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Childhood, Then & Now
Childhood Has Changed!!
There's no question that parenting and childhood has changed over the last 90 years! But has it changed for the better? ..or do you think it's changed for the worse? Seems everyone has opinions.. teachers, doctors, theologians, politicians, the so-called experts, and of course, today's parents, most of whom believe, or at least hope that they are doing it right. But shouldn't we ponder the question.. if our children had the intellect, what would their opinions be? I wonder.
Since we each have only our own childhoods as actual evidence for our opinions, it seems the debate could go on & on. After all, even siblings, that is, children raised in the same families, and by the same parents, will remember their childhood events differently. This of course, is because we each view & absorb life experiences differently..
Childhood During The 1930s & 40's
Most children during these times suffered poverty, deprivation, and fear to an extent that no American child has suffered since. Effects of the Great Depression & War in Europe were their reality, and topics of nearly every adult conversation they overheard & absorbed. By the end of the 30's & early 40's.. the depression not yet ended, the war in Europe still reality, and Japan declares war on America with an attack on Pearl Harbor. Small children were left at home with older siblings as more Moms went to work, and many Dads and older brothers served the military. By 1946 the economy had improved, the war had ended, and young couples started their families.. with vows that their children would not suffer the childhoods that they had; their children would have more.. today we refer to their children as the 'baby boomers'.
During the 50's
Effects of the Korean war were felt only slightly by children of the 50's, and these were happier times than children had experienced in two decades. Most Moms were home, and those that worked outside the home were often considered poor mothers, even if their incomes were needed, or their careers were admirable. Most children of working Moms were what we now term 'latchkey' kids, and daycare centers as we know them today were virtually non-existent.. But outside of skinned knees, etc., children could play outdoors from dawn till dusk, and walk to & from school with little concern for their safety. Though there were underlying political problems during the 50's, most children were unaware of it, and enjoyed childhoods free of concern for adult related issues. By the end of the 50's most homes had a TV, a telephone, and a vehicle, all of which were controlled by parents. Teens were enjoying more freedom which they exploited freely via rock & roll, etc., though sex education was minimal..
Childhood During the 60's & 70's
These were eras of great social change & ambiguity, and I believe the initiation of modern day childhood.. The late 50's and early 60's found Moms working to help families acquire 2nd cars, better vacations, bigger, nicer homes, more TV's, and more gadgets, etc. People were discouraged by the loss of a President & onset of what was to become a seemingly never-ending political conflict in Viet Nam. Attitudes about life in general took on more negativity as our military began arriving home with serious injuries, illnesses, and death. Alcohol and drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, war protests & general crime rates increased... By the end of the 70's as many as 50% of Moms worked outside the home, and many now worked for actual living expenses due to the increasing cost of living, and also due to divorce rates which had increased by more than 50%. Childcare was still often provided by friends, neighbors, and relatives, though childcare centers began popping up in many cities. Parents became more alert to growing crime rates, and while most children could still play in their own neighborhoods with relative safety.. caution became more prevalent, and children of these eras were forced to become more aware of personal safety issues.
The 80's ~ Americas 'Me' Generation
The number of single parent households grew by leaps and bounds during this time, as the popular consideration of the 80's was to prioritize ones self... thus these were the adults of the 'ME & MINE are all that matters' generation. Crime rates had more than quadrupled since 1960, but fortunately began to gradually drop as we approached the 90's. Childhood during the 80's involved long days of childcare center experiences, and very little 'family' life for many kids, as more and more parents worked outside the home..
By the 90's even more children were sequestered to their homes & daycare centers due to both parents working outside the home, and escalating safety issues involving more than just their own neighborhoods. Due to lack of exercise, improper nutrition, and unresolved emotional issues, childhood obesity, sexual promiscuity & drug abuse were nearly epidemic. By age 12, many children had already experimented with drugs, alcohol, sex, and often some gang & crime related situations. Modern society changes, family devaluation, and resulting divorce rates had produced nearly two generations of children, most of whom were not raised in the same home with both biological parents, and spent most of their childhoods bouncing between homes of their divorced parents.. never actually actually developing any family values, or sprouting 'roots' of their own .
Most parents worked outside the home, and though their efforts were admirable, time allowed for barely more than adequate parenting. As they scrambled to deal with mounting personal and/or marital strife, debts, and job related stress & commitments, the term 'quality time' became the latest justification for modern American parental inadequacies..
21st Century: the 1st Decade, and Beyond?
'Quality time' continued to be the accepted excusal from providing children with the daily emotional and physical requirements that all children need and deserve from their parents. Early 21st century kids manage more on their own than not. Many small children are now being raised, or at least cared for by aging grandparents, while just as many are spending their days in 'institution-like' daycares. Latchkey kids are numerous, and countless numbers of teens manage on their own, while parents spend their days in the workplace, or looking for work in effort to avoid homelessness...Children are subjected to high stress levels and fear due to continued terror since the 9/11/01 attack, as well as the insecurity of recessionary years. Actual parenting was pushed yet further to the backseat, as parents struggled to hang on to jobs and homes.
These were the children of the beginning of the ultra high-tech era. Fast & cheap foods were regular staples of many American children.. Childhood afflictions multiplied by staggering numbers. Today, odds of an American child being diagnosed with autism, for example, are now 1 in 68. Where TV was the culprit 'babysitter' of previous eras.. 21st century kids are also inundated with computers, video games, cell phones, iPads, iPods, and countless other modern gadgets, in addition to TV. American neighborhoods are clearly unsafe for child play, and for many, exposure to outdoor exercise is limited to that offered by the school systems.. which has led to near epidemic numbers of childhood obesity.. The now exorbitant cost of health care and so-called higher education is leaving countless children with no medical care, and little more than high school educations. Good health and aspirations of quality careers are now non-existent for 1000's upon thousands of American young people.
Is it just me, or does it seem the 21st century hasn't been very kind to our kids so far?
Wasn't Perfect Then, but Far from Perfect Now.....
So ..it doesn't appear that the experience of childhood has improved over the decades, does it? In fact, it appears to have suffered extreme deterioration. Do you think todays' children are better off than yesterdays' children? Do they truly have brighter futures than yesterdays' kids? Is it possible that, at least in some areas, our grandparents and great grandparents just might have had their priorities in better, smarter, kinder, and more loving places than we do? Has childhood itself been devalued to the same degree as parenting and marriage has? ..and if so, then why would anyone have children in the first place?
Though we've grown, learned, and acquired so much over the years, it seems we have become a society that likens to a monster in the dark of night, lurking under the bed of a small child ..and sadly, today, in the 21st century.. it seems parents are either too preoccupied, or too overwhelmed to chase the monsters away..
It appears the kids are losing.. and since they are the future.. seems the future's not looking too bright..