school

How many of these things did you do as a kid?

Sunburn, mixed lollies, penpals and waiting for your favourite song to come on the radio.

“Things were different when I was a kid,” I told my daughter the other day.

“Yeah,  I know,” she replied. “You didn’t have TV or computers – all you had was a lead pencil and a piece of paper.”

Hang on, I’m not that old. But I did grow up in the ’70s and ’80s, and things were different for kids then, in lots of ways. These are nine childhood experiences that my daughter and son will (probably) miss out on:

1. The test pattern.

Back when I was young, when we moaned, “There’s nothing on TV,” sometimes, we actually meant it. Not, “I’ve flicked through a hundred channels and I can’t find anything I like enough to watch.” TV transmission stopped late at night, after the national anthem, and didn’t start again till the next morning. Sometimes we’d just get a test pattern. If you think Big Brother is boring, you should try watching a test pattern.

This is what's on TV. Riveting, huh?

 2. Sunburn.

Oh, I'm not saying my kids will never have slightly pink cheeks. But they won't get the kind of sunburn I used to get, the kind of sunburn that only comes from being outside, unprotected, all day, in summer. When the skin peels off. When the back of your legs are so sore that you don't want to sit cross-legged. Nowadays, if I sent my kids out to play in the middle of the day with no sunscreen or hat, it would feel like I was handing them a pack of ciggies and a box of matches.

3. Penpals.

Diana in Italy, Stefan in Switzerland, Avril and Becky and all the other girls I met on YMCA camp... we would write to each other eagerly for weeks or months, till one of us got bored and gave up. Now we have email. It's instant, but no pretty notepaper or strange  stamps to wonder at.

Before email, there was airmail.

4. Getting smacked at school.

At the Catholic primary I went to in the late '70s, teachers were still smacking kids if they felt they deserved it. (Apparently I did.) Nowadays, none of the teachers at my daughter's school would dream of laying a hand on her. In fact, they don't even say she's been naughty. They just say she "made a bad decision".

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5. Measles.

My kids are so lucky that they'll never have to go through this itchy, miserable hell. But I have to say I did feel special when my mum let me lie on the living room couch and gave me flat lemonade to drink.

Spot the kid with a contagious disease.

6. Waiting for photos to be developed.

My dad would take maybe one or two photos of me at my birthday, and then it could take months for him to finish the roll of film, and then days to get the photos back. Then I'd find I had my eyes closed and looked totally stupid. Nowadays, I take heaps of photos till I get my kids looking adorable. But most of them never get printed out, and I don't think they mean quite as much as they used to.

7. Bottom-bruising seesaws.

This was a serious playground hazard: the person at the other end of the seesaw getting off unexpectedly, leaving me to plummet to the ground. Thanks to better-designed play equipment, my children will never know this particular pain.

See? Sore.

8. Buying a bag of mixed lollies at the tuckshop.

I remember what it was like to stand there, holding my 10 cents pocket money, looking at the milk bottles and freckles and bananas laid out in front of me, going, "I'll have one of those and one of those and one of those." I don't think the canteen at my daughter's school is quite so keen on supporting kids' addiction to sugar mixed with artificial colours and flavours.

9. Waiting for my favourite song to come on the radio.

If my sister and I really loved a particular song, sometimes we would stand near the radio, ready to tape it if if came on. That way we could keep it forever.  So much easier now with iTunes and YouTube. (But of course the songs aren't nearly as good as they used to be.)

What experiences from your childhood will your kids miss out on?

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