The 80s were a magical era. Keds and birthday parties at the skating rink and the first round of McDonald’s Monopoly, where every hash brown won you a free coke.
Sure you had to go to the actual library to look something up, but the library held the danger of the microfiche machine whose humming heat could melt your face right off like in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.
Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe we all miss it too much. Maybe that’s what has led us to repurpose our children’s childhood for our own. We steal their coloring books and hand them an iPhone. It doesn’t seem like a fair trade.
The kids are motoring down the sidewalk in powerized mini BMWs, while the toddlers follow in their plasma cars. Meanwhile, between Uber and self-driving cars, we’ve figured out a way to never get behind the wheel again.
We pack our kids’ lunches in metal bento boxes filled with edamame and dates and coconut milk, while we feast on Bistro boxes from Starbucks, the grown up version of a Lunchable.
Speaking of Starbucks, we’ve managed to invent things like the Grande Double Mocha Chip Frappuccino – a dressed up version of a 7-Eleven Big Gulp-size Wendy’s Chocolate Frosty. We’ve created gourmet popsicles and juice bars and the best adult re-appropriation of kid food: the cronut.
We dress our kids in blazers and ascots and skinny jeans as we pull on leggings and baby booties. Oh sorry, I mean Uggs. All you have to do is look at a Snuggie and wonder where it all went wrong.
Backpacks hold iPads and laptops. Lunch money can’t be stolen because it’s all on the card. The neighborhood school has a vending machine with all-natural snacks. Pringles and Cheetos have gone by the wayside. Coke has been replaced with its organic counterpart. Do you think the Pop Rocks explosion in Zevia will have the same impact? Do they still even make Pop Rocks?
Childhood is the coolest. That’s why we want ours back. But we also want to protect our kids’ childhood. There’s plenty of time for adulting later. So in the name of setting the minions free, here are five ways to help your kids be kids (so you can be one, too):
If you’re going to spend 40 dollars on the expensive grown up coloring book and artist’s pencils, you might as well pull your kid and their Crayolas up to the table. Seeing you create without an end goal places perfection in perspective. Coloring is imprecise by nature.
I spent 10 minutes helping my daughter fill in Elmo’s nose the right shade of orange-yellow, and it was just as therapeutic as my topiary art book, perhaps more for the company than the craft.
Eat the fun foods
If you’re going to buy the gourmet popsicles, why not spring for a Push Pop every now and then, too. Not everything has to be fancy to be fun. Sometimes being a kid means eating the syrupy neon-colored treat and not worrying if it’s made with coconut sugar. Sometimes the ice cream truck is calling your name, too, and sitting on the curb with your kid licking trails of Nutty Buddy off your wrist is just as good as the trendy spot downtown.
Let them accessorize
Not every outfit has to be Crew Kid worthy. If we want them to act like kids, we need to let them be creative, and what’s more creative that clothing? In other words, if they want to wear flip flops, pajama bottoms, and a button-down, so be it.
Your kids are not artwork. They’re artists. Let them experiment. My son left the house in rain boots, a belted Darth Vader apron, and a fireman hat. It wasn’t Instagram adorable (or maybe it was). It was weird. And he loved it. And I loved it.
If you really want to embrace the chaos, let them pick your outfit as well. They don’t have to know you changed after school drop off.
Go old school
Yes, iPads and iPhones are necessary for school and life and can offer a limitless supply of educational activities.
So can real books. Libraries are cool, and kids get excited in spite of themselves about picking up the real deal and carrying it to the front desk to check out under their name. I like it, too. A stack of books waiting to be tackled just feels better than icons on a screen.
Also, they’re easier on the old eyes.
Leave the powerized mini cars behind and take an actual walk, swing on the swings, cross a creek. You need it as much as they do.
Maybe it’s because they are closer to the ground – literally closer to nature – but kids will notice each bug, rock, and flower when it’s not passing by at top speeds. It’s amazing the amount of patience you can learn while watching a grasshopper crawl over your finger.
Plus, oxygen and Vitamin D for the whole family. What can be more rejuvenating than that?