Once again someone has sent me a trite old email about “How great things were in the past!” and “How awful things are today!”
Surely you’ve seen these before, the less-than-subtle comparison that when we were kids we knew how to be kids, unlike kids today who are pathetic pansies.
However, there are two major problems with such grossly inaccurate nostalgia trips:
1) Life was never as good as we remember it, and;
2) If we don’t like the way life is for our kids, we—their parents and grandparents—are to blame.
First, let’s look objectively to some of the ridiculous claims about how we “survived” and are somehow inherently “better” than the younger generation. Many pieces like this one detailed below float around, but since this is the most comprehensive, we’ll use it to demonstrate the selective memory problems so many in the older generations suffer from. This one is called:
TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED
The 1930’s 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s
First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us. So there’s no problem with mothers smoking and drinking during pregnancy? Or are you willing to admit that no, not everyone emerged as “good” as you?
They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes. And they also had a lot more problems during childbirth as a result. But you don’t remember your birth, so obviously this detail doesn’t matter.
Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints. Lead-based paint causes problems in mental acuity, which the author of this piece of propaganda demonstrates all too well.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking. And the author also doesn’t remember that children died from poisonings at higher rates than they do now, and that many children suffered from brain damage or worse when they crashed on their bikes. There were consequences. Although brain damage causes us to forget . . .
As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. And the families who died in car accidents back then aren’t around to explain how seat belts and air bags would have saved their lives.
Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat. Stupid, but special. Again, loss of memory=brain damage. (Or marijuana use. Go ahead–ask Grandpa about the drug culture of the 60s and 70s.)
We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle. So why don’t you let your grandkids drink from the hose?
We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this. No one dies now, either. It’s usually kids’ parents and grandparents who freak out about them sharing.
We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren’t overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING! But an enormous amount of the adult population is overweight now, because you never outgrew drinking soda and eating sugar. Type 2 diabetes, anyone? Everyone?
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. So why did you create a society where your kids and grandkids can’t have such freedom? Why do you call social services when you see kids walking by themselves to a nearby park?
No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K. It’s not kids who buy cell phones to carry around; it’s their parents.
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem. But when your kids/grandkids ask to use supplies in the shed, you yell at them to not make a mess, not make any noise, and go to their rooms and be quiet. So they turn to their games . . .
We did not have Playstations, Nintendo’s, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms……….WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them! So why do you now yell at the neighbor kids when they’re outside running around and making noise? Why do you call their parents and threaten to sic the cops on them for accidentally running across your lawn?
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. Kids don’t file lawsuits; their parents file lawsuits. Why are you doing this now?
We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. So why do you not let your own kids/grandkids explore this way?
We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes. Kids don’t call the cops on other kids with BB guns. Adults do that. Why did you change?
We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them! So stop accompanying your children, or telling them to use a phone, or tell them that you don’t want them out on their own.
Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! So now that you’re coaching these teams and have put your kids in these sports, why have you changed the rules?
The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! So why don’t you respect the law anymore, and defend your precious “innocent” babies instead?
This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! And has also produced adults that over-parent their children and limit their development. Why is that?
The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. Surely you don’t think YOU’VE accomplished all of that, do you? Millions take credit for the work of just a few thousand.
We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL! And yet you’re afraid to let your children and grandchildren have that same experience?
You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good. Ah, I see! Individuals don’t have any responsibility—it’s all the lawyers government’s fault!? You just claimed earlier to have “responsibility,” but only when it’s convenient? No, I’m sorry. You can’t pin all of these changes on the government. And how many of you are lawyers? We all have to take responsibility for how our children turn out.
And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were. And just how dramatically they changed the world you now live in. Yes, your parents and grandparents destroyed everything when they became grownups. Remember that when you choose their nursing home.
How many of us have naively imagined Thanksgiving looking like this? How often have we actually achieved it? Everyone smiling? Yeah, me too.
The problem is the “good ole days” never really existed. Even in the 1950s—a classical age many of our older generations hark back to—we knew this.
