If You Were Born In The ’60’s, ’70’s Or ’80’s, You Have To Read This. Wow.

I’ve noticed that the web is littered with wistful paeans to the virtues of growing up in the mid to late twentieth century (here’s an example of the sort of thing I’m talking about). Sprinkled in with the praise of the way things were are thinly veiled digs at the way things are and implications that younger generations are soft because they did not have the same upbringing.

As a nostalgic product of the mid-twentieth century, I’d like to bring a different perspective. Yes, things were different for those of us in our forties and older. Is different better or is it worse?

To me, the answer is yes.

Playing Outside

One of the arguments that I see for the idea that things were better “back when” is that kids had to try out for youth sports and that not everyone made the team. I can testify that all those who made the team did not get to play every game. This is said to be good because it taught the older generations to handle disappointment.

Get outside and play like it was 1970, you lousy, good for nothing slackers. (image by Seattle Municipal Archives CC by 2.0)

That point is often paired with one discussing how wonderful it was, in the way back when, that we went outside and played all day. I loved playing outside and could easily gather eighteen friends for an all day baseball game in the summer. Kids today don’t do that, and I miss it for them.

Here’s where difference comes in. In most neighborhoods today, it is almost impossible for a child to round-up even three kids for a game on most days. How can this be, when this “lazy” generation has “smart phones and Facebook that we managed to grow up without”? What we’re ignoring is that most people of our age cohort grew up in homes where only one parent had to work. Since our moms were home, we were home after school and free to get to what the business of being a kid was back then.

Most families today rely on two incomes out of necessity. Imagine yourself as a nine-year-old in your current neighborhood. Could you get together with five other nine-year-olds in that neighborhood at 4 p.m. on a week day? Probably not.

It isn’t that kids don’t want to run and play like we did. They can’t. Most kids are in an after-school program (where they are playing outside) or are getting their homework done before their folks get home. People don’t want their children wandering a neighborhood where no adults are around to keep a neighborly eye on them.

In our day, we didn’t recline on the field. They should cut that kid. In fact, we didn’t play soccer. Cut all four of these shin guard wearing punks. (image by usein CC by SA 3.0)

So kids knock out their home work before the folks get home. Why? Because once they’ve got a ride, they are on their way to practice for one of those youth sports leagues that don’t build character like ours did by cutting the worst players from the team.

We want all kids involved in physical activity… but we want them to be toughened up by knowing that if they aren’t good enough, they could lose the privilege to take the field? That’s not realistic today.

If I tried out for a baseball team in the early ’70’s and did not make it, I had a chance to learn from the experience. I also had the opportunity to practice the sport in neighborhood pick-up games all summer and return to try outs the following spring as a better player. That opportunity to practice doesn’t exist today

Sure, video games keep kids inside to some extent. But I’d also contend that for every child of these “lazy” generations that you could point out playing video games inside on a summer day, I could point out ten houses within eyesight of him where no one is home for him to play outside with. I’m not sure I see the harm in having a team where we can be sure that video gaming child has a chance to play in the sun AND a team that she can aspire to be chosen for if she excels.

Bike Helmets Make Kids Wimpy. Whatever. So Does A Feeding Tube.

It’s a short trip to go from mocking today’s youth for not being outside enough to questioning their toughness because they’ve grown up in an increasingly safety oriented society.

No one looks good in a bicycle helmet. And as a product of a generation that did not wear helmets, I’d rather crawl where I’m going than ride a bike if I have to wear an odd-looking helmet while I pedal. But if we want kids on bikes and we can protect them from a traumatic brain injury, why wouldn’t we?

See! The system is oppressing our children’s right to penetrating wounds to their skulls. (public domain image via wikimedia)

There are certainly more safety regulations then when we were kids. Those damned bureaucrats have deprived children today of those tasty lead paint chips that we all enjoyed. I curse the soul of the regulator who took my son’s chance to inhale the powerful fumes of model airplane glue.

Many of us have fond memories of standing behind the front seat as our parents drove. A few of us remember playing with lawn darts. Do you know who doesn’t remember playing with lawn darts? The kids who got launched through windshields. Yes, the ’70’s were really great for those kids, weren’t they? Is that what we want for our children and grandchildren? It probably is. You’re right, safety regulations suck. Be sure to tell yourself that as you put your grand-daughter in her car seat.

I’ve spent a bit of time writing this, and chances are that if you’re the sort to forward the type of crap I’m talking about to my e-mail box you’ll miss my point and do it again anyhow. I’ve got a proposal for you. Instead of you forwarding some dopey email or video that insults the way I had to go about raising my son*, let’s get together and play baseball. You, me and our friends will meet down at the park and show these slack video gaming punks how it was. It’ll be fun. Are you in?

No? Too bad. Maybe you’ll forward this to your email list and post it on Facebook?

Didn’t think so. You haven’t been the same since you caught that lawn dart in your fontanelle.

* My son (and the majority of young people like him) who somehow lack the entitlement mentality you ascribe to his entire generation and is brighter and more athletic than you and I put together.

49 Comments on “If You Were Born In The ’60’s, ’70’s Or ’80’s, You Have To Read This. Wow.”

  1. Eva says:

    Baseball? Outside? I’m in… and our seven-year-old as well.

  2. Tritrigirl says:

    You know my boyfriend and I often wondered over the holidays and summertime why the kids aren’t out playing like we did and then the realization dawned on us a few years ago that there’s only one other kid in our corner of the neighborhood that’s close to the boys’ age (11 and 14 now) and they run in different circles. For the kids to play with their friends they have to ride their bikes (with mandatory helmets) almost a mile away, when we were younger this wouldn’t have been a big deal, but now with idiot drivers, busy roads and crazy kid snatchers it’s hard to let them venture out on their own until they’re older. This also makes it virtually impossible to play after school and since both boys are whisked away to swim team at varying times in the evening / afternoon sometimes it’s hard to even coordinate a family sit down dinner. This seems to be the norm for a lot of our friends with kids too.

