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Puberty Blues - was parenting more fun in the 70's?

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#1 AmityD

Posted 22 August 2012 - 01:06 PM

I absolutely loved the first episode of Puberty Blues. The show took me back to another time, one of innocence and exploration. I was born in the late ′70s, so I was a baby in the decade of desert boots and crocheted bikinis. But I did borrow a well-worn copy of Puberty Blues in my first year of high school (after hearing everyone talk about the 'naughty book'), and still remember giggling with my friends at the titillating content.

In a time before teenagers discovered sex through internet porn sites, this book was as saucy as it got for many of us. It all seems so quaint now, as we look back on how innocent a time it was: when the 'cool girls’ had attitude to burn but still looked like teenage girls, with airbrushing and Brazilian waxes yet to become a concern; when ‘rack off moll’ was pretty much the nastiest thing you could say to someone, and bullying was confined to the school bus and grounds, instead of following you home on your phone.

What struck me most when watching the show, however, wasn’t just how much things have changed for teens since the ′70s, but how much they’ve changed for parents.

Back then, as was illustrated so well on the show, parents’ needs came first. These days, the balance of power has shifted firmly towards our kids.

But is that a change for the better?

This question led to a great discussion between my friends and I, most of them a few years older than me. One remembered parties her parents used to have, attended by teachers at her school, where they’d all drink and smoke until the early hours, while the kids played in another room. The same girl admitted to sucking on their discarded cigarette butts, curious to know what all the fuss was about.
Others remembered being driven home by drunk parents, not wearing seatbelts, sun-baking all day with no parental supervision, and being left at home for hours.

Were they neglected, abused, the victims of ‘bad parenting?’ No – they were just children of the ′70s!

Clearly, things have changed a lot since then, the vast majority of them for the better. It’s amazing to think anyone survived a time when drink-driving with no seatbelts was the norm, when heavy smoking was in fashion, and lathering yourself in oil before sun-baking was a teenage ritual.

But amazingly, rather than tut-tutting these now-taboo practices, it was interesting how many people on social media looked back on them fondly, reminiscent of a time when there weren’t so many rules. It was a time when parents had their own lives – lives that didn’t revolve around their kids.

I may not have experienced most of those things, but I do remember walking 30 minutes to and from school every day when I was 12 and my sister was 10. Both my parents worked, so we would let ourselves in every day, make our own snacks, and were expected to be responsible and not get into trouble.

I also remember waiting in the car with my younger brother and sister while my mum ‘ducked in’ to Target before coming out an hour later. And I remember riding my bike around the neighbourhood until the sun went down.

All things that could get a parent arrested these days.

Earlier this year NSW Police officers told a mother it was “inappropriate” for her 10-year-old daughter to catch a bus unaccompanied, and told a Manly father they would file a report on him after he allowed his seven-year-old son to walk alone to a local shop.

Is this a case of the nanny state going too far? In trying to protect our kids, have we wrapped them in so much cotton wool they are now over-indulged, overweight and bored? And as parents, are we so busy caring for, driving around and entertaining them we have no time for our own needs?

I never remember my parents engaging in our playtime like we do with our kids now. We played with each other, mostly outside. These days, with more single-child families and smaller backyards, we’re expected to provide entertainment for our kids at all times. Or take them out and spend hundreds of dollars to stimulate them … which all gets too hard and expensive, so we sometimes end up plonking them in front of the TV or computer with a bag of chips, telling ourselves we’re keeping them safe.  

People insist the world is a more dangerous place now, that there was less chance of a child being abducted then. Yet statistics say there is still far more chance of a child being abused by someone they know, than by the ever-feared stranger in a white van.

Of course we all know that the nightmare does, tragically, happen on occasion, so are we right to protect our kids at all costs? Even if it means they’re losing the ability to learn how to navigate the world for themselves?

I don’t know the answer, but while watching Puberty Blues I did long for that time again. Not for the drink-driving and smoking – and definitely not for the desert boots – but for the lack of iPhones beeping every second, for family time where no one was distracted by checking their emails, for the lack of fake boobs and collagen lips, for kids walking to the beach and coming home at sunset and for parents telling them to run outside and play, while they shared a Moselle and had a chat. That sounds like a better time to me.  

Was the way you were raised very different to how you are raising your own kids? Do you think things are better now or worse? And what are some of your 70's childhood memories?