Morris Wright in 1957, wrote this about the beloved Norman Rockwell paintings that I’ve used in this blog:
“We might say that Mr. Rockwell’s special triumph is in the conviction his countrymen share that the mythical world he evokes actually exists. This cloudland of nostalgia seems to loom higher and higher on the horizon . . . and disappears from view . . . leaving the drab world of common place facts and sensations behind.” [emphasis added] (Approaching Zion, Hugh Nibley (1989), page 523. )
Here’s another plug for “Those were the good ole days” that never were. https://www.facebook.com/1035wimz/photos/a.180388971978038.49555.121975634486039/871131596237102/?type=1
And another that touts many poor decisions as “ok” and “Hey, we survived.” However, I appreciate that she prefaced her list with this:
Now, as a parent myself, my own parents like to tell me I’m too overprotective.
“Well, you survived,” they say.
“Yep, but it seems like the odds were against me.” http://thestir.cafemom.com/big_kid/165499/21_Things_80s_Kids_Did
Another “We had it so tough but we also had it so great, so we’ll just ignore all the other bits.” https://amyunjaded.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/70s-80s.jpg
This one’s more balanced, with an interesting comparison of a few decades ago with today. There are advantages and disadvantages to both times, and let’s remember that. http://preventdisease.com/news/15/020515_10-Differences-Child-Grew-Up-70s-Compared-To-Today.shtml
Check out this video by Nature Valley Granola, and ask yourself: who bought all the gadgets for their kids and grandkids? Who’s responsible for teaching them how to really play outside? It seems that some adults are realizing that hey—all of this is our fault. And we’re also the solution. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is5W6GxAI3c
The next time someone older than 30 (yes, don’t trust anyone over 30!) sends you a nostalgic turn of the belly via email or social media, challenge them with this: Prove that life really was better “back then.” And don’t let them use only their hazy and selective memories. Make them use real data.
Don’t worry. They won’t. They can’t. They’re still not sure what “Google it” means.
In many ways our society is far better than it ever was. Yes, we have huge and glaring problems—I rant about those enough, so I won’t do so here—but we’ve also done a few things right. For example:
We’re far more compassionate.
- Many decades ago a relative of mine committed suicide. His grieving family was shunned, and even a basic burial was denied him. Today, we’re far more helpful to those suffering from mental illness, and we open our arms to love those left behind when someone loses the fight.
- To those of various religions. Only fifty years ago this was a very Protestant country. Catholics and Jews were commonly snubbed. Ask your grandma about the fear of a Catholic John F. Kennedy running for president. Although we still have far to go, we tolerate others’ beliefs far better than we ever have. Mormons like me haven’t been run out of a state since the 19th century.
We’re far more accepting.
- Of different races. Seriously, we are. Ask anyone who grew up in the south in the 1940s and 1950s. Ask them what they remember about where the blacks and whites lived, and where they got drinks of water, and where they worshipped. We’ve made HUGE strides. The problems we have now are frequently manufactured and piddly in comparison.
- Of homosexuals. The closet door has been open for a long time now.
- Of different lifestyles. Just a decade ago anyone who was a vegetarian was snickered at. Now, a lot more people are looking to eat healthier, smarter, cleaner. “Alternative” is becoming “mainstream.” We’re less worried about “fitting in,” which is marvelous progress.
We’re far better about acknowledging and fixing problems.
- Not so long ago, alcoholism was ignored. It was a condition whispered about, but rarely helped. Just ignore it and the problems will go away, was the shallow hope.
- Oh, and advertisements used to feature doctors, babies, and even Santa to sell cigarettes. Admirable, very admirable.
- Abuse in the home was also another “Don’t talk about” issue. Kids would come to school bruised and battered, wives (or worse, husbands) would have black eyes from “accidents,” and it was very rare that anyone ever stepped in to help.
- Same with sexual abuse. We tend to think that’s a recent problem, but it’s not. Kids who were sexually abused in the 1970s were told to just “forget about it,” and their parents would as well. Employ the trusty, “Ignore it, and it’ll go away,” like that giant elephant in the living room which grows bigger and stinks more horrendously every day.
We’re far better at talking.
About all those issues above, and many, many more. Some senior citizens think we talk too much—they derisively call it “gossip”—but frankly, I wouldn’t want to live in any other generation. Yes, we’ve got problems far worse than many of our ancestors faced, but we also are tackling them in ways they never dared.
“But the older generation, with its propensity to remember everything far better than it ever was, will be a harder sell.” ~Chairman Nicko Mal, Book 3, The Mansions of Idumea