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10 Things From My Childhood That My Kid Will Never Understand

Photograph by Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

We’re living in a very different world from the world of my childhood, which I suppose is both a good and a bad thing.

We’ve made giant advances in civil rights—Yay! The environment is worse than ever—Boo! Technology has given the world a mind-boggling level of connectivity—Yay! Most people use it to make wacky dog faces on Snapchat—Boo!

Moral judgments aside, as a parent I’m mostly taken aback by all of the things that seemed so vital to my upbringing that my daughter will never be able to comprehend.

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These “culture shock” items tend to crop up when we’re watching old movies together. (And by "old," I mean '80s.) “Dad, why aren’t any of the Goonies calling their parents on their phones? Dad, why is Marty McFly bragging about having two TVs? Dad, what’s that big thing that kid is using in 'War Games'? A computer? No, really, what is it?”

She has no point of reference for these things, and why would she? But that doesn’t make it feel any less odd for me as her dad. Here are 10 things from my childhood that I can’t believe my daughter will never get to experience.

1. Coming home after dark

In the age of helicopter parenting and clown attacks, this one just isn’t going to happen.

2. Not being able to access money over the weekend

Before the age of the ATM or the “Do you want cash back?” option at checkout, if you didn’t take out money from the bank by Friday—by physically going to the bank—you would have absolutely no way to get your own money out of your own bank account until Monday. (That one still feels weird to me.)

3. Having nothing to watch

When I was a kid, there was a 90-minute block of cartoons after school. On two channels. That was the only programming for children on a weekday. Everything else was news, and it was boring and awful. (That’s how I remember it.) So, the fact that kids have multiple 24/7 TV channels with programming exclusively made for them—not to mention Netflix—is both amazing and profoundly unfair.

4. The fact that phones used to be stationary

So many universal phone gestures are completely lost on this generation. The “rotary dialing” gesture, the “holding a handset to your ear while twirling the cord” gesture—they’re just nonsense to anyone under 18.

5. The “Way Back”

We used to ride in the rear trunk of station wagons—without seat belts—and we LOVED IT. Was it unsafe? Heck, yeah! But we didn’t know any better.

6. Unanswerable questions

Back in my day, if I asked my dad, “Hey, who invented the typewriter?” there was no conceivable way for him to know the answer to my question unless we had volume T of the Encyclopedia Britannica in our house. Cut to 30 years later, and my daughter reacts to even the slightest pause before I answer a question with, “Maybe just Google it, Daddy?”

The fact that kids have multiple 24/7 TV channels with programming exclusively made for them is both amazing and profoundly unfair.

7. Cursive

Yeah, my daughter’s school does “teach” cursive, but it’s a pretty weak showing. It feels like they’re just doing it because they have to, but, in reality, there isn’t much reason for them to be learning cursive anymore, aside from learning how to create a signature. My daughter will never know the hand cramp that comes after filling her third blue book with cursive writing during a college essay test. When I was a kid, cursive was useful. It was a faster way to write. But for my kid, it’s just an affectation—a weird way to write Qs and Zs, and nothing more.

8. Fear of the Soviet Union invading the USA

I blame the movie "Red Dawn" for this. Granted, her generation will have their own issues with Russia. Maybe a hacker war, maybe a drone war, but she’s probably never going to have to worry about forming a rag-tag militia of teenagers to fight back against the Ruskies while screaming “WOLVERINES!” (I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.)

9. The McDLT

Remember this McDonald's sandwich, old people? It kept the hot side hot and the cold side … OK, it was a big flop. I get it. I’m just dating myself now.

10. Anonymity

When I was a kid, if someone wanted to find out everything about me, they’d have to hire a private detective. But for my daughter’s generation, there is an enormous amount of data about their lives—Census info, public records, images, social-media profiles—that almost ANYONE can access with ease. I’ll be honest, I don’t really envy them on this one. The fact that no one could Google my most embarrassing moments when I was a teenager makes me almost deliriously happy in retrospect. I just hope that one day my daughter might be able to experience the heady pleasures of being totally anonymous. (But I don’t see how.)

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Image from "The Goonies"

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