Join Club Momme for exclusive access to giveaways, discounts and more!

Sign up

Stop Telling Me To Give My Kids a 1970s Summer

Photograph by Twenty20

For the past few years, the world (or at least the internet) has been pressuring parents to give their kids the summer of a lifetime. And no, this isn’t some Pinterest-perfect, high-octane summer. Far from it.

We’re being told to give our kids a good, old-fashioned, 1970s summer. (Or a 1980s summer. Or a 1950s summer. Or whatever decade it is that inspires the most nostalgia for any given person.)

RELATED: The Thing About Keeping My Name That I Didn't Think of Until Now

Part of the message here is that today’s children are too plugged-in and over-scheduled. They know how to create an account on Snapchat, but they don’t know how to find their way around their neighborhood. They are fine being carted from one activity to another, but they have no idea how to entertain themselves.

[T]hese recommendations romanticize past summers that weren’t ever so perfect in the first place.

And, as is often the case, these presumed deficiencies are all our (i.e., the parents’) faults. What’s more, the only fix is to ensure that our kids have a summer that matches up with our own childhood summers—or at least our best memories of those summers.

According to some summer “experts,” we should:

Let our kids roam the neighborhood until the street lights come on after dark

  • Encourage our kids to drink from the garden hose
  • Serve a steady diet of hot dogs, Kool-Aid and corn chips
  • Use dancing out in the rain as an acceptable form of bathing
  • Give up all screentime/allow uninterrupted hours of screentime (these recommendations aren’t always consistent)
  • Stop worrying so much about sunscreen, strangers and constant supervision
  • Give up all plans, agendas and itineraries
  • Model our entire lives out of something from “Leave it to Beaver,” “Happy Days,” “The Wonder Years” or whatever television show reminds us of the summers of our youth

On the one hand, I can appreciate the spirit of some of these recommendations. They speak to the beauty of simplicity and imperfection. They embolden children to be resourceful and independent. And they describe idyllic, carefree summers.

But on the other hand, these recommendations romanticize past summers that weren’t ever so perfect in the first place. For instance, I can remember spending languorous summer days wading knee-deep in the creek behind my house, but I can also remember spending hours upon summer hours watching soap operas with my sisters. (Kids were screentime zombies back in the olden days, too.) And I can remember spending sunscreen-free days roaming outside in my swimsuit, but I can also remember blistery red sunburns on my shoulders the next day.

So if we want to give our kids the best summers ever, perhaps it’s time to stop looking back toward our blurry, rose-tinted memories in order to define those summers.

Nothing was perfect back then, just as nothing is perfect now.

Moreover, many of these “1970s summer” recommendations speak to an oft-ignored set of privileges. What about neighborhoods with higher-than-average crime rates? What about kids who would be so lucky to have a steady supply of any food in the pantry? What about towns where it is literally unsafe to drink water straight from the tap or the garden hose? (Looking at you, Flint.)

If any of us had great summers during our childhoods, it’s because we were lucky enough to have them. Not because past decades are superior to the present. Not because parenting was better then than it is today.

We were just lucky.

RELATED: 10 Milestones Parents Hit in the Post-Toddler Years

So if we want to give our kids the best summers ever, perhaps it’s time to stop looking back toward our blurry, rose-tinted memories in order to define those summers.

Maybe it’s time to ask our kids what they think makes for the best summer ever.

If we blend our nostalgia with their clear-eyed view of the present, we might actually give them a pretty perfect summer after all.

Share this on Facebook?

More from kids