How did we survive?

Was at a group meeting a few months back and an older gentleman shared an email he received from a friend. The email read….

How Did We Make It this Far?

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that we have lived as long as we have…

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paint.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. (Not to mention hitchhiking to town as a young kid!)

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then rode down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into
the bushes a few times we learned to solve the problem.

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. No cell phones. Unthinkable.

We played dodgeball and sometimes the ball would really hurt. We got cut and broke bones and broke teeth and there were no law suits from these
accidents. They were accidents. No one was to blame but us. Remember accidents?

We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned to get over it.

We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank sugar soda but we were never overweight … we were always outside playing.

We shared one grape soda with four friends, from one bottle and no one died from this.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X Boxes, video games at all, 99 channels on cable, video tape movies, surround sound, personal cellular phones, Personal Computers, internet chat rooms. Instead we had friends.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s home and knocked on the door, or rung the bell or just walked in and talked to them.

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did
the worms live inside us forever.

We ate penny candy, swallowed bubblegum, and our intestines did not stick together because of it.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment.

Some students weren’t as smart as others so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade. Tests were not adjusted
for any reason.

Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected. No one to hide behind. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers and problem solvers and inventors, ever. The past 50 years has been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

Obviously as a twenty something I can’t relate to everything in this letter, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t certain things that stood out to me (I bolded the things I liked).

I mean think about cell phones. Twenty years ago no one had cell phones and people managed to get by just fine. Now, if I reach down to grab my phone and it’s not in front of me, I have a mild panic attack. Funny how priorities change. (p.s. who doesn’t love going on vacation somewhere you know you’re phone wont get service? It’s so liberating!)

What were some of the things in the letter that rubbed ya the wrong way? What were some that resonated with you?

Any other 20-somethings out there willing to admit we are probably the laziest generation to have ever existed? Would love to hear from the 40+ crowd today and get your insights on how you’ve seen things change over the years!

p.s. if Facebook is the biggest “accomplishment” of our generation I’m going to cry.



42 thoughts on “How did we survive?”

  1. I have read that kind of email before and it makes me extremely sad. It makes me sad for all the kids that are growing now without such liberties. Granted, they are growing in a much wider, technologically advanced world, but their setbacks, in my opinion, do overweight the benefits. Especially with the ‘everyone makes the team even if they can’t hit a beach ball with a tennis racket’ or the ‘you got an M on your test (yeah, you did worse than an F could sufficiently cover), but because we HAVE to pass you, you pass. Congrats.’ I don’t necessarily think that face time outweights online chatting. You’re still talking. You learn (or should, in theory) to express yourself in paper/chat. Gives your writing some use, and you have a wider net of ‘friends’. Still, I am glad I grew up before all these changes occurred. Because most of them suck.

    PS: Hasta la vista, color figure.

  2. I can relate to quite a few of these things. The only ones that don’t apply to me would be the cars without seatbelts, the no playstaions.

    I’m 21 and I can remeber having seatbelts and videogames when I was much younger. All the other things I can definitely relate to and remember doing. Especially sharing one grape soda with four friends from one bottle.

    It makes me wonder though. Being as that I am from the Caribbean and we get stuff much later than the bigger places like the US and the UK if that is the reason I experienced more of the these things even though I am 21. Would be a nice comparison.

  3. Ninja,

    I loved the post. I’m 45 and everything in that e-mail resonated with me. As a young child we did everything from climbing trees to having acorn fights (those hurt) and I survived along with my siblings and neighbors.

    I had one of the very first car phones. Very heavy and I could only use it in my car. Today I love my iPhone 4. I would be lost without it.

    I’m not sure if your generation was the laziest. I think this generation is the laziest. I have a 15 year son who never comes out his room because he’s “gaming”. Instead of having a friend over he Skypes them and than they play computer games together.

    I think most parents today try to protect their kids from the harsh realities of life. These young kids are in for a rude awakening once they leave the nest (if they ever do).

    – Jackie

  4. I think that the 20 year olds (myself included) still had a little bit of a more real life than kids now. I didn’t have a cell hpone until I was 16 and could pay for it myself. I was the only one in my family and once my parents realized how nice it was to be able to get in touch with me so easily everyone got cell phone! My 2 year old neice knows how to work a tablet almost as well as I do, which is great on some level but, sad on another. A friend of a friend cuts his 12 year old son’s meat, his son who will only eat white colored food, his excuse “kids are different these days” I disagree… you’re making them different by treating them like invalids who couldn’t possibly handle a knife and a fork, or some play time outside,

  5. I will definitely cop to being the laziest generation, but the one coming up after us will certainly eclipse us in that department.

