Kids These Days

I’m 28, I live in a shoebox apartment, I sleep with a sleeping bag and a Nascar pillow case I’ve had since I was 15 on a bunk bed futon so what I say may not be important or credible. But here it goes…

I am proud to have been born in the ‘80s and to have grown up in the ‘90s but I’m tired of being constantly bombarded about ‘90s pride on the internet. I keep reading things that explain that our generation was the last generation to grow up playing on the street and playing outside followed by a list of video games and television shows that we all grew up watching, implying that we’re somehow better than younger generations because they haven’t had to blow the bottom of a Super Nintendo game to get it working or rewind a VHS.

Adults, which we are despite our best efforts, have a way of looking down on younger generations and we the ‘90s kids are starting to creep into the cranky old stage. We complain about kids these days  who are constantly on their iPads and phones and how they don’t play outside anymore and when we were kids it was better and we do this collectively – on our iPads and phones in comment sections of Saved by the Bell gifs.

A lot of nostalgic memes or clip-bait lists are great. It’s fun to think back on our childhood. But exclaiming that kids these days don’t understand as if it’s a bad thing is silly. Of course kids these days don’t understand, they’re kids! They don’t have to, and that’s what’s great about being a kid. When we were watching Power Rangers were we concerned about the early ‘90s recession, or our  job prospects? Were we worried about how our parents made up their budget to finance luxuries like the N64 and Blockbuster late fees?

I was babysitting my niece and nephew a while back and we ended up in the toy section of Wal-Mart. I started thinking back to how great the toy section was when I was a kid. It was the only place in the store that mattered. I dreamt of the toy section and every trip was an event to brag about to my sisters. The Lego sets, G.I. Joes, remote control cars, model cars, tech decks – a space full of possibility and adventure.

To give context to this trip to Wal-Mart, the purpose wasn’t to go to the toy section, it was to buy pillows to stage my sister’s house. But passing by the toy section and being the fun uncle I happily gave into my niece’s kindergarten implorations and we went to the toy section together (It was still in the same place as when I was her age). She was like a kid in a toy store. Her eyes lit up and she explained to me in exacting detail the different toys, the rank in which she wanted them and which one of her friends by name had what toys.  My first reaction should have been, wow this is really cool, I remember when I was a kid and I enjoyed the toy section and she’s doing the same thing. But it wasn’t, it was, toys were so much better when I was a kid, she has no idea what she’s missing.

Which, after thinking about it sensibly, is quite possibly the most stupid, self-involved, peanut gallery BS I could have thought. Toys weren’t better when I was a kid, they were worse, they were a health hazard and probably made by a child in a south-east Asian country not to mention the fact that they probably promoted latent racism and homophobia and scholars would argue created unrealistic social constructions and expectations of masculinity and femininity. But when you’re 6 years old, you don’t care about safety, fair wages or socially constructed gender, race and sexuality bias – you care about fun. The toys were magical because I was a kid. The toys themselves were irrelevant. It was the hope and possibility of adventure that made the toy section a fantastical place when I was a kid and it’s the same thing that still makes the toy section amazing for my niece.  To minimize her love of toys by saying toys were better in my day is tragic. Because, there’s going to be a day when she’s older and someone is going to break her heart, she’s going to stress about getting into university, she’s going to stress about getting a job, she’s going to stress about staging a house and there’s going to be a time when she won’t care about the toy section anymore.  

So next time you’re surrounded by kids enjoying themselves, whether it’s kids in a toy store, preteens chasing each other while you’re walking down the street or university students waiting in line for a nightclub and you think to yourself kids these days, stop yourself and say, I remember when I was a kid, that was fun, I hope they’re having fun too.

Matthieu Foreman

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