    Whereas in my house around 7 pm every night we all sat down to dinner as a family. Practices were over (all the kids played sports but we didn’t have to trek across town for practice, everything was conveniently held directly after school at our schools), homework had been completed and there may have even been time leftover for playing with the neighbors. I agree and don’t think it’s a laziness factor…things are just incredibly different now.

    PS – We’re all in as a family to play baseball with y’all! 🙂

  3. Blogdramedy says:

    I won’t play baseball. But I’ll bring a cooler of frozen jello pops. Without the stick.
    Because you shouldn’t run with sticks in your mouth, either.

    • Chowderhead says:

      Hey, lady! What’s up? 🙂

      • omawarisan says:

        Um…speaking on behalf of those oppressive safety bureaucrats, popsicles without sticks are a choking hazard. Can we just have them after the game with sticks? You can have yours whenever you want.

      • Blogdramedy says:

        My head…now that I’m finished with my current contract.

        I see LAP is getting better and better. Congrats! *grin*

        • Chowderhead says:

          Well I’m not sure whether to congrats or not. I’d imagine that means find another one. I hope you find one though, because contracts are good when they involve money and work.

          And thanks for the props! I’ll pass that on to Chris, because I’ve been on bed rest. The door is always open…

  4. Chowderhead says:

    I tried out for the basketball team in Junior High and I didn’t even make it to the cut list. They just told me to get the fuck out of the gym and learn how to dribble before I tried out the next time.

    I don’t even like basketball anyways…

  5. Katie says:

    I tried out for badminton in high school, and true to my generation, I gave up during try-outs when it got too hard and wrote a saddened LiveJournal post about the experience.

  6. Thanks for writing this. I’m tired of those sappy “good old days” posts. Change happens.

  7. I think this is a great example of how well this generation is doing….

  8. I remember the line of a Billy Joel song went something like, “The good old days weren’t always good. Tomorrow isn’t as bad as it seems.”

  9. NotAPunkRocker says:

    Our parents were strict about making sure we used the back seat lapbelts, but riding in the back of the truck an hour or more to go somewhere? Never a problem.

    • omawarisan says:

      Yeah, the coach of the little league team that I made every year and never played for used to pile the team in his truck and take us to get ice cream when the kids who played won. I felt my character building each time and did not feel the least bit in danger.

      I probably should have felt just the opposite on both matters.

  10. I don’t think I ever made any team when I was a kid, so the odds of me playing baseball now are slim to none. I can sit in the bleachers and cheer you on, though.

  11. I never understood the complaints about kids wearing helmets. When I was a kid, I lived in a pretty small town. Two kids died within a few years of each other from traumatic head injuries because they weren’t wearing helmets.

    Thanks for these words. Spot on.

    • omawarisan says:

      Yeah, I worked a couple fatal accidents with kids on bikes…neither had a helmet. I’d have bought each of them a dozen helmets to have not had to dream about them for years.

  12. knace says:

    Yes! As always, well put. I hate those stupid forwards almost as much as I hate the ones Jesus himself apparently generates from a heavenly laptop so he can see how many likes he can get for himself and find out who’s really a good Christian and who isn’t.

    • omawarisan says:

      Thank you.

      I think Jesus is an Apple guy. Why would he screw around with Windows? I mean, money isn’t an object.

      Jesus and his heavenly laptop made me think of a song from one of my writing heroes –

      I believe that if I build good karma I will be reincarnated as a songwriter like Keen.

  13. Linda Sand says:

    No, we children of the 50s weren’t inside playing video games. We were inside playing card or board games. Anyone for Canasta? How about Monopoly?

  14. pegoleg says:

    I first read that line as “the web is littered with wistful PAEANS” and I’m all like, “Duh, of course the web is littered with wistful PEONS. If you were a PEON (a person who does hard or boring work for very little money) wouldn’t YOU be wistful? And jealous? Of just about everybody else on the web?”

    Then I reread the word and I’m all like, “Whoa. That Blurt is quite erudite.”

  15. A dermatologist I know regularly tells people of my generation that the skin cancer they now have is probably related to their having lubed up with baby oil and iodine instead of sunscreen back in the ‘good old days”. Lawn darts and Click Clacks aint got nothin on the sun or riding without seat belts..

  16. Laura says:

    Ugh — I hate this “my generation is better than your generation” crap. Is it my imagination, or is there more of it floating around now than there was, say, a year or two ago?

  17. Green Wuf says:

    This stuff happens for my people too. It has become less popular to do so, but say, last year and the year before, my Facebook lit up with “Only 90s kids will get this” junk. I get the point of reminiscing. However, people who do this “It was better back when…” thing too much are spending too much time in the past rather than enjoying their present and future.

  18. Betty says:

    Valid points, Oma. As a childless adult, it hadn’t occurred to me about the parents not being around as emergency back up for outdoor after school festivities. Although in the mid- to late-70s when I was deemed old enough to be responsible for myself and my mother went back to work full time, I got into all sorts of foolish activities.

  19. mikegee64 says:

    Yeah, those were the days! Remember the fun of polio?

    I’m right there with you. Most of the people who post those things are parents themselves and are serial Facebook re-posters…

    Remember back in the 70’s when parents formed their own opinions on things?

  20. List of X says:

    We’re the last generation to grow up without the Internet, and the first to complain that the youngins spend too much time on it.

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