When I was a kid…


1. Trophies really meant something

Like I had to be in ballet for five years before I got a participation trophy. FIVE!!! And sports trophies came in different sizes so that the person who got first place got a bigger trophy than second and third. Duh, reality.

2. Birthday parties were low-key

They didn’t cost hundreds of dollars and they were usually in someone’s backyard and maybe there was a piñata… if it was fancy. But for the most part we were just let loose to play with twenty of our friends and it was like the biggest most awesome playdate of the year. Oh, and the birthday kid opened the presents AT the birthday party and we all stood around and watched him get showered with presents and we were okay with it.

3. We didn’t watch movies in the car

We had to entertain ourselves and if we were bored we played games like “only let the car move you” and everyone would have to go limp and just let the car move them. And there weren’t five-point harnesses so whenever the car turned left or right you’d flop around and the game didn’t end until all the kids ended up in a giggling pile on the floor.

4. Halloween costumes were homemade

So you had to use your imagination to come up with an idea and you couldn’t change your mind at the last minute and beg your mom to order a new one on Amazon to get here by tomorrow.

5. If you didn’t eat your veggies, you didn’t get dessert


6. Everyone watched TV at 7:00

And we all watched the same TV shows at the same time, so we would sit at the lunch table the next day and talk about last night’s 90210 and how Brenda and Dylan broke up and no one at the table would yell, “NOOOOOOO, don’t tell me, I haven’t watched it yet!!!!”

7. And there was no such thing as fast forwarding through commercials

So everyone knew things like “Hey, Kool Aid!!” and “You sank my battleship!” and “Pretty sneaky sis.”

8. My mom didn’t complain to the teacher

If I didn’t do well on a test, you know what I did? I worked harder the next time. And if I didn’t get put in the same group as my friends, I sucked it up. And if I didn’t make the team, I had a good cry and moved on. My mom never called the teacher to complain. Not when I was 7, not when I was 12, and definitely not when I was in college.

8. It wasn’t all instant gratification

Like you couldn’t just stream a movie on the Internet. So on Saturday nights you went to Blockbuster, where there was a wall full of new releases but if the case didn’t have a VHS tape behind it, you were SOL and had to wait until next week. Or if you REALLY wanted it, you could walk to the front and ask, “Did anyone turn in Gremlins?” and they’d usually say, “Nope,” but sometimes they’d look in the return bin and say, “You’re in luck,” and you’d be like, “SCORE!!” and then you’d go home but you still couldn’t watch it right away because you had to rewind it first.

9. If you wanted a song, you had to buy the whole album

Or you could record it off the radio, so if someone made you a mixed tape, a song might suddenly be interrupted by the DJ saying something like “And that’s the end of another Hot Jam Hits Hour brought to you by Aquanet, the best hairspray to hold in your hot dog bangs.”

10. Sports weren’t over-the-top

If you played a sport, it was one practice a week, one game a week, academics came first, and it wasn’t like you weren’t training to be the Olympics. Oh, and the parents who watched it from the sidelines shouted stuff like, “Big kick!!” or “Go get’m, tiger,” instead of, “If your kid pushes my kid again, I’m gonna beat the crap out of you.”

11. Kids weren’t treated like delicate little flowers

They walked to school. They weren’t constantly entertained. They respected grownups and called them Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So. They had to do chores. Organic wasn’t a thing yet. Every mean comment wasn’t called bullying. Kids had to wait a whole week for the next episode. Hand sanitizer wasn’t invented yet. Movie theaters weren’t sloped. Kids didn’t get cake pops every day. And when boys asked girls to the prom, they just called them on the phone and asked. Etc etc etc.

And I’m not saying it was perfect, and we’re still all a little F’ed up, and I know I sound like an old geezer when I complain, but when I was a kid, things were a little bit harder. And maybe that was a good thing.

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There are 25 comments for this article
  1. mardijoy at 10:39 am

    Yes! Yes! and Yes!

    (Except our movie theaters were sloped, not stadium style sloped, but there was a definite slope. And, there was a sweet spot to the slope.)

    • BabySideburns at 10:43 am

      Ha ha ha, so true!! They were slightly sloped and you’re so right about the sweet spot. And if someone accidentally dropped their candy, you would hear it roll down the entire theater!

  2. SaraCVT at 10:50 am

    Have you shouted “Get off my lawn!” yet. I’m older than you, but some of these sound like my grandpa saying “When I was a kid, we had to walk a mile to school IN THE SNOW! And we LIKED it!” Some points are valid, but some just sound like Mom needs to get a grip. ?

    • Crystal at 1:24 pm

      Actually she’s not the one who needs to get a grip. It’s the helicopter, “can I speak to your manager”, “why doesn’t your daughter want to be friends with my daughter”, “I know I’m a week late on registering my son for soccer, but I talked to a coach from a totally different school who told me my son can be on his team so since you’re the Soccer Association President you need to put my son on that team” parents that need to get a grip!

