Can we be brutally honest? Modern-day parenting is intense. It leaves some of us feeling like failures at the whole thing and makes us question why our parents and their parents didn’t suffer from the same existential crises we face just from raising a toddler. It seems like there’s a new parenting rule every day — rules about their bedtime schedule, rules about gluten and acceptable school lunch options and whether timeouts are going to scar your kids for the rest of their lives.
The “good ol’ days” is an annoyingly cloying phrase that allows some to forget that helmet-less bike rides (and falls) can — and indeed did — lead to injuries that could have been avoided. But there are times when we pine for old-fashioned ’80s parenting to make a comeback — for the sake of our adult sanity.
For better or worse, here are some of the unique details that made parenting in the ’80s so magical/insane/envy inducing.
Babies could sleep however they damn well pleased
On their backs, on their stomachs, on their sides, reclined fully on the back seat of your car — there were no rules when it came to how a baby could or should sleep. Parents could simply put their babies down, step away from the crib, have a glass of wine and watch Dynasty and not even think of returning to the nursery until morning.
Kids left the house and stayed out
All too often these days, you visit the home of a friend with kids to find those children tethered to the pantry, an iPad or their mother’s figurative apron string. Parents in the ’80s did not consider it their job to entertain their kids morning, noon and night — that was what a backyard filled with hula hoops, balls and insects was for. On your typical lovely summer Saturday, children left their house after breakfast and morning cartoons, met up with 15 kids who lived on the same block and didn’t return home until their tummies were rumbling out of control.
Car seat? What car seat?
You’re worried that the car seat you purchased off eBay two years ago has already reached its expiration date — ’80s parents were worried that they couldn’t fit all 10 of their kid’s friends in the car to take them to McDonald’s for a birthday party. Not only were there no car seats or complicated straps to fret with, but young children often rode in the front seat, bucket seat and in the back of the station wagon. Seat belts? Optional.
Kids’ birthdays didn’t cost $1,000
The only parents who bothered with DIY birthday decorations that looked like they were painted by the hand of God were artists themselves. Nah, scratch that — even professional artists knew kids were happy with a few paper streamers and balloons. You were a hero if you could find a balloon with your child’s name on it. Unless you were a newly divorced parent throwing your kid’s first post-divorce party (because the rented pink pony business would never succeed if not for parental guilt), the typical birthday party formula was kids alone in basement with games/Thriller blasting from the record player/parents upstairs with coffee and cocktails/pizza/simple chocolate cake and candles/musical chairs/please, everyone go home now, Mom’s feeling tipsy.
Parents let kids play with the craziest toys imaginable
Easy-Bake Oven with a lightbulb that heated up to 350 degrees F? Awesome — make a cookie for me! A little barefoot Pogo Ball’ing on the staircase? Don’t forget to share your personal trampoline with your little brother. There were Slip’N Slides that left your kid bruised and battered (but smiling) and Shrinky Dinks that could easily fill the house with noxious fumes if left in the oven too long. The ’80s was the decade in which parents turned their kids into guinea pigs for wacky, colorful, crazy-dangerous toys that have since been recalled or updated to include 10-page warnings and release forms.
Next up: Playdate? What playdate?