I admit that it does seem that there was more family time when I was younger. After supper (always at the table), my brothers, sisters and I would watch "Family Ties," "The Cosby Show," or a few other family themed sitcoms -- at least, we called it watching.
My dad yelled, "Shut up! I'm watching a show," and we all sat quietly until it was over. Besides family time and having fewer distractions, there are many changes for the better.
At my school, a student could smoke in grades seven, age 12-13, until age 16, with a permission slip from home. After 16, students could smoke without a slip. We did have a designated smoking area that had an equal amount of teachers and students -- I still remember the smoke billowing out from the teacher's lounge when teachers entered or left.
I also remember our lack of expedient and accurate information. All of our information came from the news, a newspaper, or hearsay. We lacked sufficient ways to verify fact from fiction and we often acted out of fear. When news about the new disease AIDS broke, schools in St. Louis had separate water fountains for the infected few, people were buying mosquito nets because they believed the mosquitoes could spread the disease, and there was a public outcry demanding to know who was infected. In addition, hate crimes against people who lacked in hyper-masculinity grew. Today, we have an over-abundance of incorrect and inaccurate text message and e-mail forwards, but we can quickly fact-check the information thanks to the Internet.
I, or anyone else, could be without supervision for hours without a way for our parents to contact or check on us. If you were hurt or were in need of immediate help, you had to wait for someone to run to a house or gas station to find a telephone. Because of that, I believe my generation got away with much more than kids do today.
Fashion was a tool used to separate the social classes. There were still specialty shops that sold specialty items: Levi Strauss only sold pants; shoe stores only sold shoes, and if you couldn't afford name brand clothing, you wore clothes from Walmart or the Dollar Store and you stuck out like a sore thumb. I know that many of you remember wearing the cheap tennis shoes that slowly lost their soles from front to back. These shoes made a constant smacking sound as you walked and you had to pick the bale of grass out from between the shoe and the sole before entering school or any other building. Now, there are plenty of stores that sell imitation clothing that only bears a different logo or name.
I grew up in the 1980s in Desoto, Mo. The girls had big hair, really big hair! One of my cousins would lay backwards on the couch with her head off the arm and would spray half a can of Aqua Net into her bird's nest, teased hair. My generation gave the world the Atari, Star Wars and its unique following, the Mullet, the rattail, off-the-shoulder collarless sweatshirts, penny loafers, untied high-top tennis shoes, pegged pants, stone/acid washed jeans, and MTV -- you're welcome.
By the way, the 80s clothing is again gaining footholds in pop culture. Yea.
What does it all mean? Very little. The previous generation had less self-esteem than kids have today, and they achieved what they worked for unlike the kids of 2011. I think today's children have too many distractions. Text messaging, Facebook and video games would take over my kid's lives if I allowed it, but it's up to me to control it. In the end, would I really turn back time, if I could?
No thank you.
Once was enough.