I was born in 1981, so my childhood and teen years were filled with some pretty great (and some “so bad, it’s good”) pop culture. Books, movies, TV shows, toys… so many treasures. I feel like my parents did a pretty good job of exposing me to different genres and experiences, and I want to be sure that I do the same for my 5-year-old son. What better way than to share what I loved with him?
I’m lucky that my parents saved some toys and a lot of picture books and chapter books from my childhood. My husband’s parents did the same. So now, some of our son’s favorite things to play with are my husband’s collections of Transformers and Micro Machines from almost 40 years ago, and one of his favorite books is a joke book I got when I was 5. He loves to snuggle at bedtime with some of our old stuffed animals, including a stuffed snake that his dad sewed in grade school. We dug out my original Nintendo one day out of boredom, and after it finally bit the dust, we purchased a Nintendo mini with the original games. Now, a special treat is being able to play a family round of Galaga or Pac-Man or Super Mario Brothers.
Streaming services (especially Disney+) have provided many opportunities to share the shows and movies I loved as a kid. Home Alone and Toy Story quickly became new favorites, though I’ll admit that I wasn’t crazy about how often “ya filthy animal” was used in my son’s vocabulary. Classic kids’ TV shows haven’t been quite as successful. Scooby-Doo is currently a bit too scary, and he prefers the new episodes of Duck Tales to the old-school ones. However, the old black-and-white version of Dennis the Menace has proven to be a winner.
One experience that I will definitely recommend is an outing to the drive-in (there are two in the Cincinnati area). Currently, due to COVID-19 and the lack of big theatrical releases, classic family movies are being shown, such as Back to the Future, E.T. and The Goonies. We recently went and enjoyed Jurassic Park. I’m not sure who had more fun, the 5-year-old dinosaur expert or his parents who were around to see it in theatres in 1993.
However, there are some stumbling blocks in your childhood with your child.
Norms and what we consider acceptable and appropriate have come a long way. An example is the chapter book we are reading now – the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Of course, my son loves it. A problem arose when we got to the chapters about the other children who got the Golden Tickets. The description of Augustus Gloop is very focused on how overweight he is, and the illustration is equally unkind. My son thought this was very funny and kept talking about how “fat” he was. So, I made it a teachable moment. I focused on the fact that Augustus ate candy bars all day, and we talked about how unhealthy he must have been. We talked about what were healthier choices he and his mother could have made, and what our family can do to stay healthy. We talked about how referring to someone’s appearance in such a negative and demoralizing way would make them feel. And then we moved on.
When considering what aspects of your own childhood to share with your child, it’s important to not just view them through the rosy glow of nostalgia, but to really examine them and decide if they are conveying the messages that you want your child to hear. If they aren’t, determine if they are messages that can be turned into teachable moments, if they are messages that should maybe just wait until your child is a bit older, or if it’s ultimately something you should just skip. Two examples of this that I am currently considering are Roald Dahl’s The Witches and the movie Peter Pan. Although I read The Witches at around my son’s current age, knowing him, I feel that it’s just too scary for him at this point. And although I love Peter Pan, its depictions of Native Americans are, to put it mildly, problematic. I would prefer to wait until he’s a bit older and can better understand why those depictions are wrong, and why they were used in the first place.
What are some of your favorite items from childhood that you have shared with your own children? Did they experience the same joy that you did?