I was born in the '70s to kinda-hippie parents who married and had kids relatively young. My mom was a 20-year-old bride and gave birth to me when she was 25, barely out of childhood herself. That was typical for their generation, though, as was a certain lackadaisical approach to child rearing. So honestly, it's not surprising that there were things parents did in the ‘70s that no parent would do today. In fact, I think it's a damn miracle my brother and I survived.
My parents didn’t have the plethora of parenting resources that I have today. Maybe that was a good thing, though. I mean, there weren’t so many different options to choose from in terms of feeding, sleeping, and disciplining your kids; back then, you just did what your own parents did (unless you had a toxic parent, in which case you tried to do absolutely everything differently than how you were raised). My parents lived a few blocks from my mother’s family, so everything my mom knows about motherhood she basically learned from her own mom (a parent in the ‘40s and ‘50s). Now I turn to social media and the hundreds of sites, like Romper, to seek necessary guidance, shamelessly commiserate, and glean info in regard to raising my children.
While I do live across the street from my own parents, I don’t actually spend that much time with them (I'm a full-time working mom, so don't judge) so I’m more reliant on virtual parenting culture than I am on a real one. So for better, but mostly for worse, parents a generation ago subscribed to a more hands-off style of bringing up kids. Here are some things my parents did in the ‘70s that I, as a parent, would never do today:
They Held Their Babies On Their Laps In Cars…
My brother and I did not have car seats. Someone held on to us (sort of). Maybe we were strapped in with a lap belt when we got to be about two or three years old. Thankfully, we always rode with good drivers and never got into a wreck.
...In The Front Seat
Well of course we were in the front seat, you guys. After all, that’s where mom was and she had to hold us, because we were babies. Also, that is where the radio knobs and air vents were located, providing in-ride entertainment, predating the screen-in-back-of-headrest era for the current generation of children taking road trips.
They Let Them Wander Outside Alone…
“Be home for dinner,” was a phrase my little friends and I commonly heard while scampering outside. We played behind our building, which was sort of an enclosed area but, from six stories up, my mother was never able to keep an eye on us. She didn’t really seem to feel the need to. I always got home for dinner.
I am just starting to let my 9-year-old daughter cross streets by herself. She has her own keys, but I am taking it so slowly in terms of granting her the freedom to walk a block or two alone in our neighborhood, which is infinitely safer than it was when I was a kid. I really want to free-range parent more, but I’m afraid I’ll get arrested.
Time was much less structured a generation ago. My brother and I weren’t over-scheduled and we were usually left to our own devices between the end of our school day and dinner time. And weekends during the summer seemed to stretch endlessly. We had nothing to do, except be kids with imaginations.
Then again, that was back when a middle class family could pretty much survive on a single income. My mom didn’t go back to work until I was almost 10. I haven’t stopped working. Ever. (Because, no, maternity leave is not “time off.”) So my kids’ days are fairly structured, with babysitting schedules and after-school activities that include dance class, soccer practice, play rehearsal, and Girl Scouts. Most of this comes out of necessity because, well, my kids need someplace to go because my husband and I don’t get home until after dinnertime.
They Put Patches On Things
When I had a hole in the knee of my jeans, my mom stitched on a smiley face patch (vintage emoji?) and the pants lasted another season. I have no time to sew, and the way I see it is that my kid truly doesn’t care what state his clothes are in, and they will only fit him for a few more weeks. Some washi tape to close the hole, and he’s good to go.
They Allowed Their Kids To Catch And Keep Bugs
Germs weren’t so scary when I was a toddler, and I remember older kids capturing salamanders or garden snakes and making homes for them in their own homes. Parents never seemed to care.
Now? Yeah, now I would never let my kids bring an insect into the house. Living in New York we get our fair share of creepy crawlies, anyway.
They Shrugged At Candy Cigarettes
I don’t think it was until the ‘90s when stores stopped carrying those candy cigarettes. However, I remember how cool it was to “smoke.”
I would never want my kids mimicking that habit and because they are being brought up in a world where smoking is no longer the predominant “norm,” my kids actually think it’s disgusting. “Look, that man has a smoker!” my son often calls out (embarrassingly so) when passing someone with a cigarette on the sidewalk.
They Rubbed Whiskey On Sore Gums
Before the baby product industry boomed in the current generation, adults just had regular household items at their disposal to care for kids. Teething pain? Nothing a little Jameson’s on the gums couldn’t take care of.
They Didn't Make Their Kids Wear Helmets
Did anyone wear helmets before the ‘90s? Most kids had bikes or skateboards or roller skates back when I was a kid, but nobody wore any protective gear. Now I don’t even have to ask my kids to put a helmet on; they automatically reach for it every time they go out with some wheels.
They Let Their Children Drive
One of my favorite childhood memories is sitting on my dad’s lap and steering the car while he worked the gas (and mostly the brake) with this feet. That was crazy, and will never happen with my own children. What were my parents thinking?