Image: Warner Bros
Ahhhhh, the '80s were a simpler time, weren't they? A simpler, more dangerous time, LOL. As children of the '80s and '90s, our childhoods looked a lot different than what our own kids are experiencing. The clothes, food, TV shows, activities - we've come a long way! Things are also a bit safer these days, if we really think about it. It's kind of insane to think about what we were allowed to do and what was considered "normal" back when we were kids. Safety was sort of an afterthought. Not because people wanted kids to get hurt, but because that's what it was! But there was also a sense of community back then. Without the constant connection of cell phones and social media, we relied on each other. There are definitely things you did as a kid that would absolutely horrify you if your kids did them today, though.
Here's the thing: just as our childhoods looked much different than our parents' did, our kids' childhoods are a far cry from what we grew up with! And there's nothing wrong with that, really. Sure, most of us have great memories of being a kid. But when we know better, we do better, right? Still, it's funny to look back and compare the differences. We all survived, and made it through (relatively) unscathed. While the things you did as a kid might make for some great memories, the would probably lead to a lot of gray hairs if your own kids did them though.
Image: Hughes Entertainment
We spent a lot of time at home alone when we were kids. And not at what we consider an appropriate age to be left home alone, LOL. It's sort of amazing how much trust our parents had in us and the rest of the population. That's ... not a thing we do anymore. In fact, parents can get in a lot of trouble now for leaving their kids home alone! In a lot of states, it's actually illegal to leave kids home alone under the age of 9 or 10, sometimes even older. It's weird, because with the technology we have now, it's probably safer than it has ever been! Back then, we just locked the doors and hoped everything would be fine, ha!
It went a little something like this: "Ma, I'm going to Jenny's!" "OK, be back for dinner at 7!" So you left the house at 8 a.m. and just ... stayed gone. For hours. ALL DAY. Maybe your mom and Jenny's mom were cool and called each other on that weird wall phone. Most likely, your mom only had a vague recollection of who Jenny's mom even was. But it was fine! It was the 80's. You said you would be at Jenny's, so you were fine. We didn't have pagers or cell phones or tracking devices in backpacks. If you weren't home for dinner at 7, surely your mom would start looking for you ... 12 hours after you left the house. CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE?! The things you did as a kid were terrifying, LOL.
Um, wow. This definitely falls into the "when we know better we do better" category. Smoking was everywhere in the 80's. Literally, you could smoke cigarettes EVERYWHERE. In restaurants, in malls, on PLANES. We all walked around smelling like an ashtray. A lot of our parents smoked around us at home and in the car, and we just sat there sucking up all those carcinogens. Obviously, we would never expose our own kids to that kind of health risk, and smoking in public spaces is banned in most parts of the country. We're sure there are still parents who (unfortunately) smoke around their kids. But at least it's not considered normal or OK anymore.
In all honest, we probably didn't even own a helmet when we were kids. Despite the fact that we rode our bikes everywhere! Head injuries? Pffffffft, we ain't afraid of no head injuries! Riding a bike, scooter, or skateboard without a helmet now is just something we don't allow. Now, there are some universal helmet laws on the books in some states, like California. But generally speaking, it's not really illegal in a lot of places. It really should be illegal, but what are you going to do, right? You may have risked a head injury when you were a kid, but we're sure you keep your own child's noggin well-protected.
Thankfully, car seat safety has come a looooooong way since we were kids. Not only in how car seats are made and some of the safety features included now, but in how we use them! For starters, we actually use them nowadays. Back in our day, as soon as we outgrew our infant seat, we were pretty much on our own with a seat belt. There weren't very many options! We have a distinct memory of sitting on a phone book so the chest strap didn't hit us right in the face. Now, we keep our kids in car seats until they're toddlers, and in boosters until they're in middle school. Which is fine, because it keeps them safe. On the other hand, we're pretty sure our parents didn't have to deal with car seat shaming!
Listen, there definitely WAS sunscreen when we were kids. But our parents just didn't really use it very often, did they? We had tan lines for days, pretty much all year long. And don't get us started on the sunburns! Did your mom ever tell you it was OK to burn at the beginning of the summer, because it set your base color? No? Just us? Cool. Kids walked around red as lobsters and peeling like snakes all summer long. Skin cancer, schmin schmancer! These days, we slather our kiddos in the highest SPF we can find and reapply every 30 minutes, even when it's cloudy and cold.
That was THE BEST. It was also ridiculously dumb and dangerous, LOL. You got excited when you found out a new friend had a parent with a truck, because that meant truck rides! Just pile the kids into the flatbed and step on the gas. Never mind that there's literally zero safety measures in place back there. You'd shift back and forth during turns like it was a carnival ride. Bruises? More like fun spots, right? Was this illegal back then? We don't even know. HIGHLY illegal now though. Sorry kids, you'll never know the joy of the wind in your hair doing 60 down the freeway in the back of a pickup truck.
Image: Action Point
It was like survival of the fittest out there when we were kids. Everything was metal and burned your ass. Slides were tall enough that it took a minute to climb the ladder. Soft padding under the equipment? HA! Maybe for BABIES. It was like American Ninja Warrior for kids. Nowadays, everything is BPA-free plastic or wood and the ground is covered in rubber. Gotta protect our precious babies, right? But we can't help but feel a little nostalgic for the playgrounds of our childhood. Those spinning contraptions were the absolute best. You could really fly once you built up enough speed!
