Simpler Times

Young family posing on the bicycle during there route in county
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15 Things Parents Did In The ‘90s That No Parent Would Do Today

Did helmets exist then? Hard to say.

by Meg Kehoe

Let’s face it, the 1990s were basically like the Wild West of parenting. Technology was just revving up, kids still played outside, and being allergic to gluten was merely a figment of your imagination. The ‘90s were a truly joyous time to be a kid, and you want to know why? Because there were things parents did in the ‘90s that no parent would do today. Parents were less concerned about online dangers, food concerns, and all the other scary parts of raising a kid. And you know what? It meant that our childhoods were epic, albeit a little dangerous.

Even watching my mother raise my brothers 10 years later was a primer in just how differently parents did things in the ‘90s. And if things have changed this drastically in the past few decades, I can only imagine what child rearing was like in the ‘60s and ‘70s. So, children of the ‘90s, I raise my Frutopia to you, and to your parents, for letting you come of age in a time that was less riddled with concern, and let you run barefoot down the street, play in flooded streets, and told you to walk it off when you stepped on a rusty nail. (Yeah, Dad. I’m looking at you.)


They let their kids ride in the front seat.

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I can recall many car rides where I couldn’t see over the dashboard, and I wasn’t in a car seat. Pretty sure now that’s illegal, and it may have been back then too. But hey, my mom lived on the edge.


They went without cell phones.

If my mom was out to dinner with friends, I couldn’t call her and ask her where the mac and cheese was. I had to call the restaurant she was at and have them page her. No, I’m kidding. But seriously. Imagine not being able to text that question these days.


They let their kids play on questionable playground equipment.

A broken swing? You’re just not using your imagination hard enough. My parents were happy to let me climb all over a jungle gym with peeling paint and crumbling parts any day of the week, as long as it tuckered me out by the end of the day. Those PlaySkool playgrounds were popular instruments of torture, too.


They let kids eat high-fructose corn syrup.

Popsicles with real fruit in them were considered hippie snacks. If your freezy pops didn’t come in plastic tubes that gave you cuts on the sides of your mouth, you weren’t doing it right. Not to mention all the glorious after-school snacks the ‘90s brought us. Gushers, anyone?


They let their children eat unwrapped treats from strangers.

What’s that? The bank is giving out pretzel rods? Mrs. Hammond on the corner’s giving out homemade cookies at Halloween? Go for it!


They left their kids waiting outside in the car.

If your mom was running errands, there’s a good chance it was easier for her to bop in and out of stores without having to haul you everywhere. Naturally, she left you in the car. Now, you see a kid alone in the car and feel the need to call CPS. In the ‘90s? It was par for the course.


They let kids troll the neighborhood sans supervision.

You got free reign on the neighborhood as a kid. Climbing over fences, staying out until supper, aimlessly roaming your streets looking for something to do. And your mom rarely knew where you were. You just knew to be home for dinner or face her wrath.


They let their kids walk around barefoot.

I cannot tell you how much disgusting garbage my feet saw during that joyous decade. From mud and dirt to literal garbage and probably a few questionable items in between, I stubbed my toes and tripped over curbs without shoes on more times than I can count.


They let their kids set up shop on the corner.

Set up a lemonade stand and solicit strangers on the corner. That sounds like a great plan.


They let 11-year-olds babysit.

At 11, I was a Red Cross-certified babysitter. I changed diapers, I took kids to swim practice — I was basically a member of the Baby-Sitter’s Club. Now, I don't think I’d let an 11 year old walk my dog, quite frankly.


They let kids ride in the back of a pickup truck.

No seatbelt? No problem. Now, you simply would never.


They let their kids watch cartoons that weren’t educational.

Ren & Stimpy, anyone? (I actually hated that show more than life itself, but my dad was super into it.) Sailor Moon, though. That was quality cartoon programming that had absolutely nothing to do with education. And it was the best.


They let their kids play with questionable toys.

Did any of you find yourselves bruised and battered from the ridiculous toys of the ‘90s? Skip It, you caused me so much pain. And yet, I still remember you fondly.


They let their kids loose on the internet.

Ah, the sweet sound of dial-up. Parental controls were practically non-existent in the ‘90s. Never mind the fact that I was attempting to cyberstalk celebrities at age 10...


They let their kids stay up late to watch “adult shows.

Staying up late to watch Friends was like, the ultimate reward. Now? If you let your children stay up to watch Scandal, you’re scarring them for life.

So, maybe we’re not tossing our kids in truck beds anymore, but maybe we could let them watch a little bit more TV just for fun from time to time.