• Tue, Mar 26 2013

Twinning: I’m Raising My Kids As Laid-Back, Underscheduled Children Of The ’70s And ’80s

parenting styleHaving twins can be the most amazing experience of your life. It can also cause you to wake up in the morning wishing you were someone else. Twinning offers an honest depiction of life with twins from a mom who tries to keep things somewhere in the middle.

I grew up in the late 70′s and early 80′s, and like many children of that era, I like to revel in its awesomeness. My childhood was idyllic: filled with love, relatives, playing outdoors, and only a few scheduled activities apart from school. Things were just simpler then: no Internet, no cell phones, no laptops or iPods. The world wasn’t half as crazy and dangerous as it is today, and parents were more laid back about everything from school to sunscreen. Except for the matching plaid pantsuits we wore, it was a great time to be a kid.

So when I had my son and daughter, I didn’t just fall back on what I knew, I purposely sought it out.

Of course there are plenty of good things going on today in terms of kids’ shows, books and games, but a steady dose of 70’s and 80’s helps me keep the simplicity and innocence of that time in my children’s very modern lives.

Instead of Spongebob’s holiday specials, my twins watch Charlie Brown, the Grinch, and Fat Albert. They watch vintage Electric Company with Rita Moreno and Morgan Freeman (yes THE Morgan Freeman—he was Easy Reader!) They watched “The Magic Garden” on DVD and now watch “Reading Rainbow” on our iPad. When they get older, I can’t wait to bust out “Little House on the Prairie,” “Happy Days” and “The Brady Bunch.”

Kids today have no concept of television that can’t be rewound or recorded. When I was little, my little brother and I would cry as we watched the Magic Garden’s white gates close at the end while Carol and Paula sang, “See ya! Hope you had a really good time, bye now!” But we knew that if we were there on our brown shag carpet in the living room at 3 o’clock the next day, we’d see Carol and Paula again.

For my kids, when the episodes ended on our DVDs, they used to say “Another one!” and I’d say, “Nope, you have to wait until tomorrow. Carol and Paula will be back.” I think having to wait builds character. And if it doesn’t, it at least lets them appreciate our Tivo a little bit.

My kids have loved books since they were born, and while we have plenty of Magic Treehouse, Mercy Watson, and Fly Guy books, the kids’ bookshelves are also filled with the stories, heroes and heroines I loved so much as a kid: The Rescuers, Where the Wild Things Are, Heidi, James and the Giant Peach, Pippi Longstocking and Little House on the Prairie. Junie B. Jones, with all her bad behavior, name-calling and mispronunciation can suck it, because we’ve got Ramona Quimby, who at least tries to be a good kid.

The toys of the 70′s and 80′s are must-haves in my house as well: all the non-electronic fun of Perfection, Trouble, Spirograph and Shrinky Dinks can’t be beat. Thanks to my parents, my twins play with my original View Finder and Fashion Plates set and thanks to my husband’s parents, they play with his old Legos and Matchbox cars. These toys are a treat for me, because I never have to put batteries in them, or listen to them sing the alphabet in three different languages.

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  • Diana

    I want to be your kids.

  • hutch

    Love this! I am a child of the 80′s and want the same thing for my kids! Especially the music part.

  • alice

    great article.

  • Marissa

    Exactly how my childhood was! I’d love to do this, but I’ll go ahead and allow modern music, too (but NOT top 40 b/c…that shit is just intolerable).

  • Mary

    I was OBSESSED with the Magic Garden! I’m going to look for it on DVD!

    • Gloria Fallon

      I got mine on Amazon! Enjoy!

  • Denise

    Love what you’re doing with your kids. I was born in the 60′s and can totally relate. Great read. Took me back to my own childhood which was very similar.

  • Diana

    Please don’t forget classic Sesame Street and The Muppets!

  • Cheryl Lage

    Love you and your family-mode. Have a trong feeling our kids—despite their age difference–would love each other. Now tweens, they’re dipping toes into their peers’ popular culture, but I cling to the memory of my She-Twin at 4 with a picture over her toddler bed that she asked me to xerox of Roger Daltrey — fringed jacket and all. :)

    (We love Fat Albert….and HeeHaw… ;) )

    • Gloria Fallon

      I have no doubt they’d love each other! Our sensibilities are so similar, I knew that in the first few pages of Twinspiration!

