I'm an '80s girl, from my jean jacket and Lisa Frank everything down to my first memories of dancing to Michael Jackson's "Thriller." I watched the Mickey Mouse Club where I developed my longtime crush on Ryan Gosling way back before the "Hey Girl meme" and owned every scrunchie and banana clip ever made. There was also a lot of weird, unconventional, and dangerous happenings back then, so it's not all that surprising that there are things parents did in the '80s they'd probably never do again. Well, at the very least there are things '80s parents did that I wouldn't dare do with my own children because, well, we know better now (I hope).
Back in my day (she says with a rasped, aging tone), I don't think it's that my parents didn't care about the danger I might've been in, consequences because of those actions, or the fact that perms and short haircuts on already unruly, curly hair were not cool, but it's just the way they did things. With my little brother entering my world three years after I did, it's clear we've come a long way in parenting since. I often entertained myself by climbing a tall, frail tree (with weakly branches) without supervision while my brother jumped from the rooftop onto an old mattress he and his friends pulled into the backyard. It was just innocent fun and, yet, if my kids tried any of that they'd be staring a gigantic nope straight in the face.
I'm sure I'm not alone in wondering how I survived childhood at all, especially as a member of the beloved-but-ultimately-unsafe-'80s generation. No, seriously. On that note, here are some things parents did in the '80s that definitely aren't cool now. Sorry, not sorry.
They Smoked In The Car With The Windows Up
My dad was a heavy smoker. I actually don't remember a time he wasn't without a cigarette hanging from his lips. I'm so thankful we've, as a society, involved enough to at least be considerate of children stuck in environments full of cancer-causing smoke (i.e. the car). From restaurants to schools, there's few places you can smoke anymore. While I tried my hand at the whole "smoking cigarettes" thing during those rebellious teen years, I'm glad it didn't stick. Plus, the smell was just, you know, ew.
They Let Their Kids Drive (Without Assistance) Way Too Early
Believe it or not, I started driving at an early age. Sitting in my parents' laps, I'd get to turn the wheel that determined if we drove onto a driveway or into a pole. There were even a few times I was allowed to practice driving in the country. Again, it's a miracle I'm alive. Live and learn, right? (Hence why my kids won't drive until they're at least 47 years old.)
They Let Their Kids Walk Around Town Without Supervision
Every two, weeks when my brother and I stayed with our (divorced) dad for the weekend, we'd get the task of walking down to the market a few blocks away for breakfast meats, candy, dad's cigarettes, and whatever the hell else he asked us to buy. While a short walk might not seem like a huge deal (even now), considering this happened on the regular from as young as 6 or 7, it was. There was traffic, strangers, and dogs we'd pass each trip. We could've been gone hours without speaking to anyone or "checking in," and no one would've flinched. This is how it was done in the '80s, but now? Hell to the no.
Kids Stayed Home Alone While Parents Worked
Even now, some kids are mature and responsible enough to go straight home after school where he or she might be alone until a parent gets home from work. My mom facilitated that exact type of situation, because sometimes sitters weren't available or cost effective. Now that I'm a mother, I can't fathom leaving my 10-year-old daughter home alone for any length of time. The world is just too dangerous.
Their Younger Kids Babysat Their Even Younger Kids
Yeah, I think I first started watching my little brother (and a cousin!) when I was around 9 or 10. Again, my daughter is nowhere near the maturity level I was back then and even if she were, no to all of this. There were times I'd be left alone and cry because I was scared. Why force a child to grow up faster than necessary?
They Paid For Their Kids To Get Perms
As I said, I was born with the thickest, curliest, most unruly hair so the mere thought of making the decision to perm something already technically permed makes no sense to me. I get that it was the '80s and everyone wanted and/or had big hair, but perms are never the answer to anything. Ever.
They Bought Their Kids "Hammer Pants"
There is this one picture I remember above most others, from when my brother and I were in elementary school. He somehow looked like an adorable little kindergartener in adorable kids stuff while I had on a lavender shirt and floral parachute pants (otherwise known as "Hammer" pants (after M.C. Hammer). The worst part is that I'd outgrown them so the bottoms were all the way up to my calf. No, I'd never do this again and that picture should be destroyed.
They Helped Their Kids Make Mixed Tapes
Kids these days don't know the struggle of having to hit "record" on a cassette when the "top eight at eight" played on the radio. Nor do they realize the impact it has when one goes to the trouble to make a thoughtful mixed tape for a crush, only to be turned down. It's the equivalent of the thumbs down emoji and, no, I wouldn't make another one ever again.
They Disciplined Their Kids For Making Prank Calls
Before cell phones, Caller ID or *69 (anyone remember that?), it was possible to call people anonymously and prank them. It was always fun until the parents found out and me or (usually) my brother was grounded. Now, I have a massive fear of the phone in general so, well, lesson learned, I guess.
They Let Their Kids Attend All The Sleepovers
I was the kind of kid that hated sleeping anywhere but home (unless it was my grandmother's house). Even still, I was made to go to every sleepover offer solicited, even if my parents didn't know anything about the home or other parents. There could've been drugs, alcohol, sex, guns, and/or no supervision (and I've had experiences with all of them at another's house). These days, us parents are hyper aware, wanting to be sure our kids are safe wherever they are. But then? Well, it was more like, "Good luck!"
They Let Their Kids Catch Rides With Other People
In the '80s, before news of missing children and all the horrible things were broadcast everywhere we looked, people were more trusting, maybe. My mom never thought twice about hitchhiking as a teen and, when I was little, we'd have taken a ride if our car got a flat on the side of the road. In fact, I have actually sat in a semi truck waiting for help before. Now? Uh, no. Trust no one!
The '80s are long gone and I'm glad we live in a different era now, and one where we're thoughtful with our decisions and skeptical about uncomfortable situations. My kids might not have as much "freedom" as I did growing up, but is keeping them safe really a bad thing? My parents meant well, to be sure, but times have changed. Some of these things mentioned aren't that horrible, but that doesn't mean I'd want to re-live them. Especially the perm.