Those Were The Days, My Friends…

I’ve written about this topic to some degree before, but somehow it just keeps coming back. 

Kids have no idea…

The changes that have occurred in my lifetime are pretty amazing and yet my kids take all of the advances that have occurred for granted.

No, I didn’t walk 20 miles/kilometres through a snowstorm to get to school.

No, I didn’t have to wash my clothes over a washboard in the river every morning and night. 

No, life wasn’t that hard, but it surely was different.

Instant gratification is the name of the game and I often wonder if this is the crux of what has made parenting so much more challenging these days.

I mean, really - who can compete with the latest video game, iPad app or downloadable blockbuster?

The immediate gratification that most kids feel these days is borne of the fact that our collective desire for “stuff” has overridden the previous reality that dictated that “patience is a virtue.” In other words, no longer is the thrill of anticipation regarded as a necessary piece of the final puzzle when it comes to acquisition. Kids want what they want and the want it now. Adding to this scenario is the fact that the parents of these kids (myself included) are just as anxious to provide their children with the items that they desire, oftentimes because it makes their lives easier (TV as a babysitter anyone? I plead “Guilty”).
Children these days have no concept of waiting, patience or the thrill of anticipation. Everything is immediate. My children have grown up in a world that has always had the Internet, DVDs TV shows and movies on demand, cell phones immediate pictures on cameras and microwaves. 

Google is both a noun and a verb. The Dewey Decimal System sounds like something that you would order over QVC. Pictures are immediate. You take them and then look at them. You don’t like them? You delete them. There’s nothing tangible about them at all. As a matter of fact, if you want a physical picture, you actually have to get them printed - an task that seems like an exercise in futility more often than not, as you can just as easily hit “slideshow” on your iPhone or iPad and carry your cherished memories with you.

That being said, let me make it abundantly clear that I love the advances that technology has afforded me. I am somewhat of a technophile and geek. I love gadgets, stuff, downloading and streaming. I’m lazy and love the fact that I can carry a portable, digital “To Do” list with me wherever I go. I like to watch the latest TV shows on my smartphone while I’m traveling on the local transit.

Irrespective of this fact, there is a part of me that yearns for a different time, one where life wasn’t so easy or so transparent. Google has taken away the veneer of privacy that one could achieve if they kept their noses clean. No criminal record meant no trace of you at all in the public records, other than your registration as a citizen of your particular city or town. Now, even if you wanted to be anonymous, it would be virtually (and literally) impossible. Google would find you, reference you and cache you. If you’ve done even the most minor of things, say participating in your neighborhood community support group or volunteering at your local church, you may be referenced online in perpetuity.

Anonymity  is a thing of the past.

Life as we know it isn’t the same as life as some of us knew it. Sometimes I yearn to go back to those days.

I somewhat miss some of these benchmarks of my childhood:
  • The Encyclopedia Brittanica - all 10,000 copies that lined the bookshelves at my home (okay, maybe not 10,000 copies but it seemed like a really big number as the books lined so many shelves)
  • Watching The Brady Bunch at 4pm after school - On one of the 13 or 14 FINITE channels that we had. Oh, and we had to GET UP to change the channel - remotes were NOT the norm!
  • Transistor Radios and later Sony Walkmans - You waited with baited breath for your favorite new song to come on and then blasted it as best you could (but of course there was no bass, just treble…). 
  • Records - The CD could never replace the feeling of ripping off that plastic sheath on that coveted piece of music that you had saved up your allowance for. And downloadable music and iTunes? Love them both but still long for the time when you could crack open a new album, admire the cover art and put it on the player.
  • Anticipation - For everything. For the latest movie. For the latest movie being shown on TV (if you missed it, you just had to wait until it came on again sometime in the future). For your favorite TV show rerun (no computers, not Internet, no streaming TV shows the next day after airing). For hearing your favorite song played on the radio (no immediate downloading through iTunes or online)
  • Reading an old-fashioned, physical map (Google Maps wasnon-existent in my youth)
Some other events that will likely never happen again in my lifetime:  
  • Heating up my cold dinner on the stove (no microwaves or “nuking” food in 30 seconds)
  •  Cooking popcorn on the stove (melting the butter, waiting, adding the kernels, watching them explode!)
  •  Adjusting the rabbit earson the TV set for better reception
  •  Listening to the national anthem on TV then seeing the Test Pattern that indicated that TV was over for the night until the next day (24-hour TV and CNN didn’t exist)
I love living during these times and benefiting from the advances that technology can offer but I do miss the simpler times of my youth, I can’t lie.

What do YOU miss from your childhood? What things would you bring back if you could?

VIDEO: Those Were The Days My Friend

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  1. Anonymous says

    I miss the huge amount of free time I had in my childhood. Just like you, when I grew up television and other stimuli were not constantly available. I would ride my bike around the block endlessly, pick leaves and just hangout. Thinking back on those long, eventless summers, how I would love to experience that inactivity and boredom again and just sit at peace watching time pass so slowly again.

  2. Samantha says

    @Anonymous Yes - I miss the free time and lack of responsibility that accompanied childhood. It would be great to have that time again. The summers seemed so long and life was so much easier and stress free. Those were definitely the days!
    Thanks for commenting.

  3. Mommy D says

    I am terrified that my daughter will grow up in a world of digital books. There is something magical about smelling ink on paper, looking at a book cover and folding back the book spine.

    Although I think e-books and tablets are great, how can they replace the excitement of a pop-up book?

    When I learned that I was pregnant, nearly three years ago, I was excited to think that I would, one day, read Charlie and Chocolate Factory to my child when she was older. I didn’t want her to watch the movie – I wanted to READ it to her. Now time will only tell how I share that magical story with her.