  • TngldBlue

    I’m embarrassingly thrilled when my daughter requests The Great Space Coaster or The Muppet Show (seriously, Statler & Waldorf crack me up).

  • AS

    YAY! Love it, I plan on doing this as well, and hope more do the same.

  • Tea

    Pure awesome.

  • Helen Hyde

    Sorry to be Mrs come-down, but aren’t you concerned that when your kids start school, they’ll get picked on if they don’t know what’s cool?

    • Emily

      We have a similar scenario in our house (except for summer camp. I am all over that.), and now that my daughter has started school, it really isn’t a problem. Sure, other kids have DVD players in the car, but the explanation is: not all cars are the same. Other kids have their own ipad, and I explain that we don’t give those to kids in our house (I do have one for my work), and not everyone has the same stuff. They may watch different shows and play differently than some of their friends, but I truly believe in what we are doing, and I think it is OK. They can introduce each other to books, music, etc. And as my wise grandfather used to say, “Isn’t it great we don’t all drive a Ford?”

    • Gloria Fallon

      It’s a valid question. My twins are only 6 so it hasn’t really been an issue yet, as luckily the children in their school haven’t drawn any cool/not cool lines. In Kindergarten my son remarked that he didn’t know how to play Star Wars, so I let him watch the movie (which I think is too much for 5 year olds) I just fast-forwarded through the frightening scenes. My kids are pretty modern in that they know how to operate an iPad, iPhone etc., and they’ve seen a lot of modern kids movies. I’m just building a foundation for them from my own childhood that’s solid and they can grow from. :)

    • C.J.

      Kids learn what’s cool at school on their own anyway. My kids like a lot of the cool things their friends like but they also love all the old things that I introduce them to. I absolutely hate modern music. I never listen to it if I can help it. My kids still learned who the popular artists are from school and dance. They also love all my old music and they don’t care if anyone at school thinks it isn’t cool because they have enough confidence to be themselves and not worry about what their school friends think. My 10 year old loves my old I Love Lucy VHS tapes and my 7 year old is a huge fan of Fraggle Rock. I think introducing kids to all the old things help them to be more versatile in their thinking and not be so stuck on what is cool this week.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      I was going to add that i don’t think all modern things for kids are worthless. I can totally get behind what you’re doing as long as it isn’t excluding everything new, which doesn’t sound like what you’re doing. I especially think technology is important as like it or not it’s here to stay and will play a huge part in our kid’s lives so I think it’s great that you embrace that also.

    • JK Garrett

      I suppose that is valid. Growing up, my parents only played Motown/oldies in the car since my brother and I would fight over stations otherwise (and no cable tv. ever.). We did a loooot of road trips so it was all I knew as far as music (that and Bryan Adams, who at the time, was super cool). But as I grew up and moved (military brat), I realized I didn’t know any of the ‘cool’ or ‘popular’ music and was kind of picked on and automatically outcast a bit. I did fine, mostly because I have Napoleon complex and at that age was scrapper enough to beat prepubescent boys at arm wrestling and that shut them up, but I do remember feeling embarrassed I didn’t know pop culture. Pro: Never into boy bands or obsessive fan-ism. Con: I was teased and felt a bit ostracized…but those people all suck at life now anyways. To this day, I still prefer Bob Dylan, Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Motown. Also not cool, but whatever, at least I have good music to listen to.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Liz-Quere-Slaybaugh/752869341 Liz Quere Slaybaugh

      Please do not think that knowing what is cool is a valid reason to expose your kids to what you do not like because what is cool usually turns out to be not cool in real life. Better to take them to the art museum or a concert in the park to grow their brains.

    • Justme

      But I think part of the reason that old things (like Star Wars) become cool again is because of parents like Gloria that want to share their own childhood with their children. My nephews are HUGE Star Wars fans because my brother was born in 1973 and lived and breathed Star Wars throughout his youth. My daughter is two and her favorite baby doll to play with is a Cabbage Patch because those were my favorites as a child growing up in the 80s. So perhaps other parents of the same generation are doing something similar and her kids aren’t going to be the ones that “don’t know what’s cool.”

      And on another note…I’m not going to introduce my children to things that I don’t feel fit our lifestyle and values just because I want my child to fit in and be cool. That’s utterly ridiculous.

    • Helen Hyde

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to judge anyone’s parenting etc etc, just that personally, I was horribly bullied for being “uncool” and I just want to protect my son from ever having to go through that.

