Was it real or Memorex? The myth of the ‘magical’ ’70s summer

Never mind orange, nostalgia for the ’70s and ’80s is the new black. It’s impossible to read Facebook these days without seeing a post or comment about how much better it was to be a kid back then; everyone played until the street lights came on, took lots of crazy risks, and ran around completely unsupervised eating sugar.

Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout Facebook? I know some people really experienced the majestic 70’s summer, but was it as pervasive as it seems? Is it possible we may be idealizing things a wee bit? It’s natural if we are; lots of decades have gotten a rosy wash in retrospect (think about the ’50s and Leave it to Beaver). And with things so different these days from our own childhoods it makes sense that we’d want for our kids what we had (or what we think we had).

But real or embellished, how can we use our nostalgia and make it productive for this generation of kids living in such a radically transformed culture?

Is it possible to take what we cherish about our upbringings and fold it into our parenting in a way that makes sense in today’s world? What would that look like?

These are the questions that I’d like to see coming out of all the looking backwards. As illustrated charmingly by Jerry Seinfeld and Sarah Jessica Parker, reminiscing can be hilarious, but when we find ourselves wishing our kids into a different decade maybe there’s more going on.

Maybe this is the signal that it’s time to dial back a bit, to simplify, to slow down.

But even though we may think kids are worse off now, someday, I’m sure, they’ll look back at this time through a fog of nostalgia and get sentimental about how good they had it.

Someday they’ll probably wish that they could give their kids a 2014 summer. And everyone will say “Yes, 2014! That’s when we had it all together. That’s when we really knew what we were doing.”

Instead of wishing for life to be different, if we stay present we can have a little influence about what it means to be a kid in the summer of 2014 and what that means will vary from family to family and from kid to kid. Just like it did in 1977.

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