TV dinners were a regular part of the meal plan in most homes. And why not?! They were easy, fast, and we didn't care too much about little things like sodium and processed food. There was an entire line of microwaveable meals created just for kids! Remember Kid Cuisine? They had kid-favorites like mac and cheese, "chicken" nuggets, and always some sort of gelatinous dessert like pudding. The fact that they called it "cuisine" is still funny. But man, we loved those things. We're a bit choosier about what we feed our own kids. The free-range, organic, GMO-free thing has gotten a little out of control, but nutrition is important!
Image: Comedy Central
To be honest, our moms had the right idea. Shopping with kids is the worst! But god forbid you leave your kiddos in a locked car these days. People will smash your window if they see a stuffed animal now, it's a little extreme. Our moms didn't even take the keys out of the ignition most of the time, LOL. We guess they assumed that no one would actually want to steal a car full of kids. And they trusted that we wouldn't start the car and go for a joyride. Not that we weren't tempted! But it was no uncommon to walk through the parking lot of a store and see kids just waiting in parked cars.
Image: WB Kids
Maybe "trust" is the wrong word. The reason the things you did as a kid did NOT include going AWOL or wilding out was because we lived under the constant threat of being smacked. Like, all our parents had to do was reach for the switch and we shaped up REAL FAST. Of course, once again, when we know better we do better. Spanking is not effective and cruel, and we don't do that anymore. And the whole "well we turned out fine" argument doesn't really apply. A lot of kids didn't turn out fine, and we have better disciplinary tools at our disposal now. But back then? Regular occurrence in most households.
Once you were old enough to reach the lock on the door and open the fridge, congratulations! You became the babysitter. Didn't matter if you were 8 and your little brother was 9 months old. You were left "in charge" when mom and dad went out at night or had to work. Again, it's sort of bananas to think about now. We had no cell phones, no nanny cams, no video doorbells. Baby got sick? Well, mom and dad would be home eventually. Knock on the door when you weren't expecting guests? Open it, let's see who it is! Now, we pay out of our noses for reliable, responsible, ADULT sitters. And we don't use them often, because it's expensive!
A mini microwave oven that we could sit right next to and watch as the waves fried our brains? Seems legit! The toy industry, like car seats, has come a long way. Sure, lead paint might last longer, but our kids won't be chowing down on those paint chips! Toys guns that shot little pellets? Yeah, that's not going to happen now. Plastic loaded with cancer-causing chemicals? We cut those out, too. We had an actual metal po-go stick with exposed springs, and you bet your ass we still used it even after it sliced up the inside of our leg! Kids these days are soft, man.
Image: Animation Domination High-Def
We knew our neighbors, so it wasn't unusual to get a homemade brownie or other treat in our trick-or-treating bag. Even if we walked miles to another neighborhood (which we did a lot), who cared?! Simpler times, remember? Sure, every couple of years the news reported on some needle-in-a-caramel-apple scare. But did that stop us? Nope. We just cut into the apples before scarfing them down. When our own kids go trick-or-treating, we carefully inspect every single piece of candy and toss anything with a wrinkled wrapper. If we found an actual homemade treat?! God forbid, we'd probably toss the whole damn bag!
Image: Revolution Studios
It happened at least once a week in the summer. You were out playing with your friends, with strict orders to be home by dark. But then the sun started to go down, and you didn't want to go home. Or your friend's mom was ordering pizza for dinner while your mom was making liver and onions. So you and your friend hatched a plan, you got their mom to call your mom, and voila! Suddenly you were sleeping over. There were 2-3 day stretches when we literally never came home. If our kids tried to pull that crap? Not a chance. We are planners. We can't do this last-minute stuff.
Image: Universal Pictures
This happens to us ALL THE TIME: we find a movie that was one of our favorites when we were a kid, and think, "Oh, my kids would love this movie!" So we watch it. And 20 minutes in, you remember just how much the ratings standards have changed in the last 30 years. Movies made for actual children in the 80's would score an easy R rating these days. Cussing and sex and violence and smoking - in every single one! It's actually pretty hilarious. We still let our kids watch them, but we don't really advertise that to other parents, LOL. They're classics!
No shoes? No problem! Kids running around barefoot was par for the course. Our feet were so calloused that we could've stepped on a rusty nail and the nail would have crumbled into dust. We ran around streets and parks and woods without shoes on. We just learned where the dangers were and hopped over them! Kids in stores without shoes? It was weird to see a kid in a store actually wearing shoes. See, the thing is, we got one or two pairs of shoes A YEAR. We had school shoes, and nice shoes. Those shoes needed to last the whole damn year, even if we outgrew them. You just curled your toes and lived with the pain.
"Mom, dad let me drive home from the store!" "That's nice, sweetie!" This was honestly the highlight of our life when we were kids. Your mom or dad would pull over before turning down your street, put you in their lap, and let you steer the car home. Just ... what in the actual hell. Remember who much shit Britney Spears got when she drove with her baby on her lap? She is clearly an 80's kid, because we all did that. Obviously, your parents still controlled the gas and brake. But they would just let you guide that station wagon home like you were a licensed driver and not, you know, an actual child. We don't even let our kids sit in the passenger seat when the park is parked in the driveway.