    One thing I don’t understand is people complaining that their cell phones make them “too available” and how it’s so nice to be somewhere where the cell doesn’t work. My cell phone has made it so I don’t ever have to talk to anyone I don’t wish to. I can see who’s calling and ignore the call. I have voicemail so they can tell me why they’re calling without me having to talk to them and so they don’t call back repeatedly until they get me. I have text messaging so I can fire off a quick text instead of wasting 20 minutes on a phone call. It’s the best invention ever for allowing you to control people’s access to you. Just because it rings doesn’t mean you have to answer it.

    Seriously, just don’t answer it. Be happy.

    P.S. I am not a hermit. I just hate talking on the phone.

    • I totally agree! I have an iPhone just like everybody else, and I’m actually a freelance writer, so I have to make myself available to clients all the time, but I turn off/ignore my phone just like everyone else! I usually won’t ignore a call from a client, during business hours, but if a friend calls and I’m in the middle of something—I call them back! I also have email notifications turned off, so I have to actually open to app if I want to see something new. I don’t know who out there is so egotistical that they think their friends can’t wait an hour for you to call them back/answer a text if you’re in the middle of something.

      It’s really not that hard to not make yourself available at everyone’s beck and call 24/7 a day.

  6. Here’s what worries me about kids these days: they are being trained not to have an imagination.

    When I was a kid, a stick could be a sword, a spear, a magic wand, a machine gun, a fire hose, or anything else my imagination wanted it to be.

    Today, a stick is just something to ignore on the way inside to play video games. And in a video game, a stick is just a stick. At an extremely young age, kids are playing with electronics and video games that constrain their minds. Even the most advanced, robust video games don’t have room for imagination. You just have to play the game the developer programmed. Anything outside of the developers imagination doesn’t exist in that world.

    It scares me to think that when this generation of children grows up, they will be responsible for writing stories, coming up with creative solutions to problems, and many other things. And they will have to learn this “imagination” thing on the fly, because they won’t have done it as a kid.


    • And if the kid is at school, turning that stick into a gun or a sword or anything like that will get them suspended or expelled.

  7. Great post. I always feel bad for kids nowadays. They don’t know the true meaning of having fun. Just yesterday, me and the boy were talking about how our neighbor’s kids are ALWAYS outside playing. Yesterday we went to a small party at around 1pm and he was playing basketball. Then we came home around 4pm and he was still playing. Good kid!

  8. The other night the kids who live in the apartment above me were rollerblading on the porch. I was trying to work, so I went outside to be all old-person-y and yell at them to quiet down. Then I saw that they were having a “war” and pretending to fight with fake plastic swords.

    I used to play war with my neighbors – the difference was we had big suburban houses that wouldn’t bother our neighbors, versus the tiny apartments these kids live in.

    I couldn’t bring myself to yell. I couldn’t demand a peace treaty.

    All in all, I like to think that sometimes kids are still kids.

  9. I’ve seen this before.

    I hate the line about drinking water from the garden hose vs. from a bottle — you don’t need to drink bottled water! The water that comes from the garden hose is the SAME as that that comes out of your kitchen tap. I understand that some people live in regions where the water doesn’t taste great or may be contaminated, but for most of the developed world, bottled water is just a big scam. Bottled water facilities are dirtier and less managed than those that provide the water for your home.

    Also, the reason we have laws for helmets and against lead paint is because some kids DID die from those things in the past — and those are preventable deaths.

    I think people feel too romantic about the past. It had its own problems, I wouldn’t say that they were more or less than now.

    That said, I am concerned about the evolving culture of helicopter parents that are producing children with no problem-solving skills, but hopefully now that people seem aware that this is happening we can go back to letting children fail a grade or not make the team.

    • Have to agree. I’ve seen variations of this before. While some things are sad to have changed (ie: everyone is a winner), some changes are absolutely for the better (ie: lead paint on cribs).

      All these nostalgic people seem to forget the many, MANY children that have died or are now very sick or disabled due to the good ‘ol day technology.

      Bridget hit the nail on the head.

  10. I don’t know. Do you guys know any “kids these days”? My 12 year old cousin certainly doesn’t have a cell phone because her mom won’t get her one until she can pay for it herself. I think with careful parenting, you can avoid a lot of what is in this email.

    I had video games when I was fairly young, but I still played outside a lot & made up elaborate make-believe games with my siblings & friends (even writing plays and dance routines that my parents embarrassingly have on video). I only answer my phone when I want to, and rarely do I offer to be available on my vacations.

    I love that we have so much access to technology and information, so much knowledge available right at our finger tips. I know that there are problems today, but there were problems then too.

