of the box saying "Oh I LOVE this song!" all day. Sometimes the videos helped make sense of the song (unless it was Sting, his videos were always a little weird and had very little to do with the actual lyrics). I could stay up late on Saturday nights and watch Head Banger's Ball and it was awesome with Lita Ford, and Ozzy Osbourne, and Twisted Sister, and Metallica, and Whitesnake among others. Do they even show videos on MTV and VH1 anymore? I mean, EVER? Poor kids, they have no idea what they are missing.
7) Speaking of music, we had REAL music -- Tiffany and Debbie Gibson were our Justin Beibers and I think they lasted for maybe one album before their flash in the pan careers had them on Celebrity Death Match and The Smoking Gun. We had The talking Heads, Yes, Run DMC and all the cool metal bands. Now they have Ke$ha and Kanye West. It doesn't really seem fair.
8) The ultimate reason that our childhood rocked was that we had imaginations. We had wooden blocks to play with and if you were really lucky you got Lego's. They didn't come in specialized "play-sets" with special instructions and specialty pieces -- they were plastic blocks, They stuck together. We built whatever the hell we wanted to. Our action figures didn't move on their own or have microchip recorded catch-phrases -- we made them move and talk -- so our play was never limited to what they were pre-programmed to say. We went outside and played "Ghost in the Graveyard," "Devil in the Ditch," and good old fashioned tag and hide and go seek. We didn't have ultra hi-def graphics on our Atarii game system -- we had a pixel and two bars and we played Pong, a circle and dots and played Pac-Man, and something that virtually no child today would recognize as a car and played Pole Position until our hands siezed up around the joystick. There were no "cheat codes" and there was ONE button -- you used it to jump, to fire, as your gas pedal, and to start the game. OUR generation was the one who imagined all the great crap kids have today and then somehow, somewhere, that same generation forgot that the fun part of playing was making crap up and decided to just give kids ready made games and toys that basically play by themselves. My grandkids toys are going to suck because THIS generation isn't going to have any imagination.
Yep, every generation wants the next to have it better than we did, but I think for the first time in...EVER we've gone to far. We are raising a bunch of pansies who will sit in front of the TV watching serial television and playing on their Playstation 24 game system munching on high fiber, low-fat, protein bars wondering why they are so unfullfilled. They won't be able to take a joke, because they won't understand sarcasm and irony. And it will be our fault. We are robbing them of the only childhood they will ever have. We need to work on making the next generation MORE like us. We need to quit coddling them. We need to treat them more like we were treated when we were kids. No one worried about us, or at least they didn't fuss over us like we do with our kids. We were kids. We were awesome without having to be coached in our self esteem. We had fun without being given a set of rules or instructions to follow.
And our childhood rocked.