Childhood has changed. Quite a lot I would say, wouldn't you? I only have to look back at my own childhood to see just how different it is now. Things were so much simpler when I was little and I wonder sometimes if our kids are missing out. Here are some differences between childhood then and childhood now.
Childhood then: You played outside from dawn until dusk
Other people's moms would feed you lunch and not once ask you if your parent's knew where you were. Then you would go play by the creek. After you were done catching minnows, all the neighbourhood kids would gather to play hide and go seek until the street lights came on. If you overstayed the street lights, you might finally hear the sound of your parent calling your name into the night. You ran home.
Childhood now: You are allowed to play in your fenced backyard while a parent diligently does chores near a window so they can keep a close eye. Your mom and dad are secretly worried the whole time that someone will see their 10-year-old in the yard and call children's services. You may also be allowed to ride your bike up and down the sidewalk in front of your house as a parent watches from the front porch, but this will be stretching it.
Childhood then: You excitedly ask for a turn on the Atari. You have two choices of games: Space invaders or Donkey Kong. You have fun playing them but then you turn it off and go back outside. The streetlights aren't on yet, after all.
Childhood now: You ask for a turn with some electronics but are bored with the choices. You only have your tablet, iPod and four different gaming systems to choose from. You finally decide to play a game on the Wii and call it your exercise for the day.
Childhood then: You ask for a snack. A snack is deemed something from the fruit bowl, some yogurt or cheese and crackers. You have a treat only once a week. It's a small bowl of chips and a cup of pop. Every Friday.
Childhood now: You ask your parents for a snack but what you really mean is a treat. No fruit bowl or yogurt for you — you're looking for a bag of chips or chocolate bar. Treats start to replace snacks and soon chocolate bars, chips and cookies become commonplace as "snacks."
Childhood then: Your school lunch is a sandwich on white bread, an apple and a Wagon Wheel. It was the same every day. Your parents didn't really even care that much if you liked it or not. They'd done their job. You were fed. If you took the bait.
Childhood now: A chicken and cheese wrap (your child doesn't like sandwiches) with a side of soup and some quinoa. Cut-up carrot sticks and cucumbers, some cherry tomatoes, a banana, a cheese string and a bag of chips. Don't worry though, most of this stuff is just taking a field trip to the school and will come home unharmed and ready to repack in tomorrow's lunch.
Childhood then: Your parents sign you up for one sport. You bike yourself to all your games. Your parents come to watch once or twice, but you don't need a cheerleader because you are there for you. You enjoy it and get out of it what you want.
Childhood now: A parent is considered sub-par if they don't go to every single game and practice. Heaven forbid they look down at their phone for even a small portion of the practice. The kids need reinforcement and it's the parent's job to supply it.
Childhood then: By the time you were in Grade 3, you were old enough to walk your younger sibling to school. Many kids started even younger. Children rolled into school everyday on their own. Not a parent in sight.
Childhood now: Every child gets door-to-door service from their parents. The new philosophy is 'if a parent isn't there to see the child walk right into the school, do they really make it in?'
Childhood then: Your child is in trouble at school. You march them back by the shirt scruff and demand that they apologize to the teacher and promise to work harder and not disrupt the class.
Childhood now: Your child is in trouble. You march them back to the school and demand a meeting with the teacher, principal and superintendent. No way your little angel would have done what the teacher said. There must have been a misunderstanding.
Childhood then: One birthday party during your entire childhood.
Childhood now: Pinterest-worthy birthday parties are expected every year.
Childhood then: School work. You memorized times tables, you learned cursive writing. You had one computer class and it was in high school.
Childhood now: Everything you do at school is on the computer. Everything. Soon you won't even have to know printing, let alone cursive.
Childhood then: Your neighbourhood friends were your tribe. They were your best friends and playmates. You could go "call on" the neighbourhood kids whenever you were bored.
Childhood now: Everything has to be a prearranged "play date" with a set beginning and ending. And, of course, a nutritious snack (or not-so-nutritious treat) is served halfway though. And watch out, because Mom or Dad might just be part of the play date, too.
Let's give our kids a taste of a good, old-fashioned childhood.
I'm starting to think that our parents might have had it easier than we do as parents. There are just so many rules and social parameters to keep in line with now. Perhaps it's time to seize back at least some of the "feel" of our younger years. Wherever it's safe to do so, let's give our kids a taste of a good, old-fashioned childhood. And let's take a breather for ourselves while we're at it.
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