My Childhood Summers vs. My Kids’ Summers

A lot has been said about the differences between the childhood we moms and dads had versus the childhoods our children are experiencing. Look, there aren’t Jarts (yard darts, you know, mini javelins for kids) any longer, and that’s a species-safeguarding kind of a decision. But there also aren’t roving gangs on pedal bikes who ride to get around, not for exercise, and are on the way to their secret hideout in the woods. We had access to matches. We had kitchen knives and tried to whittle sticks into weapons. It was basically Lord of the Flies, but with more fluffernutter sandwiches. It’s not the same when a cluster of kids on electric scooters putter toward the park in your planned community. Not even if they have steak knives in their back pockets. 

In honor of the way it was, let’s pour some Tang for our fallen childhood heroes (Pogo Ball, never forget) and talk about our childhood summers back in the ’80s versus the reality of our children’s summers now…


1. I had to be home when the street lights came on. They have to be home when the alarm on their iPods and iPhones goes off.

2. I had to call when I arrived at my friend’s house. They have to have their friend’s mom text me when they get there. 

3. I had to use hand signals when biking. You know, to indicate that I was turning or stopping. They have to wear helmets, knee pads, wrist guards, reflective vests, and bubble wrap when they bike or skate or walk kind of fast, to indicate that their mother is aware of societal and safety norms and wouldn’t think of letting her kid out of the house without the appropriate gear. 

4. I was allowed to watch TV, so long as I didn’t sit too close to the screen. They are allowed to watch videos on their tablets, so long as they don’t sit too close. To me. 

5. I could swim if I wore plastic water wings and didn’t mind having 84 percent of the skin on my biceps and triceps rubbed off while forcing them onto my upper arms. My kids can swim if they wear puddle jumpers, the 5-point harness equivalent of water wings, and don’t mind my pinching the skin on their backs when I snap the things on them.

6. I had unfettered access to Doritos and Klondike Bars. My kids have unfettered access to Baked Cheetos and Skinny Bear Klondike Bars. 

7. I had a backyard trampoline. My friends and I weren’t afraid to risk bone fractures when we bounced wildly over the side. It’s possible we actually tried to dislocate our shoulders, because we’d seen enough TV shows to know that all you needed to do was pop that sucker back into place and go about your business. Today’s kids have indoor trampoline parks and aren’t afraid to bounce wildly off the walls, proof that dislocations are still alive and well for America’s youth. 

8. I had day camp where we made lanyards with stretchy, plastic lanyard string. They have day camps where they make Rainbow Loom bracelets with stretchy, rubbery circles. 

9. I wore jelly shoes. They wear Crocs. Just a whole new version of the same old ugly.

10. I tried to get a base tan. And my mother wanted that, so I wouldn’t burn for the rest of the summer. They get broad-spectrum sunblock until I forget to lather it on one day and they burn anyway and screw it, I can’t be responsible for every weird mole they have to have checked in their thirties.

11. I had chewable aspirin. You know, for all of those scrapes and bruises that I got from living like a feral animal for three months. And if we didn’t have chewables, my mom crushed the pills in a spoonful of orange juice. My kids get fruity liquid Tylenol in a little cup and OMG I think our moms invented liquid children’s pain killers.  

12. I had a 35mm camera with which I snapped 50,000 pictures of “blurry squirrel.” They have my old iPhone with which they take selfies. 5 million of them.

13. I played Manhunt. That meant running around the neighborhood after dark and scaring the crap out of each other. Now they play Minecraft, which means they run around a virtual world after dark and let the zombies scare the crap out of them.

14. I had drink mix that my mom poured into a gallon-sized pitcher and mixed with tap water everyday. Okay, kids today also have that, but with filtered water because this isn’t 1984 and we don’t have to drink tap water like cave people.

15. I had mosquito bites that only caused itchiness or malaria. These kids have West Nile, Zika, and itchness/malaria. 

16. I caught fireflies in old mayo jars. They catch them in hip, colored mason jars.

17. I played stickball in the street. They play on highly organized summer travel teams.

18. I had reality. And that reality was that my mother did not want to see me in the house between sunup and sundown from June through August. After all, she had just mopped the floors with a sponge mop. They have virtual reality, and that reality is that I don’t want to see or hear from them while they are in the basement from sunup until sundown, June through August. After all, I just mopped the floors with a Swiffer WetJet.

Yes, the more things change, the more they stay the same, except for Jarts which are actually still available, but without the 6 inches of steel-tipped death shiv. 

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