#2 April R

Posted 22 August 2012 - 05:17 PM

Mum was telling me of a neighbor we used to have in the early 80's that would literally lock her preschool aged kids out of the house while she did the housework!!
As a kid I hung out in the street on my bike till mum called us in- often times it was well after dark, we were safe in our cul de sac and knew our limits. Our gang of kids would ride bikes and heckle the kids from "up the street". I long for that lifestyle for my sons but with very few other children in the street it doesn't really happen......perhaps it's not that we are more protective as parents rather the diverse nature of suburbia these days.

#3 mumofsky

Posted 22 August 2012 - 07:57 PM

Amity we will have to agree to disagree that children driven home by drunk parents arent victims of bad parenting.

#4 AmityD

Posted 22 August 2012 - 10:41 PM

Mumofsky - of course I think driving your children while drunk (or driving at all while drunk) is bad parenting and that's drawing a long bow to suggest otherwise.

I was particularly referring to the paragraph above that line, with the adult parties, while also pointing out that in the 70's drink driving was clearly not considered bad parenting. Neither was driving with your baby unharnessed in a moses basket, which seems unimaginable now.

However, as I suggested in my final paragraph, many things are for the better these days and quite obviously drink driving being illegal is one of them.

#5 Poussey

Posted 24 August 2012 - 12:13 PM

Totally- parenting looked like lots of fun. Mostly Puberty Blues made me miss summer. Will it ever come back again??!

#6 katniss

Posted 27 August 2012 - 10:17 PM

Life is what you make it.

DH & I certainly have time away from the kids. We catch up with our own friends separately and we go out together and MIL babysits. We also spend quality time as a family. I think we have the balance right at the moment. Your life doesn't have to revolve around your kids 24/7.

I'm not sure how accurate Puberty Blues is. I was born in the late 70s & my brothers early 80s, so my parents had teens in the early - mid 90s. So I certainly don't remember my childhood or my parents as crazy as that on the show!

Edited by katniss, 27 August 2012 - 10:17 PM.

#7 Wahwah

Posted 30 August 2012 - 12:23 AM

I just watched the third ep of Puberty Blues and it left me thinking that I'm glad that wasn't my experience of growing up in the 70s. More than anything I'm glad that the teenage boys I hung with (now we are talking early 80s mind you) weren't losers who saw girls as no more than commodities.

Yes I remember the parties my parents went to in the 70s and how fun and exciting it all seemed. But the image portrayed in the series seems to me more like a bunch of hedonists who tolerate their children so long as they don't get in the way of a good time. And their "fun" seems short lived and ungratifying ultimately.

Sure we roamed the quiet suburban streets in the early evenings and spent summers in the drive in, but that's no better a childhood than what my kids are experiencing except the drive ins are long gone and I've moved to the inner city. My early summers felt visceral and unchanging. So too will my kids' memories be of their childhood because they know of nothing else.

And there's a simple solution to the sound of technology disturbing the peace in our lives today, turn it off.

One thing that hasn't changed is that I still tell my kids to go outside and play while I have a chat with my mates, except it's a dry Clare Valley Riesling in hand not a sickly Moselle. I wonder if my daughter will turn her nose up at my beverage of choice in 20 years time....

#8 MrsLexiK

Posted 30 August 2012 - 05:52 AM

I grew up in the 90's and 00's and I remember a lot of what puberty blues is about. My parents had parties - adult parties, my current friends have adult parties. We played in the street, my neice and nephew play in the street with the other kids, also my mum didn't leave it up to someone else to entertain me she would actually play with me as well.  We would also be sent outside in the morning when on holidays to play so mum could clean the house, again my SIL does this as well.  I actually don't think all that much has changed. I'm not giving up my life when my baby comes along in 8 months, just like many of our friends haven't. But there will always be some parents who do whether it is the 70's 90's or now.

#9 Cat Burglar

Posted 20 September 2012 - 03:02 PM

I dont think all parents parented drove home drunk in the 70s wink.gif
Im a 70s baby and my mum has never been drunk and my Dad not since he was about 21.
I would expect there were less rules about car seats, safe sleeping etc, but my MIL tells me they were told to 'rotate' the baby, eg sleep on the back for a bit, then the left side, then the front and so on, so I guess there were rules, just different ones.

As regards the childrens needs coming first these days you are made to feel guilty if you work, even if it is to provide for your children.

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