Once upon a time, a long time ago in a mid-sized town full of cars, traffic, and speed zones, there was a young girl sitting in the front seat of her parents' car. This girl didn't realize that when she opened the door handle while the car was in motion, it would fly open and the girl — not buckled — would nearly fall to the road. Thankfully, her mom caught her in time, but this is just one example of things '90s parents let their kids do in the car that no parent would today. Because holy hell what in the you-know-what were parents thinking?!
As I'm sure you might have already guessed, I was that young girl who nearly fell to her death while sitting in the front seat of her mother's moving vehicle. I still remember my mother's quick reflexes that allowed her to pull me up from that empty pocket of air I faced as the door swung open. As a result of her ninja-like reflexes the car swerved, nearly veering off the road, which was dangerous in and of itself. Still, I was saved in the nick of time. Phew.
Sadly, this was a common occurrence in "those" days, because car safety wasn't what it is now. Like, I don't remember ever wearing a seatbelt and, if I did, there were a number of other questionable car shenanigans my younger brother and I got away with that, as a mother myself now, I can only gasp at. So #sorrynotsorry to throw all you '90s parents under the proverbial bus, because here are some of those cringe-worthy "parenting decisions" you all made that modern parents wouldn't dare choose for themselves or their children.
They Considered "Buckle Up" To Be A Suggestion
I shouldn't have to re-live those dramatic car rides to prove a point, but because I'm alive to tell the tale, I will. Seat belts used to be an accessory instead of a mandatory piece of safety equipment. My parents allowed my brother and I to go seat belt-free whenever we wanted, for the most part. I think there were times they'd suggest we put the belts on, but for the most part we could pick and choose when we "buckled up for safety."
Keep in mind, this was sometime before the big "Buckle Up" and "Click It Or Ticket" initiatives were in place, and since '90s parents grew up sans seat belts, I think the majority just kind of did whatever felt right. No way in Hades would this be OK today.
They Let Small Children Sit Up Front
My brother and I fought over that damn front seat every single time we got in the car. It didn't matter if we were going a couple blocks or a hundred miles. It was a race to the finish that almost ended with one of us (usually him) crying in the backseat, disheveled and jealous. I don't think an adult stopped to ask, "Should the small child be up front and at the mercy of a powerful airbag?"
If I were to put my 6-year-old son in the front seat, I'd get pulled over in minutes. Hell, I wouldn't do that to begin with, because every single second would involve me worrying about his safety.
They Used Questionable Car Seats (Or None At All)
Have you ever seen car seats from the past? You only have to look as far as a decade or two back, and you'll realize they're nowhere near capable of meeting the safety standards we hold car seats to today. Sometimes they were full-on rickety metal heaps of questionable durability, with absolutely no cushion, comfort, or barrier that would seem capable of protecting children.
If my parents weren't using a less-than-stellar car seat, they weren't using one at all. So the comfy car seats of today — with their multi-lock system and anti-movement technology — are somewhat unfathomable to them. Again, my brother and I made it out alive, but our version of a car seat was more of a "cross your fingers and hope nothing happens" model.
They Let Their Kid Take The Wheel
You know those moments where your mom has to let go of the wheel to reapply her lipstick, or your dad is itching to light a cigarette, so they ask their very small child to hold the wheel? That was a daily thing in the late '80s and early- to-mid '90s. Well, at least it was for me.
They Breastfed While Driving
My mom, and all the moms in my family who came before her, breastfed. It's a beautiful thing, to be sure, but not while you're maneuvering a vehicle. I think this kind of thing was more common in the early '80s and was on the way out as our society entered the '90s, but still, it happened. Now moms pull their car off an exit to feed their hungry baby, and everyone involved is all the safer for it.
They Let Them Wrestle
My brother and I went full-on WWE wrestling mode during every single car ride. Our fights were usually sparked by whoever "won" the front seat, and the battles raged on until we made it to our destination. We'd climb over seats and throw things and turn the interior of our car into a damn wrestling ring, completely oblivious as to how dangerous this was. I mean, there's no way the driver was able to concentrate when one of us was throwing a brutal clothesline or figure-four leglock.
Did our parents tell us to stop? Sure. Did we? No way.
They Left The Cigarette Lighter On
Like a lot of people in the '80s and '90s, my dad was a chain smoker. And like many people in the '80s and '90s, he smoked while he was driving, and regardless of whether or not his children were in the car. Not only was this unhealthy for all involved, but my brother and I ended up dangerously fascinated with the car's cigarette lighter.
One time, before I knew how quickly it heats up and how hot it actually gets, my brother dared me to put my thumb on it. So, I did. Yes, it completely burned my skin, and, no, we didn't learn our lesson. Dad would sometimes ask me to light it for him while he was driving, which is arguably wrong on multiple levels.
Thankfully, my kids are growing up in a world where car safety is important. I'm still in charge of the radio, though.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.