    • Justme

      On one hand, I can empathize with your experiences of being teased, picked on or bullied….but on the other, I disagree with the notion of putting our own experiences and insecurities onto our children. My daughter will be tall and thin like I was, but she might not get picked on for it like I did. Or perhaps if she does, she won’t care and will laugh it off much easier than me. I don’t know – maybe what you’re saying just isn’t translating over the internet, but I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around wanting so badly for my child to be “cool.”

    • Helen Hyde

      Well, I’m not really meaning it like that, and I do like your point about how our kids won’t necessarily react the same way we did (honestly not something that occurred to me, so thank you for that) I just want to remove the “coolness” risk from the equation, I’ll try and give an example… At my grammar school, everyone wore the same, expensive, shoes. Apart from me. And that was such a shallow thing but so important to a child… And if I can give my child the right shoes, it won’t be a big deal anymore and he won’t even care. If he wants to be different I will be happy to encourage him, I don’t want to force him to be different…

  • LiteBrite

    As a child of the 70s, you took me back to my own childhood, and I’ve tried to incorporate at least some of it in my own child’s life. Btw, Target sells the Schoolhouse Rock DVD collection. My son LOVES it.

  • zeisel

    I think this is great what you’re doing. And a lot of parents are taking it further and getting rid of technology that is not necessary. For instance, the kindle, ipad, ipod… etc. Which, I think is also a fantastic idea…

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      As long as the kids are still learning how to use at least some of these gadgets (especially regular computers). Like it or not technology is here to stay and will likely play a part in their careers. I grew up in a house that embraced technology and it held me in good stead. I do roll my eyes when I see an 8 year old with an iPod, a Kindle and an iPad though. They don’t need that stuff.

  • jessica

    As long as you don’t encourage them to grow sea monkeys. I remember my brother and I were so excited. We checked ours like 5o times a day. What a disappointment. Now chia pets on the other hand are way worthwhile.

  • Zoe

    You are my hero! My partner is already picking out viewing material from our own childhoods that our future children will watch. Of course there are good things on today, but we can’t wait to introduce our children to what we loved at their age. There’s nothing like getting back to basics with kids. And teaching children how to entertain themselves, rather than having every moment of every day full of scheduled activities, is an incredibly valuable life lesson.

    Don’t worry about your kids getting teased for having no comprehension of current pop culture. They’ll pick it up through their friends as they get older.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jessica-Weber/1149485644 Jessica Weber

    We’ve been doing something similar with our kids, but I’m learning that not everything from my childhood was that awesome. My 5 year old and I recently finished the first Little House book and when we moved on to the second I totally forgot, or didn’t notice at the time, how completely racist that book is. I’m not trying to be that person who poo-poo’s things, but I’m not sure some of the old ideas are the best ones.

    • C.J.

      I’m really glad I read your comment. I just suggested to my kids that the read my old Little House books. It’s been so many years since I read them that I don’t remember that either. I am going to re-read them before I decide which ones they can read, if any. I don’t want them to read anything that is racist. Thank you.

    • AP

      It’s mostly insensitive comments about Native Americans and some blackface. If it’s problematic, keep it until the kid is old enough to understand how society changes. Maybe 3rd-4th grade, when you start learning history?

    • C.J.

      Thanks, I’m sure my 5th grader will be fine then. She loves history and has an understanding of how much society has changed. I’ll just have my 2nd grader wait a bit.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      That might be a good opportunity to open up a dialog about racism and how attitudes have changed. I wouldn’t censor it simply because it has racist undertones, there is a lesson there. At least that’s my opinion, only you know what’s right for your little ones!

  • Gloria Fallon

    Thank you everyone for all the thoughtful, awesome, 70s-loving comments! I appreciate them all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/courtney.wooten Courtney Lynn

    I love what you’re doing and how you’re still keeping them up to date on current technology. It’s hard to get by in the real world without that basic knowledge. I grew up in the 80s and 90s and I would love to share that with my son. I was telling my husband that I want to find all the Charlie Brown movies and Rugrats.