  4. 5webs says

    I miss everything that you listed as well as the ” family-like” feel of the neighborhood in which I grew up. I didn't have one mom and dad, I had a dozen at least, and their words carried as much weight as my own. In other words, they had the right to tell me what to do, and I never questioned it. People would go in and out of each other's houses all the time, and we helped ourselves to whatever was on the table, in the cupboard's, in the fridge, etc. because it was a more relaxed time (the 70's)…no one cared if your house was a mess, they just plopped themselves down on your couch and started eating the Chex Mix(made from scratch in those days, and much tastier)…it was a wonderful way to grow up…

  5. Samantha says

    @Mommy D hey, MommyD - Nothing can take the place of a good book and I don't think that they will become obsolete. I think your feelings are felt by many (myself included) and it's pretty much impossible to snuggle up with an iPad. Kind of…

  6. Samantha says

    @5webs hi 5Web, I agree, things seemed a lot more relaxed then, didn't they? None of this advanced Helicopter Parenting where kids are not allowed to do anything. I remember spending summers hanging out with my friends and we were all fine! How things change…
    Thanks for commenting.

  7. Holly Ann says

    Hmmm…I miss not having any debt. Can I get that back?? LOL

    I find the point you make about anonymity the most poignant. It's odd because I find it both frightening and comforting at the same time. It certainly helps keep me safe from a lot of the bad guys out there, but I sometimes wish that I didn't have to be so searchable myself.

  8. Samantha says

    @Holly Ann I agree, Holly. Even if a person wanted to be completely anonymous it would be almost impossible in this age of Google. You can find anything and anyone online - which is good and bad. The jury's out on this one but it is a bit concerning when you really think about it sometimes.
    Thanks for commenting!

  9. Samantha says

    @Melissa Sharon Hi Melissa, I agree that sometimes it seems like there is too much access to technology. We don't always have to be plugged in but that's the way it goes now.
    Thanks for visiting and I will definitely check out your site :)

  10. championm2000 says

    I miss all the make-believe play. My brother, sister, and I spent hours outside playing with mudpies, making forts, building roads for our matchbox cars…I wonder if my kids will have the same love of outdoors and pretend.

  11. Samantha says

    @championm2000Hi Melissa, I miss that too. Because we didn't have all of the distractions that technology offers, going outside was more appealing I guess. It's sad to think that the fun of playing make-believe and playing outside with friends is not the same as it used to be.
    Thanks for commenting.

  12. Grumpy Grateful Mom says

    Excellent post, very thought-provoking. I am grateful for technology, but I'm not sure it does more good than bad.

    I used to love waking at the crack of dawn on Saturday and anticipating the morning cartoons. Though, as a mom, a like having access to 24/7 cartoons. But, I am guilty of using them too much!

  13. Samantha says

    @Grumpy Grateful Mom I used to get up at the crack of dawn as well just so that I wouldn't miss the Saturday morning lineup. There was something to be said about the anticipation of waiting all week for the cartoons. Now they're on all the time so I guess the thrill is gone somewhat with our kids…There's something to be said about the good old days…

  14. Melanie says

    So so true. Instant gratification is the name of the game now…
    I can't imagine watching TV now without PVRing the show first. Can't stand “waiting” through commercials.

    Definitely my fave memory was getting up early with my older brother to watch cartoons and eat cereal while our parents were still sleeping.

  15. Samantha says

    @Melanie I miss those days as well. I was up at 6am on the weekends to make sure I didn't miss the Saturday morning lineup. Now, you can just find it online or repeated later in the 24-hour channel schedule. Definitely loses its appeal because of this.

  16. Jennifer Pereyra says

    I love this post! My daughters now get frustrated when we are watching TV in real time and I try to explain that we can't fast forward through the commercials!

    However, we still pop popcorn on the stove in this house! :)

  17. Samantha says

    @Jennifer PereyraSo funny about the fast-forward, huh? The fact that kids are so used to zooming through the ads and get frustrated when they can't. So many changes from when I was a kid, I might have to do a “part 2” for this post!

  18. Sharon says

    When I was little if the 5 channels you had, had a kids show on-Great! but most likely whenever you managed to turn on the T.V there wasn’t. My kids watch Way too much television because it’s 24 hours! and right now we have a PVR , (not for long- insert evil laugh) so they record their shows…it’s too easy to let your kids be lazy.
    On a side note…I just started cooking pop corn on the stove (The old fashioned way) I don’t think I’ll ever go back! Tastes much better, pops louder and I give my 3 year old a spatula that she calls a magic wand and we make up spells until one works and the kernels start to pop!
    I love reading your blog, makes me feel like a normal Mom. Thanks.

    1. Samantha says

      Sharon, I too miss the times where there were only a few channels on, there were no PVRs and TV ended at midnight. Now there’s so much more variety and options for kids, it’s a bit overwhelming. It was exciting to anticipate “The Wizard of Oz” coming on TV when we read about it in the TV Guide. Those times are gone. And the popcorn on the stove? That was a memory that I cherish from my childhood as well! Thanks for reminding me - I’ll have to run out and buy some so that my kids can learn that there are other ways to make popcorn than the microwave :)

    1. Samantha says

      Great insight - thank you. I agree that there’s nothing like old-school play and it seems to be a disappearing sport these days. Kids have so much opportunity to use the newer tech toys, gadgets and games that they’ve forgotten how to have simple play - that is with board games, cards and the other things that made up a lot of our childhoods. If there’s a way to get the kids “back to basics” in a sense, then I say do it. With my own daughter, she’s become enamoured with the apparent simplicity of a card game, or Monopoly, the old-fashioned way. There’s something to be said for that interaction that we seem to be increasingly losing these days. While I love tech, I agree - let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.