As I tracked my son’s cell phone with a GPS app on my phone while simultaneously texting my daughter as she rode home from school on the bus, I chuckled to myself at how different my parenting experience is from that of my parents’. From apps designed to alert us when our teens are speeding behind the wheel to car seats that rival the harnesses used for astronauts being propelled into space, parenting today is a whole lot safer.
As the old joke goes, it really is a wonder we survived our childhoods. And drinking from a garden hose and staying out all day long without cell phones and unsupervised were the least of our problems. Little did we know, parenting was damn dangerous back then:
Smoking and drinking alcohol while pregnant was just fine.
Although my mother wasn’t a smoker, I can distinctly remember my friend’s hugely pregnant mother barking at us to play outside as she took a deep drag of the Virginia Slim between her lips. And no one thought twice about downing a beer or two while pregnant back then. Knowing what we know now about consuming alcohol and smoking during pregnancy, it’s downright shocking. I once ordered a glass of wine two days before I delivered my second child and I received a lecture from waitress. Slow your roll, lady. My mom did it, too, okay?
Sitting in the wayback of station wagons was NBD.
My brothers and I used to love to annoy the fuck out of the drivers behind us as we did blowfish and gestured wildly from the way back of our 80s-style station wagon. Nowadays, as I taxi my children all over town in my SUV with airbags, fancy seatbelts and other safety features, I say a prayer of thanks that we weren’t in an accident when I was a kid. Sometimes, though, I catch a glimpse in the rear view mirror of what my brothers and I must have looked like to my mom and it makes me a little wistful that my parents were so blissfully ignorant.
Car seats and seat belts weren’t a thing.
The baby just sat in the front seat on Mom’s lap and the kids rolled around unrestrained in the backseat as the family headed to church or the supermarket. A mother’s arms were considered as safe as a five-point harness is today and no one thought it the least bit odd that little Johnny could sneak up behind Dad and cover his eyes while he was driving. Seriously? Could you imagine looking over at a stop light and seeing a baby sitting on someone’s lap these days? #TheMoreYouKnow
No one knew about the dangers of secondhand smoke.
My father smoked like a chimney when I was a kid and, to this day, the smell of pipe smoke brings back fond memories. And he smoked his pipe right in the middle of our family room, making funny smoke rings with his mouth to amuse us. There’s no telling how much secondhand smoke I was exposed to as a kid but, frankly, the research we have today just wasn’t available.
We ate raw cookie dough by the spoonful.
Okay, I admit, I still sneak cookie dough from time to time because I’m a badass and I’m not afraid of salmonella. Some habits will never die.
Kids were left home for hours on end. With knives. And scissors.
My generation were the OG latchkey kids. We came home to empty homes while our parents were at work and we stayed alone until well after dark. Sure, we had home phones, but if we went out to ride our bikes or play at the park until our parents got home, no one had any idea where we were at any given time. We were literally running with scissors for most of our childhood. And we turned out just fine, right? Mostly.
Sitting in the back of a moving pickup truck was okay.
Seriously, parents what were you thinking? Not asking for a friend. Asking for me.
Helmets weren’t a thing, either.
Whether it was careening down our street on our banana seat bikes or hitting the slopes with our garish snowsuits, we were not wearing helmets to protect our noggins. I can’t tell you the number of times I fell off my bike and whacked my head on the cement when I was a kid. I have to be honest, even though parenting back in the 80s was probably more enjoyable, I’m glad my kids have to wear helmets.
Cribs and crib bedding were death traps.
My younger brothers used to delight in helping each other climb in and out of the crib in their bedroom. My mother tells stories of hearing loud thumps from their bedroom during naptime as they flung themselves over the side of the railings. And I can remember one time when my youngest brother got his head stuck between the rails and he howled for my mother to rescue him. Their crib was filled with blankets, pillows and other comforts that we now know are dangerous for babies to have near them while they are sleeping. We were sleeping in actual death traps, people.
Sure, our parents tell us we are raising a generation of kids that are overprotected and who can’t fend for themselves in the “real world.” Sorry, Mom and Dad, but just because we survived riding shotgun on your lap and we didn’t suffer permanent brain damage when we fell off our bikes doesn’t mean we “turned out just fine.” And, I give my kids full permission to yell at me for my parental wrong-doings 20 years from now.
Hopefully, by then, they’ll have figured out how to make cookie dough safe for everyone.