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  • Ingrid

    Love this! Except for the fact that the world was not at all safer when we were kids. We just didn’t have the same media coverage. :) Way to not succumb to the pressure to over schedule and overcommit. Your twins are lucky!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Liz-Quere-Slaybaugh/752869341 Liz Quere Slaybaugh

    This totally cracks me up! I raised my kids in the 70s and 80s and felt like there were too many scheduled activities and not enough free time like I had when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s. That is when all the moms in the neighborhood were home all day long and we REALLY played outside from morning until the street lights came on. There actually were no sports for girls and I am glad that has changed. I agree that letting kids be kids is a good idea. But just turn the TV off completely–well maybe one special program each day. I guess we all look back at our own childhoods and think it was better then and simpler because it was.

  • 8valvegrowl

    Awesome article. My wife and I grew up in the 80′s and I still remember those idyllic summer days of riding my BMX bike, playing in the woods with cousins and friends, going to the library to get movies or books. We got bored, we had fun, we got to be kids. Now that we have a son of our own, we plan on keeping life laid-back, just like our childhoods. Kids need a chance to be kids, they have a long time to be an adult, why extend it?

    • Gloria Fallon

      Thank you! I agree completely, and I’m so glad you’re planning on giving your son the same kind of childhood we were lucky to have. My brother and I got bored too, and I think that’s a good thing. It forces you to make your own fun, makes you think about what you like to do. And kids grow up so fast these days, letting them just be kids as you say, is the best thing we could do as parents. Thanks again!

  • Artemiss Luminos

    Thank goodness some people still have common sense when it comes to raising kids! :-)

  • cutemonster

    Can’t agree with you more Gloria. I’ve often questioned the need for running around from place to place with the kids. The external and sometimes internal pressure to maximize the productive/educational/developmental time of our kids can be overwhelming. I remember the simpler, slower times of the 70s. As a commenter noted, the 70s were not a safer time but the media was not as pervasive. We’ve lost so much by the intrusiveness of it all. Being connected now translates into less human contact. Striking a balance that can incorporate the more laid back nature of the 70s with the technology laden fury of the present will not be easy. But it’s worth it. We want to give our kids everything and maybe that’s the problem. We should give them less with the exception of our time. – Vincent

  • kwolff

    Great article! My hubby and I talk about our childhood all the time. It is something that both of us remember fondly and hope to share with our kiddos.

  • aubrey petersen

    i love the word underscheduled. as a homeschooling mama this is what we try to do ALL THE TIME…just let them be kids for heaven’s sake.

  • amandalola

    This is very similar to how my twin girls are seeing life in our zoo…I mean house. Got a journal back from school and my daighter’s friends know that her fave TV show is “Tom and Jerry”. Hooray for the ’80s!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=569053894 Rebecca MacEgan

    I have 5 children, ages 16 through 2 years. We decided to simplify our lives, and we did away with cable and now only get netflix and what we can watch on the computer. There are so many 80′s shows available for my kids to watch, and I get to relive my childhood memories! We cannot help but have more modern influences, but my kids have gotten pretty good at helping me to monitor for the younger set. My kids have school, music lessons, religious studies, and a sport, if they want. That is quite enough for me! I still feel like I drive all day long, with different schools, and pickup times, so when vacation rolls around, My kids do nothing! We goof off. Their grandparents can take them camping. I will happily sit on my duff and let them draw and play with toys. Many of my friends think I am too laid back, but I choose happy kids, not a perfectly clean house. I am glad to see another like minded mom out there!

  • http://twitter.com/foundbypat Pat Lathrop

    The world is not more dangerous. We just have immediate reporting and access to every horrific act as it happens. We are living in the most peaceful time in our species existence and US crime rates have steadily decreased since your childhood. Stop perpetuating this myth. And Spongebob rocks.

    http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10tbl01.xls#disablemobile

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2012/03/morals

    • http://www.facebook.com/maresib Maresi Minton Brown

      That’s what I was trying to say. Thanks for the echo. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/maresib Maresi Minton Brown

    Everything you said is wonderful, except for that our world actually *isn’t* more dangerous than it was when we were kids. It truly is safer now, but we just hear about the awful – and exceedingly rare – bad things that happen. Since I found freerangekids.com I have had my eyes totally opened to the reality. I am thrilled that your kids join mine in the group of youngsters being raised by reasonable parents. :-D

  • http://www.facebook.com/TaiChiItaly Roberta West

    Great read. You remind me of how lucky we were! The more laid back the better we are for it, imho.

