Brown-Wolf: Time traveling to 1977: Can a modern kid survive? (column)
June 5, 2016
The first few days of summer are the best. So good, in fact, that some parents take a day or two off, so they might revel in the well-remembered feeling. No more school. No more tests. No more teachers. No more social pressures. No more responsibility. Kids sleep in, hang out in pajamas and eat pancakes. It's great. Until about the third day.
Summer can become a parent's nightmare. What if the kids never get out of their pajamas? What if they become zombies? What if they hook themselves to screens with an I-V, and their brains shrivel into peanut-sized capsules?
For today's parents, the pressure to create a summer experience is on. A child's summer must be filled with brain-building, developmentally-appropriate and organically-filled activities. Life becomes complicated with carpools and play dates and field trips, and, before June is over, parents cry for a schedule that does not involve cleaning a kitchen that's cluttered with bags of chips and boxes of Cheerios. No wonder day camps and summer classes have exploded in popularity.
Call me crazy, but how about throwing a TBT day? Throw Back Thursdays to 1977, or for those brave enough, participating in a full week of TBT time travel?
Here's what it might look like:
Breakfast? Forget about whole-wheat, flax-seed filled pancakes with pure maple syrup and fresh berries. Kids get Applejacks and a sliced orange. In 1977, kids didn't hang out in pajamas all day, so they must get dressed and make their beds. What's next? That's their problem, not yours, but here's an idea: Open the door and send them outside. If they're young, a parent can give them a pail and point to a pile of dirt. There's no need to sit in the sandbox and create castles by using sophisticated engineering techniques listed in Parenting Magazine. This is 1977. Kids figure it out.
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Fancy field trips? Nope. Indoor skydiving and zip-lining adventures have not yet been invented, but there is the library. It might be air-conditioned. Swimming is a crowd pleaser, but remember — parents don't go. Not only is there a lifeguard to watch them flip into cannonballs, but parents didn't drive their kids places in 1977. During a TBT day, kids ride their bikes to the pool or walk with a group of friends — it gives them time to dry off on the way home.
No pool? Use the hose. Sprinklers are fair game, but there aren't any fancy slick and slides or super-soakers. Other alternatives? Kids can build forts, which might take all day. Jars of paint and some rocks offer the opportunity for kids to become Picassos. Manic monopoly will likely become a parent's new best friend — the game can take hours, even days. And when all else fails, a simple deck of cards will do. Even alone, a kid can play solitaire, figure out magic tricks and build card houses (psssst: engineering skills). In 1977, games rule, especially while drinking red pop and eating marathon bars (the chocolate and caramel kind, not the protein and chia seed kind).
Lunch? Whole Foods did not exist in the disco decade, so forget about quick trips for sushi or steamed Korean buns. Stop at McDonalds or ask the kids to make their own sandwiches; peanut butter and jelly or marshmallow fluff, but they could invent something new — like fried bologna and egg with ketchup. Long afternoons? Naps are good. Books are better. Uber-active kids get sent back outside where they invent their own projects. Maybe they'll build a boat made from milk cartons. Who knows? They'll figure it out.
Remember, technology is banned during 1977 week. It wasn't invented. TV screen-time is limited unless there's a new episode of the Brady Brunch. Game of Thrones and How I Met Your Mother did not exist. There were no clickers back then, either. If kids do watch TV, they must get up, walk across the room and physically flip through channels — all four of them. CBS, ABC, NBC, and PBS were the only stations that existed. Also, television went static in the middle of night.
After dinner (hot dogs, Kool-Aid, Jell-O salad, baked beans, and grape popsicles), kids may find a few neighborhood kids and play flashlight tag, but, if they've played long and hard enough, they might just collapse and fall asleep.
And voila. Like that, a day is done, and you've survived 1977. Good luck the rest of the summer.
Carrie Brown-Wolf lives in Silverthorne.
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