“Back in my day, kids roamed the neighborhood without supervision and nobody had these fancy birthday parties,” says yet another article about how childhood was different “back then.” While the world has changed for the good and the bad, I feel like my children’s experience isn’t all that different in some ways than mine or even my mom’s. Looking forward, it’s different in so many good ways as well.
Like my parents’ childhood, my kids will be able to walk and bike to our town’s downtown area by themselves long before they could drive there. They’ll meet up with their friends at their houses and the park, to play basketball, run around, or just “hang out.” They’ll learn how to cook, handle knives, do laundry, and build fires. They’ll have close relationships with their grandparents, one set of whom lives nearby. (And thank goodness for technology that enables the relationship with the other set!)
Like my childhood, they’ll spend hours outside, daydreaming and pretending. Like my husband’s childhood, they’ll play frustrating video games until their mom (me) kicks them outside or tells them to go read something. Like both of our childhoods, they’ll spend so much family time together on weekends they won’t know what to do with it, whether it’s biking to get ice cream, going to museums, or camping. On Halloween, they go go trick-or-treating around the neighborhood and eat far too much candy. They’ll have free time galore and some organized activities if they really want to sign up for them. They’ll travel to some National Parks and maybe one day if things work out, other countries too. They already volunteer to help others and learn about how they are obliged to share what they have.
Like kids now and in the future, they’ll have friends and classmates who are more diverse than previous generations. They’ll learn about injustices earlier - and know how to push back against them. They’ll have opportunities to learn about a wider variety of others’ experiences. They’ll be more connected than ever before and communicate with people from around the world in an instant.
Like kids always, they’ll face an uncertain future. Like generations before had potential nuclear war, they have school shootings and climate change. Like generations before had race riots and segregation, they’ll deal with the inequality of the justice system.
While some of these characteristics of their childhoods are beyond our control, others are the result of our choices - the neighborhood we live in, the time spend we spend together, the values we live out every day.
Sometimes, the best childhood for your kids - and the best life - is not a throw-back to the past, not looking forward to the future, or even merely accepting what is in the present. It’s taking the best of all of them and making them your own.