5 ways to give your kids the same childhood you had

There is, quite frankly, nothing like the way we were raised. Now those were the days! Back then we roamed the streets at will, our hair like birds’ nests, our teeth roughly filed to sharp points. We foraged for food in corner stores, vending machines, and friends’ couch cushions. We went outside to play first thing in the morning and often wouldn’t see our parents again for days or weeks, or sometimes until well after we’d gotten jobs and had our own children.

But kids aren’t being raised like this anymore. I know because I’ve read 372 recent thinkpieces on the topic. And frankly, I’m concerned. I’m concerned that if we don’t do something, kids today may grow up to be totally unlike us. I honestly can’t think of anything worse.

The only way to ensure our kids are raised right is to give them the exact same childhoods we had. Here’s how, in five easy steps:

1 // Challenge them at every turn

For too many kids today, hardship is the battery on their iPad dying. And who can blame them when their life experiences are limited to rounded corners, rubber mats, and safe heights? Do your kids a favor and add an element of danger back into their everyday lives. Hammer nails through the bottom of the playground slide. Sprinkle shattered glass around the swing set. Staple a few splintered old boards into a semblance of a treehouse in a rickety old oak and leave a pack of matches and a 1978 Playboy inside. Even better, organize a knife-throwing contest and set up a cash bar and some lawn chairs for the other parents. Candy Crush Saga suddenly seems a lot less compelling when you’re actively fighting for survival.

2 // Keep adult supervision to a bare minimum

Did you know? When children are left to their own devices they form natural pack hierarchies. So why bother parenting kids when they can parent themselves? Older, more dominant kids create the big-picture ideas (let’s throw rocks) and enlist the younger, weaker kids to perform mindless tasks as delegated (go get some rocks). It’s a brilliant system of strategy and operations that’s actually highly applicable to the real world of adult employment. Junior is much more likely to grow up satisfied with his career as a middling desk jockey if he’s already spent his crucial childhood years being primed as a drone.

So the next time your kids go outside, lock the doors. If they bang and wail to be let in at night, simply turn up the volume on Purple Rain or Desperately Seeking Susan or any number of other scintillatingly adult-sounding films you can watch because you’re a goddamned adult, goddammit. Toast your spouse as you throw your head back and laugh gaily, rivulets of precious barrel-aged bourbon spilling over the rim of the glass and running down your arm, because your children are off learning important skills from other children and you don’t even have to be involved. Isn’t parenthood wonderfully rewarding?

3 // Feed them a steady diet of primary colors

In our day we didn’t have any of this so-called “organic” food, and I submit to you that a lack of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers in their diets is making our children weak. Why, I suspect that kids today couldn’t even get all the way through a packet of watermelon Pop Rocks before breaking down crying for some quinoa and kale. It’s time to build our kids’ immunities back up to fighting strength. Instead of wasting a second more of your precious grownup time preparing “balanced meals,” tonight for dinner simply open a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and dump it on the kitchen floor. The kids will figure it out, and if they don’t, well, that’s natural selection at work.

4 // Toss out all their toys

When we were kids, all we needed for an action-packed afternoon of fun was a couple of cardboard tubes and the rings from dad’s 6-pack of Miller Lite. Not so these days. Modern playtime consists of profligate collect-’em-all sets and instructional games led by virtual characters on a screen. You’re sinking all your hard-earned desk jockey dough into plastic, electronic crap that tells kids how to play. But before you pour one out on the curb for your old homie Imagination, take heed. All you need to do to fix this is round up your kids’ current toys and throw them away. They may cry at first, but trust me, they’ll be better off for it. Tell them to buck up and go fashion some new toys out of whatever abandoned items they can find in grandpa’s work shed, the creepy attic crawlspace, and the dumpsters behind 7-11 — just as nature intended.

5 // Constantly remind them who run the world

You do. You really do. You brought these little jerks into the world and you can take them out. Don’t let them forget that. My parents used to regularly assert their dominance by dragging me into furniture shops, used car lots, and highly breakable home goods stores where I was meant to stagger around with my arms stock still at my sides, not touching anything and not making noise, for hours and sometimes days at a stretch. This was a power play to break my childish will, and it worked.

You know what? To this day I can’t go inside a furniture shop without actively weeping. And I thank my parents for that, because they imparted an important lesson that I carry with me to this day: the world of adults is often disorienting, absurd, and expensive. The world of adults is not for children! And that’s okay because the world of adults frankly sucks, like, a lot of time. So let your kids have their magically incandescent worlds of dumpster-diving and rock-throwing while they can, but make it a habit to remind them that there’s much worse waiting out there.

Our future depends on it.

Image credit: “This Ends Here” by David Lyle, oil on panel // www.davidlylepaintings.com

2 Responses to “5 ways to give your kids the same childhood you had”

  1. I personally need instructions on how to give children a childhood wholly unlike my own. Oh wait, I don’t have children, so never mind. I really like that painting though.

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