  11. Back when tests and schools wouldn’t adapt anything for anyone? Yeah, millions of kids didn’t get educated because they were different in any way. Blind, deaf, autistic or in any other way different from the bully down the block made them “un teachable” They were considered less than nothing and often were institutionalized for their entire lives. I am so thankful my sons were born when they were, so they can receive things like OT and speech and be part of a regular classroom. Yeah my kids are different, but my son has the best handwriting and artistic skills in his class, he is thoughtful and funny, smart and caring, and he is one of those who even 40 years ago would have been labeled “retarded” (cringe) or institutionalized. Sigh.

    My kids have friends, “even” my non verbal autistic son has buddies. And they only play video games occasionally, like when there is a blizzard outside or its over 90 degrees out.

    And kids DID die from things like lack of carseats, seatbelts and non childproof pill jars. Just not the one writing the letter, apparently.

    I’ve had to call poison control 2 times since my kids were born, thankfully for minor things. But I’m sure glad that resource was there.

    I think many people, esp from generations older than my parents, remember the “best” and only see the “worst” in the current generations of kids and young adults. Its much more in the middle than that. Not everyone today has a cell phone, kids do run and play outside, I have to drag mine in every day, even in the winter. Kids today do still have responsibilities and parents aren’t just their “buddies” we do actually have rules and expect the to be obeyed and there are even consequences when they are not followed.

  12. The little league comment was probably misguided. Little league has always been inclusive. Every kid who wanted to play could (that’s the point of little league, or what the point is supposed to be). Now when I played in LL not everyone got a trophy like they do today, so there were lessons about dealing with losing.

    Also I just want to point out, if cell phones had been around during the time Seinfeld was made, most of that show would not have taken place. I mean the whole parking garage episode would cease to exist!

  13. This is all the parents fault. If you are a parent of a young child and reading this… this is your fault.

    I had video games (NES, SNES, Sega, PS1,2,3) all came out when I was growing up. Did I sit in front of it all day? No! We got maybe a couple hours on the weekend and that was it, and only if it was rainy outside. Otherwise my parents said, get out of the house and go play (but not until your homework is done).

    Kids live within the boundaries created by the parents. If those boundaries include 10 hours of video games each day after school, of course we will see fat, boring, worthless children. This isn’t the government’s fault, this isn’t the school’s fault, this is 100% on the parents. If parents today actually took ownership of being a parent, we wouldn’t be talking about this.

  14. I’ve seen this email before, too. I’m 43 and agree with everything it said. My childhood was very carefree – it’s true, in the summer we can in for snacks, to use the bathroom, and when the streetlights came on, and not much else. We had 20 different versions of tag to play. And we didn’t die from lack of hand sanitizer. Now it seems like we sanitize our hand sanitizer container!

    I’m so glad I grew up when I did. While I love the convenience of our cell phones, I’m glad I did not have one in college. We made a plan to go out, and whoever showed up, showed up. It was always a suprise who you’d run into. We didn’t spend our time texting other people or posting on facebook. Sometimes I see a bunch of 20 somethings hanging out and they’re all checking their phones every 2 minutes. Heck, if I’d had facebook in college, I may not have done as well. That thing can suck the life out of you (note: I am no longer on facebook).

    Every generation is different and I think it’s a true sign of getting old when you long for the “old days”. I’m guilty of that for sure. I wonder what the 20-somethings will long for in 20 years?

  15. I can relate to them all and I’m not 30 yet.

    I believe that the real difference in the generation referred to by the email and some of those in the current generations is the prevailing parenting style. As one commenter stated, they know a 12 year old who does not have a cell yet because her parent requires her to purchase it herself. So some of the children today will know what the email speaks of also.

    It seems more rare to encounter parents who raise their child as they see fit and not as the media and society sees fit for the moment. It also seems more rare to encounter people who get that we are not only responsible for our lives but are empowered to live it as we see fit. For example, don’t aswer your phone/texts/emails if you don’t want to*. The sun will continue to rise. Otherwise don’t complain. It’s just that simple. Or, tell your child “No, you cannot have that {insert item here}.” They may pout about it, but the sun will continue to rise. And they WILL get over it. It’s just that simple.

    *There are consequences if your job requires responses between 8 – 6pm and you don’t respond. However, you can most certainly set boundaries around the time of day and how quickly you respond to necessary communications. And with personal inquiries you have even more leeway. Voicemail is there for a reason.

  16. My parents wouldn’t go back to the old days, and they are in their seventies. There were lazy kids and fat kids and friendless kids and lawyers even back then. There were plenty of underachievers and slackers back then, too.