  • Lefty1

    You described the endless summers of my youth to perfection. For a brief moment there I was back in 1979, carelessly riding my bike around and listening to Foreigner. Thank you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jotunwitch Melissa White

    Sweet Pickles books! The original animated Hobbit! But NO Scouting. Neither my husband nor my brother nor I enjoyed being in Scouts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=648903593 Treasure Brown

    That’s kinda nuts.

    I was born in 1974; hardly were the 70′s and 80′s “ideal”. (gas crisis; disco; no treatment for HIV; mentally ill people turned into homeless people; Crack, THE THREAT OF NUCLEAR WAR)

    Your idea to raise “retro” kids is just foolish. I have never understood this need for nostalgia. Things were not better or worse 30 years ago; they were just different.

    Why stop with “No Spongebob”? WHy not just throw the TV out altogether. Surely, things were even better in the 1950. Or maybe the Amish have the right idea; so go hitch up your buggy.

    Don’t make your kids the “odd” kids in their peer group. It is 2013. Like it or not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ricky.liebig Ricky Liebig

    This is just strange.. Instead of letting your kids choose what they like it seems as if you have it all laid out for them. I would hate to have mommy and daddy constantly telling me what to play with, what music to listen to, etc. You need to find a middle ground.

  • dee4077

    I LOVE this!!! It’s not that the 70s and 80s were SO much better than today, but there were things that did make life simpler. I can’t tell you how many people almost ran into me in the airport today because they had their heads down texting on their phones. Do we really need to be that connected 100% of the time? And the shows for kids were so much better pre-Barney – even the Sid and Marty Kroft ones that we all know now they must have been tripping on something when they wrote them :-) Hopefully you’re including Schoolhouse Rock, too – talk about quality viewing for kids!! Oh, and if you want some good, new music for your kids (and for you, too), check out The Shadowboxers (www.theshadowboxers.com or youtube.com/shadowboxersmusic) – great new band out of Atlanta, rock with a soul/R&B edge, 3 guys with amazing harmonies. Thanks for sharing your parenting world with the rest of us. You have very lucky kids!!

  • Miroslav

    My daughter grew up listening to Yes and Genesis and a lot of classic rock as well as classical music because that is what we like, but when she started elementary school she had the liberty to listen to what is the music of her generation and she was smart enough to choose well, but she knew about stuff of her generation. About having after school activities it has been one of the best things to keep a child away from TV, and she loves sports, so it is not that terrible to have extra activities. About summer camps you do not have to do it every year but give them the chance of experience it, at least once. As for the movies there are very nice movies for young children out of the stereotype DIsney scheme and they have wonderful messages and family values. I wouldn’t hold them in your past. On the contrary look for all the good things you can live together in their time and talk about how things were when you were their age. If you want to give them something good from old times, give them nice and healthy food.

  • Maria

    Let’s remember the ABC After School Special! :)

  • Maria

    Remember the ABC After School Specials! :)

  • Tracey

    As a twin born in the 70s, reading your article was like walking through my Canadian childhood with my sister. I delighted at all the similarities.

  • Mel Cally

    You had me all the way up until you said that Junie B. Jones can suck it, those were my favorite books when I was little.

    I grew up during the 90s and now that I can think back with my young adult mind I too want my kids to have (some of) the same thing as me. All these electronics and gadgets are fun but you can never trade them for imagination. I just want to tell these kids stop using your iPad to draw a picture for mommy and bust out the crayons and markers! Your missing out!

    I watch Little House on The Prairie, Star Trek (original, Next generation, deep space 9, and Voyager), full house, Family Matters, Twilight Zone, Otter Limits, Andy Griffin, Sliders, Quantum Leap, X-Men, Spider-Man, Gargoyles, Johnny Quest, Birdman, etc.

    Music played a big part in my childhood, and can’t wait to share what I grew up with, with my kids. My mom was into classic rock and metal/punk bands and my dad was into Motown, blues, and classical( and since I had older siblings their musical taste influenced me too my brothers 80/90s RnB and Hip Hop, my sisters 90s Pop and Punk/Grunge/Alternative.

    I was that kid who thought The Tempations and N*Sync were from the same era! I had mix CD in middle school of The Beetles, Destiny’s Child, Ottis Redding, Alice Cooper, and Eminem!

    I think if anything I want to pass down my versatile taste in music, so many kids today confide themselves to one type and have no idea what else is out there!

  • Liot

    Aww yiss. They Might Be Giants have some fantastic educational kids-oriented music too, good choice.

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