  3. Tanya Birman at 11:58 am

    “…but you still couldn’t watch it right away because you had to rewind it first.” LOL! I sure don’t miss that. But you’re right. Things were harder but we appreciated things more and life was just more fun!

  4. Crystal Hamaker at 12:01 pm

    I’m older than you too, however I experienced all of the things you mention and so many more! There is a fantastic Alice In Chains “Love Hate Love” live video in like 1992. Layne Staley says; “I had to walk 6 miles in the snow to school. Did you know that?” And someone in the audience yells; “UPHILL!” Layne replies “Uphill! excellent answer!” Every time I see the video I think; “we ALL KNEW EXACTLY WHAT HE WAS SAYING” because we’d heard it from our parents, ooooorrrr WE actually DID walk to school…IN THE SNOW! Lol

  5. A. Parker at 2:23 pm

    If you wanted your parent to pick you up from somewhere, you would call collect from a payphone, say “It’s me”. Then your parent would not accept the call & go pick you up. We also had to actually ‘roll down’ the car windows.

    • BabySideburns at 2:55 pm

      Bwhahahahaha, I remember these collect calls!!! And I also remember later on having the longest calling card number and dialing it on a rotary phone.

      • Jacqueline D Burke at 11:30 pm

        I had my calling card number memorized, of course I didn’t Gerry one until I was a sophomore in college and I STILL took public transportation and called my parents collect when I got off at the “closest” bus stop from the trailer park; 6 miles from the trailer park. I rode my bike everywhere when I was in Jr & High School, knowing fully well that some jackass with a hand-me-down POS junker pick-up truck with a nearly blown gasket, exhaust held up by bailing wire and nightly prayers would flatten the tires and wait around the corner of the Shop/Agricultural building laughing at the fat girl with flat bike tires.
        Sometimes the memories are sweet yet there’s that underlying bitterness that you just can’t seem to get out of your mouth/ memory.
        But…. The THRILL you got when you pedaled like a “Bat Out Of Hell” with BonJovi’s “Slippery When Wet” cassette tape in your birthday “Walkman”; the REAL one, not some Chinese or Taiwanese knockoff labeled as “waiknan” and was sold in the lost aisles of a shady Southside FleaMarket (there MAY have been more than fist fights held there). This was the REAL F-KING DEAL AND JENNIFER, HEATHER, MELONEY, and MEMORY COULD JUST SUCK IT!! That thrill!!! You started to pedal as fast as your chubby legs would go and then you’d coast down the steepest hill/street/ major thoroughfare; living in the country has its advantages; and if you were brave enough or dared one too many times, you’d ride down that steep-assed hill sans hands. Ohh… If my scars could talk, they’d tell me about the softball sized knee I’m currently sporting because I can’t fall down and bounce back up with nary a thought about scuffed palms, scraped knees, and bruises practically from asshole to appetite.
        D**n those days were fun.
        Welp the street lights are on, dinner’s been eaten, e eryone has had their evening snackies (with pills), and my Rx pain relievers are finally kicking in, since I’m now the Mom I’m telling myself; lights out, good night, you can play with your friends tomorrow after school. AFTER YOU GET YOUR HOMEWORK DONE FIRST.

  6. E. Sanchez at 2:47 pm

    I loved that you called a piñata “fancy.” (We’re Mexican. It’s like eating tamales at Christmas. It’s the great equalizer of the upper and lower classes.)

  7. Cara at 8:33 pm

    Ah the good old days! We had my sons 6th birthday party recently and when he went to open the gifts a mom pulled me aside “maybe you should wait until everyone leaves, in case he gets something he doesn’t like and hurts the other kids feelings.” I was flabbergasted! I simply replied “he’s so happy his friends came to his party, presents weren’t expected so there’s nothing that he wouldn’t love and appreciate.” And you know what? He got a duplicate gift (parents were horrified) and he was PUMPED “Mom now I have TWO!!!!!”

    • Alecia at 12:39 pm

      oh my lol… My eldest (now 15) had his first school friends party when he turned 5. We practiced his manners in advance, that even if he didn’t like what he got, it was something the child giving it thought he would like and that the thought it what counts. He opened a Build a Bear type thing, looked at the gifter and sincerely said “Thank you so much for this, I have always wanted one of these”. After everyone left he brought it over to me and said “What is this?”.

      I think opening the gifts is important, but can be overwhelming. Last year my 5 year old was bombarded by the other children wanting their gift opened first, practically sitting on top of him, trying to open gifts for him etc. It was his first party and he said after that he didn’t like opening the presents. This year I am thinking of ways to get the kids to sit in front of him or in chair so that they don’t all crowd on top of him.

    • Asma Bari at 12:38 pm

      If you go to the top of the page right above the title of the post there’s options to share it on multiple social media sites 🙂

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