    I have seen huge changes in my forty odd years, and my parents have seen even more. Imagine what our children will see for changes as fossil fuels disappear and our world population keeps growing and the world economies keep connecting and the information age keeps expanding?

    You know what I miss? Buying things made in the USA. I miss people waving to others they know because they’re too busy talking on their cell phones. I miss watching a bunch of people in a cafe talk and laugh instead of tuning in to their laptops. I miss the days of accidents and people saying they’re sorry instead of suing someone.

    I love seeing my old Dad read the news on his laptop. I love seeing my parents take pictures with their phone. I love knowing the school can call me anywhere if my kids need me.

    Times keep changing. And the good old days are gone. The good stuff keeps cycling back through. I love the local food movement. It’s great seeing my kids working in the school garden. I can’t wait to see what the next 20 years bring!

  17. I’m in my mid-20s, but I spent most of my childhood living in relatively nice and safe suburban areas, so a lot of this rings true to me. Just back in, say, the early-mid 1990s, I’d be thrown outside early in the day to play with the neighbourhood kids, and as long as I was hope by dinner, that was cool. I spent a good chunk of my childhood and teen years with my parents’ not knowing where I was—and I wasn’t a rebel, nor were they neglectful.

    Sometimes it makes me sad that maybe my kids won’t have that. It’s an interesting question, because in a lot of ways, it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Take kidnapping. Kids nowadays just aren’t allowed to go out on their own without parental supervision. In reality, kidnappings are at an all-time low, and have been steadily declining since the 1960s. But no one lets their kids out anymore, so for the few parents who do, it becomes less safe. I was safe as a child out on my own, because there were dozens of other kids roaming around the neighbourhood at the same time. If that number is only two or three, those two or three kids are obviously less safe. Same with cell phones. When was the last time you saw a pay phone? I’m not even sure where the closest one to my house is, though I used them all the time as a kid (mostly to get my mom to pick me up from the mall!). People started getting cell phones, getting their kids cell phones, and then pay phones started disappearing, turning cell phones from a luxury to a necessity.

    I’m kind of hoping we’re at the peak of a sort of helicopter parenting bubble, and the ways of our childhood will come back soon. But I’m not so sure they will.

  18. As I close in on the big 4-0 I can relate to pretty much this entire list aside from no seat belts.

    We also ate peanut butter and seafood at school. Hopefully not together (tuna and PB – ew). And there certainly wasn’t an amber alert set off when we didn’t stop @ home until night fall. We would play road hockey – on the road. If a car approached we’d yell “car” and move the nets. No big deal.

    I agree with Kevin – the lack of development of imagination in kids is scary. Innovation and progress are direct results of imagination and by under-developing imagination and creativity in kids is not only a social development issue it is a societal concern as well.

  19. Pure ignorance. Some of you need to stop looking at the past through rose colored glasses. There were assholes then, just like there are assholes now. Some things were better, a lot were worse.

  20. This post totally describes my childhood (I’m 44); we built couch-forts while eating our cereal, watching Sat. morning cartoons (Bugs Bunny was a favourite), and my sister and I took turns checking outside the living room window to see if any of our friends were outside. The moment we saw someone, we asked our parents if we could play outside (they never said no), and we came back in for lunch, dinner, and bathroom breaks only. I remember being elated when my Mom bought me a basket for my banana-seat bike; little things like that were awesome, and appreciated everything we got. A new skipping rope or one of those red-white-blue bouncing balls gave us hours of fun!

    I swear all the Moms on our street took turns being the “bad Mom”, the one to call their children inside when the streetlights came on. As soon as that first Mom yelled for their kids, we knew it wasn’t long until the other Moms started calling for their own brood; I’m so happy I was a kid back then.

    I was visiting my friend and her 3 year old daughter; her daughter could work the iPad better than my friend could LOL! Sign of things to come, I’m sure!

  21. Whenever we look at the past, I think we almost always focus on the good parts. The past had its fair share of problems too.

    I’m just saying I don’t exactly yearn for the days when lead based paint was the norm. I don’t think Facebook will be the great achievement of our generation, but would it really be so bad if it was? Yeah, we use it to waste a lot of time, but it’s also allowed us to connect with old friends we might have never found otherwise. Their IPO is about to make hundreds (thousands?) of people millionaires overnight. I think those are pretty cool achievements.

  22. People have been whining about subsequent generations for as long as people have survived long enough to see the next generation become adults. Yawn.

    Personally, I drink water from the hose whenever I can. It has a different taste, I’m guessing because of the rubber. It tastes fantastic.

