Not All the “Good Old Days” were Good

PERSPECTIVES


Op-Ed by PETER MAURER

My mom, a survivor of the Great Depression, had a favorite saying: “The good old days weren’t all good.”

And because of that statement, I sometimes frown when I see a meme or a post on Facebook comparing the kids who grew up in the 1960s and 70s with youngsters today. You’ve seen them, a list of the things we did as kids that make today’s kids look like wimps.

Riding a bike without helmets, cars without seatbelts and airbags, drinking water from the hose, and riding a bike over to a friend’s house when you got the busy signal on the landline – these are just a few of the comparisons made, but no matter how much ‘fun’ is intended, I think the point that many of my generation miss is that we would be just like kids today if we were their age.

Yes, we rode bikes everywhere, but let’s face it, most of us grew up in towns where there weren’t many 5 and 6-lane roads, and we drank water from the hose because no one had yet thought of a marketing scheme to get people to actually pay for water in a disposable, plastic bottle – unless you wanted to lug around a military canteen.

Safety was not the issue it is today, so bike helmets were nonexistent. Playground equipment was not designed with safety in mind, and no one had thought about putting down wood chips or a spongy base to absorb falls.

We went over to a friend’s house to hang out or talk, and we often played board games – or made up our own fun – because that’s all there was. We shoveled snow by hand, mowed our own yards, and raked our own leaves.

Today, kids play on their phones, text one another rather than meeting in person, and have an enormous selection of games and fun diversions to while away the time. Only now, they’re called apps. Many of us have lawn services and snow throwers to do the yard work.

Are kids different from when we were kids? Yes. But were we different from our parents when we were young? Absolutely. And that is the mistake that many older people make when lamenting about the “soft, lazy, and dumb” kids of today – they often forget that their parents made the same types of remarks.

Why? Progress.

It is true of every generation of kids that they seem to not have the same chores we did as kids, are not as physically active, eat more junk food, seem not to work as hard in school, ad nauseum.

But the truth is this – if we were young today, we would be doing the same things that today’s kids are doing. They are growing up in a world different from ours, and different yet from our parents.

If we were young today, we would text our friends to see if they could get together before going over to their house. We would communicate with social media and play games online rather than talking on the phone or playing Monopoly in the basement.

We would learn differently in school, dress differently, listen to different kinds of music, just like our parents did, and as we did back in the day.

I see the next generation every day of my life, and for my money, they are smarter, learn better, get along better, and will do just fine later in life – despite the number of challenges we left behind for them.

I have great faith in today’s younger generation. And let’s face it, warm water from a hose sucked.