• Leslie Crews

We’re Raising An 80’s Baby In 2021

Updated: May 9, 2021

Our children will be raised on vinyl records, VHS tapes, books, photo albums, and LEGOs. This is the decision my husband and I made for our family.

My daughter won’t know what the internet is until she’s older. She wont have an iPad, or any other tablet. I don’t want her to grow up relying on something she has to perpetually upgrade, lest it not work. When I say this to other parents, I’m generally met with skepticism followed by, “You say that now. Just wait.”

I’m encouraged not to commit to this idea so soon, since our daughter is only a few months old. I’m told that the tablet is a lifesaver and will be a peace keeper when she gets to the age where tantrums are abundant and patience are thin.

Don’t get me wrong. I know the tablet is the best babysitter money can buy. I see it’s magical powers in action every time I go grocery shopping or when sitting at a red light next to a minivan.

What these well meaning seasoned parents don’t understand, is that I’d rather my child have a massive melt down in the middle of the grocery store than to give her a tablet. Oh, and to know that her tantrum will be addressed when we get home.

She will be raised the way her father and I was raised; with books, sticks, and an imagination. I’m dead serious.

Shopping in the 80’s and 90’s looked a lot different than it does now. Grocery shopping was a family event that I loved, as a child. My mother would pack four children into a red minivan. It had bench seats (bucket seats weren’t the standard yet) and a carphone. I don’t remember her using it, but it was cool back then.

My mother pushed the grocery cart down the aisles with the four of us in perfect formation. My baby sister would sit in the front of the cart with her legs flailing and hands gripped on to the metal frame. My youngest brother stood on the bottom rail at the base of the cart. This was before there were signs warning parents of the safety risks.

The elder brother and I would hold on to the cart handle on either side of our mom. Til this day, I naturally want to hold on to the cart when my mom is shopping.

This was how one woman shopped for a family of six with four children all accounted for, and no one running around like they didn’t have home training. As we shopped, we talked and sang. We laughed a lot. We weren’t a perfect family but we had fun together.

As the oldest of the siblings, my brother and I would go off on assignment to pick out tomatoes, bread, and onions. My youngest brother would help grab lite things off the shelves, like toilet paper and paper towels. Although small, even my baby sister learned the lessons of “Don’t touch that” and “Don’t smash the bread”. And we were never out of our mothers sight. I plan on raising my child the same way.

Instead of sitting with a tablet (because they weren’t invented in 1992) we learned how to grocery shop and communicate with one another. Skills that people are lacking in 2021.

We learned how to pick ripe fruits and vegetables and to look at expiration dates. How to gauge how many of each item the family needed for our meals. We learned to follow instructions and to be responsible. “Get one big bag of red potatoes. No. Not the fingerling potatoes they’re too small.”

Of course my mom didn’t consciously plan out grocery store lesson plans, but she taught us life skills in those aisles. Skills that I worry a lot of children aren’t learning today. This is how you end up as an adult that doesn’t know how to shop or cook a nutritious meal.

I’ve read articles claiming that skills like hunting, car repair, and cooking are obsolete now that we have the benefit of technology and paid services. But what happens when technology is inaccessible? When funds are limited?

I want my child to rely on her skills and knowledge, not technology. I want to raise a critical thinker.

For our family it’s valuable to instill virtues like patience and commitment, through the puzzles and books that my husband and I were raised on.

There is value in raising a child to use their imagination. To build out their ideas from blocks of plastic.

Creative play encourages children to try new ideas and problem solve when their ideas fail. It also teaches them that failure doesnt have to be the end and is part of life.

We dont always succeed in the ways we want to. Sometimes we fall flat on our faces. Scarred knees and elbows are a permanent reminder of what didn’t workout when we were children, and lifelong encouragement to try new routes.

I want my kid to bust her knee up and learn from it.

Of course no parent actually wants their kid to get hurt. But failure and pain are part of life.

Today’s kids struggle to deal with failure. They become depressed and unable to cope. I don’t want that for my child.

I want her to know it’s ok to fail. That failure is how you grow. But it’s much easier to recover from a private failure than one that’s gone viral on the internet.

So many people are addicted to the internet. Whether through social media or gaming, their identifies are being defined by avatars and filters. There’s something very Twilight Zone about that for me. It’s as if they’ve never learned to communicate in real life because they spend endless hours learning how to craft the perfect response behind a screen.

Ideas today aren’t original. They’re often influenced by “influencers” rather than family values and morals.

I want my daughter to be an independent thinker.

Technology isn’t all bad. Because I’m a new mom that rarely has two free hands, most of my writing is done on my smartphone while nursing. But I want my daughter to understand that this device is a tool and to use it as such. It isn’t a birthright and the internet isn’t a source of self validation.

The internet can be a dangerous place.

I’ve worked in cyber security for 13 years. I’ve seen things that most people only know about from movies.

I’ve seen businesses shut down because their files were held for ransom by hackers. Counseled people who lost their life savings; victims of internet scams. With publicly assessable information, I’ve built reports outlining a persons entire life, from pets names to gambling addiction. Your internet activity tells it all. Because I know the risks, I don’t post pictures of my family and I won’t share my daughters name online.

I’d rather she learn how painful life can be from pricking her finger in the rose garden, than suffering at the hand of cyber bullying.

Today she enjoys bouncing colors on a TV screen, but she equally enjoys the bright colors in board books.

I’ve been reading to her since she was in my womb and I do my best to read to her everyday. Stories about a giraffe that built up the confidence to dance. Of babies of varying cultures and hues and the families that love them. Children’s versions of Bible stories to develop her faith in God.

Reading and reading comprehension is important to me.

Instead of a tablet in her little hands during a car ride, I envision her with a book. A coloring book. Crayons and paper. Something to teach her to focus. I want her to look out the car window and daydream. Ask questions about what she sees. Take note of landmarks and become familiar with the route home and to Grandma’s house.

So when I say we are raising our child like an 80’s baby, it’s because we want our daughter to be curious about the world and self sufficient. I want her to think for herself, form her own opinions and stand confidently in them. I don’t want her mind molded by masterfully crafted advertising. And I don’t want data points of her life being aggregated and sold.

I can’t protect her from everything. And I understand that technology and the internet has, in many ways, become a necessity. But I don’t want my daughter anywhere near the internet until she is old enough to understand boundaries and risks.

Until then, she will have tea parties, play with finger paints and PlayDough, and be yelled at from the front door to come inside when the street lights come on.

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