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.
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.
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.
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".