Mythologizing your childhood for your kids?

The Daily Show gets to the heart of our dissatisfaction with how crappy things have become. We want our childhood back. (Sorry, there’s a lame commercial at the start.)

Bonus catch: The 1930s woman featured in the video is Clara, the star of Great Depression Cooking, as seen in Baby Link Roundup #6,825.

The point of the comedy clip is that we mythologize our childhood, our salad days, remembering mostly the good things, cementing them in our memory as the way things should be today. And as parents, the way we should raise our kids today.

A better word for this is nostalgia. It’s what’s behind some of our toy purchases, and the activities and interests we teach our children.

Or maybe not. I could run down a simple list of childhood memories I’m sharing, or planning to share, with my kids, and memories I’m intentionally going to avoid.


  1. Favorite films
  2. Lego bricks and Lincoln logs
  3. Cats (pets)
  4. Board games (good ones, see below)
  5. Cycling and caving

Intentionally avoiding:

  1. Many board games (No Monopoly, Life, etc. See: In search of better board games: saying no to nostalgia)
  2. Star Wars toys or most movie paraphernalia
  3. Toy guns or any toy with violent imagery. I even made our tiny Lego people relinquish their weapons.
  4. Video game consoles (This view evolved since becoming a father. I have to figure out how best to rid myself of my long-saved crate of Atari 2600 gear.)

On the flip side, there are also activities that are far outside the scope of anything I might have imagined myself letting my kids take an interest in, such as Capoeira. The nostalgic equivalent would be karate or ballet classes, both ideas I eschewed early on.

How about you? Are you resurrecting childhood favorites for your kids, or plowing into unchartered territory? Or would you care to assess the percentage of nostalgia you have planned vs. new experiences? 50% A New Hope and 50% The Phantom Menace?

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5 Responses to “Mythologizing your childhood for your kids?”

  1. Tim says:

    I’m all about the nostalgia. After telling him all about it as a bedtime story, I’ve promised my son that we will watch Star Wars together when he turns five (43 days!). Our kids play with my old Transformers/He-Man toys at my mom’s house. I enjoy taking them places I remember enjoying as a kid…one I’m looking forward to this summer is the Pioneer Coal Tunnel in Ashland, Pa.

    While I have planned for some things, I don’t think I’ve given much thought to percentages. Experiencing new stuff is pretty much a given, I think.

    One trait that I seem to have passed on, to my son at least, is a disinterest in sports. He’s fairly young, so I’m not that worried about it. Even though I wasn’t into baseball or football or basketball, I did end up playing soccer from elementary to high school. Although I was never very good, I still enjoyed being part of a team.

    January 11th, 2010 at 8:19 am

  2. Kelly says:

    My one big nostalgia item that I made sure to have for my son (who is still an infant so he can’t use it yet) is a Fischer Price kid’s record player (and records). There is something about the tactile quality of holding and watching a record as it plays/spins: seeing where the sound skips on a smudge, slowing it down to play with the voices, speeding it up for the opposite effect, making it go backwards and listen to the records talk funny. Not to mention lining up your little people and flinging them into the air when the turntable spins. This is something I’m looking forward to seeing him explore, hopefully he enjoys it as much as I did as a kid.

    January 11th, 2010 at 1:53 pm

  3. Nancy says:

    I tried to avoid guns but with 2 boys it’s inevitable. Even my 3 year old turns everything into a gun and that’s with no assistance from us. They even took the horns from our New Year’s Eve celebration and turned them into swords. Try as you might, you just may not be able to avoid it.

    January 11th, 2010 at 4:22 pm

  4. Elizabeth W. says:

    We are doing a mix – most of our toys are old school – blocks, legos, erector, this crib toy –>
    stuff like that – it’s much easier to go battery-free when you stick to nostalgia toys. And one family favorite game is Perfection – remember that one? It’s still kind of tricky for my kids, but if they play it as a team they can often get it done before it pops. And older books and movies are our faves. Another old-school thing we do is cloth diapers. And my kids take Red Cross swimming lessons just like I did.

    A couple bits of nostalgia we are avoiding are girl scouts, boy scouts, and public school. And while I love to get my little girl cute 70s and 80s dresses at garage sales, we steer clear of the stirrup stretch pants.

    January 12th, 2010 at 6:20 am

  5. KB 111 says:

    I find it so amusing that this topic has been brought up. As someone who doesn’t have kids yet, but has been thinking over some of these things, I’ve mused over this topic often. While I’m excited to share the more “openly creative” items I remember from my youth (construction toys like blocks and Legos, and all manner of art supplies, as well as books, board games, and die-cast cars), there are plenty I’d like to rid the house of before little ones arrive. Toys I was fond of, but do not wish to impart upon the next generation primarily includes licensed toys — very big when I was a kid in the eighties/early nineties (in fact, nine of the top ten cartoons of that time were based on toy lines!). My Jurassic Park action figures are perhaps the saddest ones to not share, although they may be enjoyable in a non-movie based context; we’ll just change the names, and let junior decide how the story goes.

    Disney movies are the others to go. There are just far too many ideas I don’t want to be internalized and normalized; from heteronormative ideals (why does every character have the ultimate goal of finding a heterosexual mate? Why can’t it be a goal based on personal achievement, and not needing another person to be whole?), to a melanin-based scale of evil (see for yourself; evil is equivocated with darkness, from Scar to Jafar), to gender and race stereotypes (Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book was pretty foul in the latter department, but Disney made that all available to a whole new audience in a new way; and don’t get me started on the “he’ll come around and stop his violence if you’re patient” message in Beauty and the Beast), Disney has provided just too many examples of notions I don’t want to be expressed by the next generation. As much as I loved them as a kid, the only way they’re getting watched is with a big talk during and at the end, to discuss themes. (Even then, however, I feel hesitant to share them too early.)

    Additionally, we’re also a TV-less house, and while I grew up pretty addicted to television, I’m happy to not be sharing that time-waster (and further hypnotic influence — commercials concern me on an epic scale). We do have a television set and some DVDs, although their use is pretty limited.


    On a side note, I have an open question to anyone able to or interested in sharing: Does anyone out there have kids that haven’t managed to incorporate guns or other weapons into their play? I’ve known many parents who have limited (or eliminated) exposure to all things violent, but who have children who’ll make firearms out of everything from Legos to carrots. Maybe it comes from kids at daycare/school, or elsewhere, but from what folks tell me, it sounds hard to squelch. If anyone has managed to put the kibosh on this activity, do you have any tips?

    January 19th, 2010 at 2:29 pm