As is the modern ritual every year on Children’s Day, I scour through my childhood pictures, to find a suitable one I could put up social media. Scrolling past a million pictures of my six-year-old in the process, it just suddenly dawned on me, the contrast in our childhoods. I, despite being the elder of the two siblings, thus more photographed in childhood, barely have a stack of photographs to chart my early years. Whereas we have SD cards and data banks overflowing with the daughter’s pictures. From entertainment to food, to lifestyle, there is a huge contrast in experiencing childhood. But is this contrast good or bad? Is my child having a better childhood than I had or vice versa? Or is it all the same, and the only thing to have changed is perspective and facilities?

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • There has been a drastic change in the way children experience childhood over decades.
  • But is it better today or was the experience more enjoyable back then?
  • While parents are more informed today, they are turning into helicopter parents due to issues like safety.
  • However, it is easier to have conversations about good touch- bad touch than it was two decades ago.

We were perhaps the last generation that knew what it felt like, to be bored out of our wits during summer afternoons.

Being a 90s kid, childhood is something that our generation loves to glorify. We are the generation that witnessed the transition from Doordarshan to cable TV, from cassettes to CDs in our formative years. Video games were a big luxury and so were chocolates, but we had them alright. The economic boom of the 90s meant watching films in the theatre, going out for dinner occasionally and birthdays where mom cooked for a party of 15 or 20. We were perhaps the last generation that knew what it felt like, to be bored out of our wits during summer afternoons.

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Today, however, childhood is packed with more activities than even a full-grown adult can handle. There is content to be consumed and classes to be attended. Frequent dining out and visits to mall is no longer a luxury, but a routine. Who has time to get bored today? But switch off your broadband for five minutes and kids manage to experience the level of boredom that we couldn’t even do in the two-month stretch of summer vacations. The conversation how childhood has changed over the decades is though incomplete unless we discuss how parenting has transformed. Our children have the lifestyle that we manage to give them. And if you are seeing fewer kids on the playground, or if they cannot withstand a day’s trip to the street market, then it is us who are to be blamed.

Back then, parents weren’t big on the conversation regarding sexual abuse, and thankfully that has changed.

With rise in awareness regarding mental health and the value of happiness, parents are gradually warming up to the idea of not pushing their kids to their breaking point. Although, our intrusion in their life means they are constantly chaperoned everywhere. But then again helicopter mums become so, because of terrible past experiences or just browsing through the daily newspaper. When I was six, I had to be dragged back home from the playground. Our parents would only begin to worry about our whereabouts if we didn’t turn up at home by dinner time. You could go to a friend’s place for playdates without informing your mother and get away with it if you came back home on time. Although bad things happened when you put your trust in the hands of bad people. But back then, parents weren’t big on the conversation regarding sexual abuse, and thankfully that has changed.

Today I may march after my daughter dutifully to the playground, and play dates have me on the edge of the couch, but then it is easier for me to talk to my child about good touch and bad touch, something our parents never had the bandwidth to do. She has access to electronic gadgets, but we still encourage her to play board games, solve puzzles and read books. Not that we abstain her from playing games or watching cartoons on iPad altogether. If we had such amenities in our childhood, wouldn’t we have done the same?

So, the question that matters the most is whether or not our children are having happy and fulfilling childhoods. These years will become foundation for their adulthood, their childhood memories will becomes their comforters, whenever life would throw a curveball their way. What I have realised is that it doesn’t matter which decade you were born in and what luxuries you had access to. In the end, it is the society and family that you live in, the people around you, who can ensure that a child can look back at her or his childhood with love and nostalgia and not disdain and regret. So, what are we doing to ensure a happy childhood for the children of this world then?

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.

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