This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
I was in my local town meeting a girlfriend for a coffee and as I sat waiting for her I watched all the young mums wheel their toddlers in buggies into the café for a cup of coffee. It got me thinking about the differences of bringing up children now and when I was a child.
Firstly I don’t think we had coffee shops, probably because coffee was so disgusting. No baristas, no herbal teas and certainly no choice of milks – soya, oat, or almond. I think the only café was a ‘Greasy Spoon’ type or a tea shop for delicate afternoon tea, finger sandwiches and a slice of Victoria sponge.
Anyway even if there had been coffee shops our Mums would never have managed to get our prams in through the doors. I think we were often left in our prams outside shops. You would never see babies left outside now as people would be fearful of theft. I am nervous to even leave my dog tied up outside a shop.
So did our mothers ever meet up? Probably just at the Toddler and Mother playgroup in the village hall or for a quick gossip outside the butcher.
As I continued to watch these young mums I saw the children take their mothers’ iPads and start playing with them. That reminded me of seeing a car in a showroom with TV consoles in the back of each seat so that the children could be entertained on a journey. What happened to good old I Spy, and How many red cars will we see before we get to Granny’s house?
Of course these 21st century toddlers were given a healthy snack whilst their Mums sipped Cappuccinos. Sugar free treats and fizzy drinks were an absolute no-no. What has happened to Rosehip Syrup which was like drinking liquid sugar? I remember my dentist used to give me a lollipop after a check up. No wonder I had so many fillings. Children nowadays don’t seem to incur regular fillings however there is a new dental experience – the orthodontist. I remember only one girl at school having ‘train tracks’ but that was it. We all grew up with slightly wonky teeth and are now paying the price.
And why did we not have nut allergies? When did this happen that nuts became the secret poison to so many children? I remember not liking some foods but I don’t remember anyone having a serious allergy.
Did we watch TV? Rarely and only then as a family because there was just one TV in the house. TV has now become so essential to children and to Mums as a form of entertainment whilst they get on with other jobs. Most teenagers have a TV in their room or watch on their laptops. I remember watching Blue Peter on Monday and Thursday evening and Crackerjack on a Friday. We visited Granny and Grandpa on Sundays for tea and if we behaved well we were allowed to watch Captain Pugwash. ‘The Guardian’ claimed that certain characters names in this TV series could be viewed in a vulgar context e.g. Master Bates and Seaman Staines! So I think it was banned. Now the PC police wouldn’t allow anything like that to be watched by children though it doesn’t seem to have had a lasting bad effect on me.
As for holidays well they were just periods of time when you didn’t go to school and you just played outside with your friends. We didn’t all return to school in September with suntans having amassed our own Air Miles. I think I once went to the seaside with my parents but I never felt deprived. Of course I didn’t speak to lots of my schoolfriends during the holidays as we didn’t have mobile phones so by the beginning of term we were excited to see them again.
As I finished my coffee I watched the toddlers close down their iPads, clamber into their Rolls Royce style buggies and as their mothers checked their own mobile phones they left the coffee shop. I wondered whether my simple childhood was better; travelling around in the car with no safety belt but chatting to my mother or father in the front seat and playing with the children next door. However where would us oldies be without these 21st century children who can sort out our wifi issues by the time they are 8 years old and have 500 Facebook friends or worse an Instagram following of thousands so should never be lonely!
Time moves on and the ways of bringing up children change but the results are the same hopefully. Each generation breeds a better one. I certainly feel this about the millennials as they are more aware, more worldly and much more fun than we were at their age. So we must have done something right whilst bringing up children.