It is hard to define a generation’s significance when you are in the throes of everyday life, speaking the lingo, wearing the latest trends, listening to the music that is current and talking about topics of the day. For ‘80s kids, we had no idea that our decade would end up being the last little nugget of innocence in a world that was about to be revolutionized by technology with a subsequent decline in face-to-face interactions.
At the time, it felt like nothing in our generation was special. We didn’t have the cool music that marked the ‘60s or the hip clothing of the ‘70s. Some might even say our clothing was a little off–what with parachute pants and Madonna gloves. And as teens, we were hardly creating a movement that might evoke widespread changes. But, as children, we kind of had it made.
We were free. My children will never know the freedom of walking out the door at dawn, with the only expectation being that they return at dark, but I do. There was something powerful about navigating through a typical day as a 12-year-old on her own. Decisions like where to go—Should I swim in Lake Huron unattended or walk to the store on a secluded road a mile from home? Kraft Mac and Cheese for lunch again for the third day in a row? Sure! Bike ride to town, crossing lanes of traffic like a pro? Those were the kinds of questions we answered for ourselves every day, and lived to tell about them that night.
We were connected. No, I don’t mean connected to the internet or well-connected on Facebook with hundreds of pseudo friends. I mean we sat and talked to each other for hours building relationships with words and facial expressions and emotions. It was quite wonderful. When hanging out with friends or having a sleepover, we lived for every second of time shared with our friends. Today, I cringe when I walk by my kid’s room and see everyone on a different device. The other day while waiting for takeout food I witnessed a table of three young ladies obviously having lunch with their grandfather who was desperately trying to have a conversation. All the girls had their noses buried in their phones, barely looking up to acknowledge the old guy who kept rambling on pretending not to notice their rudeness. That would have never happened in the ‘80’s–do you know why? We didn’t have phones and we did have manners.
We ate everything. If you were an ‘80s kid, then you grew up on Pop rocks, bologna sandwiches, Tab and Gasp! peanut butter sandwiches. It may have not been the healthiest of diets, but then, we didn’t have to worry about eating gluten free, gmo’s, and organic vs. non-organic. You ate the tomatoes straight out of the field, cherries right from the tree, and if your Cheetos dropped on the ground, you scraped off the dirt and kept on eating. Even though my parents worked, it was still expected that at 6:30 each night we would all gather at the table and eat together. What a novelty as compared to today’s standards of “at least everybody ate,” even if it was in separate rooms or in the car on the way to one of their activities.
We were competent. I was a latchkey kid from the time I was in Kindergarten through high school Graduation. And you know what? It allowed me to learn how to function in a household, albeit by trial and error. I could cook without burning the house down, knew how to make beds and vacuum before I could spell my name, and had the wherewithal to get my homework done before the folks pulled up. I could work through “emergencies” such as lights out during a storm, dogs getting loose, and accidentally sucking the vacuum cord up without calling 911, which we did not have. I worry about today’s kids, even my own, who though highly gifted, still manage to microwave a fork now and again.
Though we certainly cannot turn back the clock and regain the innocence of generations lost, hopefully we are instilling a sense of independence into our children. It’s tough when the world they walk in is far harsher than what we experienced. Our apprehension and mistrust of others is well-placed when tragedies happen so frequently we become numb to the news. There is an innocence and lesson to be extracted from living through a time when technology did not consume us. I feel privileged to have dressed in my boat shoes and Izod’s, while listening to Men at Work on my Walkman. We had no idea how fortunate we were, but time has firmly cemented the ‘80s as one of the last bastions to childhood freedom. Photos courtesy of I love the 80s Facebook page.
photos from Deposit Photos