June 10, 2013

The Wonder Years

This post was last updated on July 8th, 2020 at 06:41 pm

Warning: I’m getting older and more nostalgic by the minute it seems. If this post seems sappy, that’s why.

I fight the urge to begin sentences with “Back in my day….” or  “You kids don’t know the first thing about….” I don’t want be “that guy” but I do have to say that it seems like for me, growing up in the late 1960’s and 1970’s those were the wonder years and I think in some ways a time we never saw before and might never see again.

The Wonder Years is indeed one of my favorite all time shows. Cleverly written from the unique perspective of an adult looking back on his childhood it mirrors so many experiences that I and others of that era went through. The opening scene of the 6 year series sets the stage.

Today I went back to my hometown of Morden, Manitoba. While, not exactly the suburbs, Morden is much like most small towns in the prairies. Driving through the town brings back nothing but wonderful memories growing up. I suppose the word that came to mind most was community. The reason I think of this as a unique era in our history is when I compare my father’s childhood and my own kids. My Dad grew up in the 1930’s and 40’s. Growing up on a farm, community was likely not a term or concept he thought much about. Most of his days were spent either in school or at home on the farm with his 7 brothers and sisters and parents. He didn’t do much outside of those events. Largely due to economics and location, life was pretty simple and not much time was given for leisure or socialization.

My life was so drastically different from his. My world revolved around a wonderful mix of family friends, sports, and community. When I think of being a kid, I think of eating as fast as I could and heading outside to play football or baseball or hockey. I remember watching television with my parents as well. We were big fans of shows like The Carol Burnett Show and Johnny Carson. I remember begging them to stay up late so I could at least watch the monolog. I remember gathering for events as a community. I ran into a great childhood friend today who introduced me to his son. He reminisced about how we used to play street football and we used chalk to mark 100 yards of sidelines on both sides of road. By the end of the season, we had the smoothest footballs imaginable. Those of us who grew up in Canada remember hearing yelling “CAR!”  where you had to move the nets off the road to allow a vehicle to pass by during your street hockey game. It’s strange that while I played lots of organized sports, my strongest memories are of playing without adults around. I would just go to the field, the street or the backyard rink and kids would just show up and you’d play for hours until someone had to go home.

I think of my own kids growing up. While more their childhood was more like mine than mine was like my Dad, the differences are still apparent. They had so many more choices of activities. Not only were there more choices in sports but also so many other activities for kids to be involved in. Well meaning, adult-organized programs meant  way less free time for kids to just play. My kids were often were tired at the end of the day. I’m sure I was tired too but always of my own choice not the demands of my parents or others.  They have way more choices for entertainment as well. I watched my share of television but never at the expense or choice of playing with my buddies outside. Our back yard and streets were well worn. My kids didn’t wear out our grass. I don’t remember the last time I had to slow down for kids to take hockey nets off the street.

These differences are well documented and I’m by no means am I the first person to notice but what I do see is the sweet spot of childhood that I experienced. While my Dad had few choices and few opportunities, it seems kids today may have had too many. My Dad lived with no media and my kids probably have too much.  I don’t normally write about this kind of stuff without making some connection to learning or education. I don’t know if there is a connection and I don’t to be the person who laments the future or only sees what we’ve lost as a society.

I suppose it’s just an evolution of community and life that we’re seeing but I do think, and again I’m sure I’m bias, that I grew up in a special time and maybe a special place. I’m extremely grateful for that and can’t imagine a better way and time to grow. I guess I  we were just lucky to grow up when and where we did and as Daniel Stern says, “I still look back, with wonder.”

Okay, back to our normally scheduled blogging.