“When I was a kid…”, or Why Your Childhood Doesn’t Mean Much to the Matter At Hand

When I was a kid, my father would say, “When I was a kid…” and I’d roll my eyes, sigh, and be the snot that I was. I often reminded him that it was The Eighties, which is just about how I thought of them, capital- and italicized. I blame bad sitcoms and teen movies of the day that were all over HBO. When I was a teenager, I was only slightly less obnoxious. After all, it was the nineties. Most of the time, when Dad spoke of his childhood, it was to complain. He’d be complaining about the costs of things (he’ll still go into that spiel if you bring up costs of anything). He’d be complaining about how I behaved. He’d generally be complaining. My father was born in 1941 and basically grew up in the country, in a lower-to-mid-middle class family. Life wasn’t perfect, but when he talks about when he was a kid, you’d think it was.

This has been on my mind a lot lately because of the snow. Since January, eastern Massachusetts has received a lot of snow. Boston says it’s about 8 feet, or maybe 10. Down my way, not much better. We haven’t had a full week of school since the week before Martin Luther King, Jr Day. The last week of January, we had two days of school, Monday and Friday. The following Monday and Tuesday were no good. The Monday that followed was no good. Now it’s February vacation and, depending on how the weather goes this weekend, we may not have school again at the start of next week. I’ve had a lot of time to think, to stew.

And you’re annoying me.

Not you, you’re fine. But you, back there. The one standing on his/her own memories and ego. Yeah…you. You posted this on Facebook and/or Twitter:

When I was a kid, they didn’t cancel school until snow actually started.

Or:

When I was a kid, it took more than cold weather to stop me from ______.

Those aren’t the only things you’re posting either. From religion to politics to pop culture, everything was better when you were a kid. My response:

Bullshit.

This especially annoys me from people who are around my age (I was born in 1977). Look, I do think we played outside more, with less rules, than the kids of today have. We didn’t have play dates, we played. By ourselves. Meaning, no parental involvement. But I’m not here to talk about that today. I want to talk about the weather.

You’re right, you old fart. When you were a kid–when we were kids–school wasn’t canceled until the snow fell. There was a certain alarm to listen for at 5:30/6:00 AM, and a specific radio station to listen to. I spent many sleepless nights in elementary school gambling and losing on the chance that we would get walloped by snow and I’d have a snow day.

That’s gone because science.

Have you noticed that in the past…oh…ten years that weather reporting has been pretty goddamn accurate. Maybe not 7 or 10 days in advance, completely, but it’s gotten pretty good. Chances are, if the 7-Day says that snow is coming at the end of the week, by the fourth day in, they know for sure and it’s only the matter of how many inches we’re getting, which they’ve gotten pretty good at predicting, too. It simply makes more sense now to close school the night before than to chance it at 5:30 AM. It allows parents to make accommodations in advance.

Science isn’t the answer for everything, of course. Your insistence that kids were better when you were that age is just plain bullshit, because I was a kid at the same time, or know human nature better than you, and it’s simply not true.

Look, there are always things we long for and changes to culture and the world around us that take us away from the good. I’m not denying that. Republicans have systematically shot down regulations that gave us better things and replaced them with cheaper, crappier stuff. Democrats have been too nice to do what’s necessary to get those regulations back. And all sides have been bought off a little too much in the places that count.

For the most part, though, things aren’t any worse now than they were. They’re just bad in different ways. And there’s still a lot of good, if not great, out in the world.

So stop it.

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About Bill Gauthier

Bill Gauthier is a writer. His books include the collection CATALYSTS (2007), ALICE ON THE SHELF (2011), and SHADOWED (2011).

Posted on February 19, 2015, in Life, Opinion, Parenting, Politics, Pop Culture, Random Stuff, Teaching and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I love that song. Perspective! The thing that always gets me when people talk about “when I was a kid”, especially when it’s people arguing politics, is that they forget that THEY WERE KIDS! Of course everything seemed better than it does now, because, hopefully, you’re much more aware of the world around you than when mom and dad did everything for you, and the only things you had to worry about were turning homework in on time and making sure you woke up before 6am so you wouldn’t miss the start of Saturday morning cartoons. I would certainly hope that everyone’s childhood, in hindsight, seems much better and more idyllic than adult life, with all it’s responsibilities, obligations, and awareness of all the problems and negatives in the world. But, as you pointed out, it’s still all about perspective. Another, more recent, song, one that my kids are really hooked on lately, that perfectly sums up the idea that enjoyment of life is all about perspective is Everything is Awesome from The Lego Movie. In all honesty, I find myself thinking about that song, as silly and crazy as some of the lyrics are (or perhaps because of that), when I’m getting really grumpy with things. Life’s too damn short to waste it being grumpy and complaining all the time (not that I always heed my own advice, but I try).

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