Parents of a certain age (okay, parents around my age) love to pine for their good ol’ days. We talk about playing outside until the streetlights came on with a wistful tone. We complain about how helicopter parents ruined summer for the rest of us. And we lament about how our kids won’t know the carefree bliss of the summers of our youth.
Except what if they can? What if it is possible for our kids to have an ‘80s-style summer today? What if the nostalgia we have for summers of our youth is alive and well?
Last week, my kids had a couple of friends over. After they had played some Xbox together, puttered in the backyard and got good and bored, I gave them a few dollars to walk to the convenience store – alone– to buy some snacks. From the time they left the house with a few bucks, I didn’t see or hear from them for about 45 minutes. When I looked outside, they were sitting on folding chairs in the garage, watching cars go by while they consumed a metric ton of sugary drinks and candy. If that doesn’t say 1980s summer, I don’t know what does.
I can assure you that it is possible to give our kids the carefree summers of our youth. It just takes a little effort. No, scratch that. It takes the opposite of effort. It takes a hefty dose of “good enough” parenting and a lack of interest, time, or money (or all three!) to create a picture-perfect manufactured-magical childhood.
If you’re looking to give your kids an 80s-style summer like the ones you still reminisce about, here are just a few ways for kids to have an old school summer:
1. Buy a boatload of cheap ass popsicles. Shoo your kids outside to eat as many as they want until they get a brain freeze and their lips are stained blue.
2. Turn on the sprinkler. The rest will take care of itself.
3. Ride bikes around the neighborhood until they find some other friend to play with.
4. Host a sleepover. On a weeknight.
5. Go to the public pool. Kibitz with adults on the side while your kids play Marco Polo and jump off the diving board. (Of course, this assumes your kids know how to swim unsupervised. DO NOT USE LIFEGUARDS AS BABYSITTERS. That was rude and unsafe in the ‘80s, and it’s rude and unsafe now.)
6. Say “yes” to the ice cream truck. (Just make sure to have some cash on hand.)
7. Make a block party happen. No bouncy house needed. Just throw down a few chairs and a blanket in the middle of the road. Grab some of those popsicles mentioned in #1. Boom. Done. Instant magic.
8. Send your kids outside and tell them not to come back in until it’s dinner time.
9. Drink water from the hose.
10. Buy a shit ton of sidewalk chalk and let kids “decorate” the back deck or driveway.
11. Let them ride scooters around the neighborhood.
12. Ignore them for long stretches of time.
13. Let your kids play in the sandbox. Ignore the parents who freak out about dirt and germs and animals using the sandbox as their toilet.
14. Turn off the A/C for the day until everyone figures out new ways to cool off.
15. Forego kids’ baths/showers for several days in favor of a good chlorine cleansing.
16. Shun the guilt and shame when they have a marathon Xbox tournament with their friends. Hey, we had Mario Bros.; they have Fortnite and NBA 2K.
17. Serve cereal for dinner. (Side note: this one isn’t reserved for summers.)
18. Find a lake, throw some drinks in the cooler, and go there. Sit on a towel while the kids splash and play.
19. Let them play ghosts in the graveyard.
20. Watch tv for hours on end.
21. Give your kids a ten spot and send them to the convenience store for Slurpees and peanut butter Twix. (Consuming said junk food in the garage is optional.)
Of course, not everyone lives in a neighborhood where you can just shove your kids out the backdoor with a friendly “see ya!” Not everyone can have an unscheduled summer. And not everyone has the space to frolic in random water spouts from the hose.
So when all else fails and you’re still feeling nostalgic, just turn on an ’80s playlist and impress your kids with your ability to know every single word to “Take On Me,” “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Rapper’s Delight.” Show them your best moves. Boom! Instant throwback summer.
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