  23. Guilty as charged!

    Some of my fondest memories as a child were climbing trees, building stuff out of mud, my brother and I pretending we were radio DJ’s, and the summer my Dad took us to Canada on vacation and us kids rode in the bed of his pickup (with a canopy on it but no seatbelts). Dad had done some modifications and we each had our own “bunk”. At a Canadian convenience store my brother went in and asked if they had any Little Debbies. They said “no, we only have Wagon Wheels”. We’d never heard of such a thing and to us THAT was rough living.

    You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, but you also don’t notice it’s gone if you never had it.

  24. I skimmed the post, but I’m sure it’s great. What I was most excited about is the termination of the colorful stick figures. I never voted the other day, but I’m all about the black and white.

  25. Ugh. I really can’t stand things like this, for one simple reason. The experience described in the email above was probably the ‘idyllic’ childhood of generations past…but how many children actually experienced that childhood?

    Probably not very many.

  26. So true. When I was still living with my mom (post-college), every time I’d go out she’d ask, “Do you have your cell phone?” And I just laughed and responded “Hey, remember that time you put me on an airplane when I was 8, gave me a quarter to call my grandma for when I landed on the other side of the country?”

    Times have changed, indeed!

  27. Personally I dislike facile and ultimately wrong-headed posts like the one you copied. I’m 60+ and though I regret that my children and grandchildren don’t have the freedom to roam all over town like my sister and I did, I also remember being overweight, being called names, having two friends die in bike/car accidents, one being brain-damaged in a ‘no seat belt’ car accident, having no handicapped kids or kids of color in any of my classrooms, losing a college friend who went rafting and drank river water which lead to kidney failure and death, dealing ineffectively with blatant racism, losing two more friends in Vietnam and welcoming home the boy next door who left his legs in a rice paddy overseas. Spare me the nostalgia for the ‘good ole days.’

  28. You know you’re getting old when you say “Kids these days!” Kids aren’t worse then any other generation the oldies don’t understand. It’s crazy because now I’m the oldie! There will always be a mix of well-rounded kids and of course the dumbas*es.

    Teens of the 60’s & 70’s: Weed, hippies 80’s: Cocaine and yuppies 90’s: Slacker/Grunge, etc. etc. I guess kid’s of the 2000’s are the “Look at me!”/super duper sheltered generation.

    Me and my brother are 26 and 30, so we grew up at the cusp of when computers and the internet were becoming widely used in households. I remember in junior high when we got a fancy pants computer, dial-up connection and AOL, haha.

    I still remember when you had to look in the dictionary to look up the meaning of the words rather then just Googling it. I still remember not having a cell phone (got my first one freshman year of college). I still remember playing outside a lot (I have the super tan elementary school pictures and scraped knee scars to prove it).

  29. I love this! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    My sisters and I used to mix all sorts of concoctions in the backyard for hours. We didn’t have video games, fancy toys, but we did have each other, our imagination and a lot of time. We had a lot of fun and so many great memories with all the crazy things we did.

  30. Ah yes the good old days. Seems that every generation believes that their generation had the best and yet we keep on going. As a 45 year old I remember all of these things, and fondly too, but I also embrace technology and the improvements in safety. Working in the tech field I’ve come in contact with many 20-somethings and I believe they have as much intelligence, ambition and imagination as anyone from my generation. So keep the changes coming, that’s what makes life so interesting.

    P.S. We played war too, with real BB guns and no one got their eye shot out.

    • I just remembered that one kid almost did get his eye taken out, but that was from pretending that sticks were swords. 1 more inch to the right and Timmy would have been one eyed Timmy for the rest of his life. If we had grown up in an early time that never would have happened because we would have been using real swords instead of sticks! How did we survive?

    • I really held out on getting a cellphone until all the phone booths in my city (minneapolis) disappeared. Once I couldn’t give a friend a call if I was in their neighborhood, I felt like I was missing out.

      Not to mention pseudo-emergency situations–like getting locked out of my apartment late at night. Wasn’t the biggest deal when I could grab a public phone.

      Anyway, so yes.. I agree!! I admire those people, I couldn’t hack it!!

      • for a brief time, when we lived in Toronto, my husband and I were cell-less. It was mostly due to the fact that, as US citizens, we didn’t have Canadian credit scores/profiles, so to get a “normal” cell plan we were going to have to plunk down a sizable (several hundred dollar) deposit. I have to say, it was pretty liberating to be without a cell phone. Until I got stranded in the Buffalo airport *without* a cell phone…all flights cancelled due to a brewing storm, and it was mere minutes after my husband dropped me off & started driving back to Toronto. That day, I learned that if you cry, the ticket counter folks will let you use their desk phones. The next day, I got us pay-as-you-go cells!!

Comments are closed.