Here’s the thing: I’m as nostalgic as the next Generation Xer for the 1980s. Long summer days filled with Bubble O’ Bills and stretchy belts. School holidays spent peddling my Indy 500 around the streets of Thornlie, Spokey Dokeys lighting the way. It was a golden time in a slightly average suburb, punctuated by midnight feasts and Telethon. As childhoods go, it was a fucking good one, but you know what? All childhoods are golden (unless you’re an orphaned Taiwanese child stitching sneakers for Nike, but you know); any period of your life where your meals are prepared by a third-party, the bills aren’t addressed to you, and you don’t have to wipe another human’s arse is gonna be pretty fucking peachy.
Here’s the thing: the kids of today have never had it so good. Yeah yeah, we can get hung up on the loss of the golden days of childhood, where innocence was plentiful and curfews were late, but I’ll say it again: NOW IS GOOD. Here’s why:
1. The sex offender register. Back then, it was kinda left to chance, and a mistrust of gentleman with short shorts and moustaches. Now we know exactly which streets to avoid, and why.
2. When I was a kid, if I wanted to play a video game on my Commodore 64, I had to plan my activity hours in advance, ‘cos it’d take at least – AT LEAST – 52 minutes to load Frogger.
3. In the 80s, kiddy fiddlers were kinda, I dunno, tolerated. Not encouraged, necessarily, but tolerated. My husband has a photo of him and his two siblings sitting with a dubious looking clown who is clearly – CLEARLY – cupping his brother’s balls. That sort of thing was okay in the 80s.
4. When I was at school in Perth, Western Australia, we had nothing even resembling a sun-safety policy. I don’t ever recall wearing a hat, and our school assemblies were held in full sun, on concrete, standing up. Kids passed out like dominoes; this wasn’t a big deal, this was simply a rite of passage.
5. There were no such things as booster seats, in my day. Jesus, we didn’t even have SEAT BELTS. My husband (him again) FELL OUT of his dad’s moving car on one momentous journey. His parents – being of the free-range variety – barely even noticed they were down one kid.
6. Holidays were shit when I was a kid. When we lived in England, we used to go to Butlins, a self-catering holiday camp for the simple minded, with entertainment provided in the form of holiday clown Billy Butlins (see point 3, above). International travel was the preserve of Boy George, Michael Jackson and – possibly – Bros.
7. In my day, stranger danger simply meant instinctively mistrusting men with short shorts and moustaches, and Billy Butlins. I’d have got in anyone’s van for a Mars Bar. Kids today are much more clued up; they’ve got code words and safe houses and flick knives. Today’s kids are gangsta.
8. Bullying was condoned, accepted and – indeed – encouraged. Fit in or fuck off, as the bumper sticker so eloquently pronounces. We didn’t ‘do’ multiculturalism in the 1980s. Jesus, we didn’t even do red-headed kids, or spectacles. We were the most intolerant bunch of motherfuckers, and yeah, that includes me. At this point, I would like to take this opportunity to apologise profusely for contaminating Sylvia Wong with boy germs. I hope it didn't leave psychological scars.
9. The healthy-eating pyramid was a thing of fantasy and distrust. I ate sandwiches of beef dripping and salt FOR A SNACK. On one memorable occasion, at that most 80s of luncheons (a smorgasbord), I ate seven prawn cocktails. In a row. I also ate all the icing off a Sara Lee carrot cake, once. Fortunately, the BMI was also a thing of fantasy and distrust.
10. TV was total shit when I was a kid, and littered – LITTERED – with crap adverts for Len Hughes Mitsubishi and Mr Sheen. My kids have never watched a fucking advert. Nor have they watched Hey Hey It’s Saturday. For that reason, and that reason alone, they are winning at childhood.
11. And finally: corrective surgeries/therapies are commonplace and accessible to all. When was the last time you saw a kid with a distinctive cleft lip and palette? That’s right, not since primary school. Not since the EIGHTIES.
What’s my point? Here’s my point: THE POINT IS, the streets have never been safer, the kiddy fiddlers more easily identifiable, the hats more wide-brimmed. There’s no reason on earth why your kids can’t go out and experience the same golden childhood that you did, albeit with better-balanced lunchboxes and a more open-minded attitude to the minorities and the misunderstood. Now is good, and now is safe, and now could even be fun, if we – as parents – lightened the fuck up, and let our kids be kids. (That’s my excuse for my laissez-faire attitude to parenting, and I’m sticking to it, okay?)