As a child of the 80’s who is raising kids now, I often think about how much parenting has changed over the last few decades. Take, for example, going to the grocery store:
Preparing to leave in the 80’s: Walk over to the monstrous television, and turn the bottom dial counter-clockwise until Bob Ross’s brush strokes are muted. Tell the kids to put away their She-ra and He-man action figures because it’s time to go to Pic ‘n Save since we’re out of Frito’s for the tuna-cheesy-mayo casserole. Light up a Marlboro Red and lean up against the wood-paneled wall in the kitchen. Wonder aloud if it’s time to upgrade to some tiny-geese-with-blue-bows wall paper as you wait for your kids to slip on their dirty LA Gears.
Preparing to leave now: Summons your kids from the children’s basement quarters using your home-intercom system. Tell the kids to pause Minecraft and grab their Kindles because it’s time to go to Whole Foods since we ran out of organic broccolini for the roast vegetable medley. Chastise yourself for allowing the kids too much screen-time, as you recall a blog post you recently read entitled “You suck if your kid doesn’t prefer the violin to video games.” Then quickly tell the kids to grab their common-core workbooks, not their Kindles. Chastise yourself for changing your mind as you recall another viral article entitled, “Science says be consistent or your kid will become an axe murderer.” Lock yourself in the bathroom to vape away the guilt and play clash of clans, while your kids put on their Crocks.
Driving in the 80’s: Have the kids pile into the woody-wagon. Sure it’s fine if they sit backward in the bench seat and pretend to be astronauts operating a command system. Turn the radio dial until you settle-in on a local commercial for a babysitting service run by 11 year olds. Try to memorize the phone number for the service by remembering the catchy jingle sang by a middle aged white man. Wonder to yourself whether $1.20 per hour is worth it.
Driving Now: Make sure your four and six year olds are secure in their 5-point harness car seats and your seven year old is secure in his upright booster. Tell the kids that no, they can’t watch the TV in the van because you just remembered a newsfeed article entitled “Nine out of ten kids who watch TV in the car will someday live in a cardboard box.” Press the digital screen to change the XM Radio station, and hear forty different news stations covering the same story about an 11 year old in Ohio who got hit by a car when she was allowed to ride her bike by herself. Shake your head and sigh to yourself “Neglectful parents these days. That’s why I keep my kids on a leash and covered in bubblewrap when we do our synchronized family bike-rides.”
Parking in the 80’s: While you go in the store, leave your whining seven year old to wait out in the car. When your four year old complains, let him stay in the car too, as long as he minds his older brother. Watch the demonic smile emerge over your seven-year old, and note that being drunk with power is good for a kid once in a while and getting bossed-around might toughen up your sissy-ninny of a four year old. Give the window cranks a couple downward turns and take one more drag of the cigarette before extinguishing it in the ashtray built into the center council. Ignore the fact that your middle child just swung his door into the neighboring car door, since it-too is a sturdy vehicle covered with faux wood.
Parking Now: Help unbuckle each child from his car seat before releasing the child lock on a strategically-chosen minivan door, the door furthest away from parking lot traffic. Then stand outside that door and direct each child to hold hands with one another while attempting to walk single-file along the side of the parking lot. Instill a high-functioning anxiety disorder in your oldest as you abruptly scream, “Move over! A CAR! No! Not so close to the EXHaUsT! If you breathe it in, you’ll get CAnCER!”
Grocery Shopping in the 80’s: Let your six year old wander over to the cereal aisle to check out the California Raisins while you busy yourself throwing Mamwich, Velveeta, Spam and Hamburger Helper into the cart. Look at the labels only to determine whether there is a depiction of happy people with perms, mustaches, and bowl-cuts somewhere on the product. Run into your neighbor, Patty, and talk leisurely about whether to put marshmallows in the Jello casserole while neither you nor Patty know where your children are. Write down Patty’s phone number so you can later talk to her on your rotary while enjoying a cigarette on the burlap sofa. When you finally see your kid climbing on top of the Tab cola display, scream across the store to get down this second unless you want a beatin’ on that hind end of yours. Observe the other parents in the store nodding in support of your stellar parenting skills.
Grocery shopping Now: Instruct each child to hold onto the sanitized and color-coded stickers you have attached to various places on the cart. Then spend an hour reading labels, and weighing out whether more natural ingredients are worth paying $4,000 extra. Catch a glimpse of your neighbor, Ashley, in the locally-cultured yogurt aisle, but avoid eye contact by burying your face in your smart phone. When your youngest starts complaining that he’s bored, reflect compassionately on his his feelings and list five fun-filled activities he could engage-in. When he keeps whining, feel guilty that you have not properly done your job of entertaining him.
Checking out in the 80’s: Get a last-minute pack of cigarettes in the check-out line. While you’re at it, grab your oldest kid a couple boxes of candy cigarettes and a deck of Garbage Pail Kids cards since he made the most home-runs at the neighborhood pickup ball game (and the other two kids can just suck it up and deal). Write a check for $17.83, and leave with a cart full of food.
Checking out Now: Have a ten minute discussion validating your children’s feelings and letting them down gently when they ask for Sour Patch Kids in the check-out line. Use a high pitched voice and gently pat their heads before returning to your newsfeed on your smart phone. When it is finally your turn, hand the cashier your reusable bags and insert your chipped credit card before everything has been scanned. After several error messages, remove and reinsert the chip six times as the cashier explains that the machines are sensitive. Leave after paying $387 for a half a cart of food. Later, via your Bank of America app, learn that your credit card has been skimmed and someone in New York charged $88 to Grub Hub on your dime.