(Inside: Your 80s and 90s childhood had some great things about it. You can share some of the best parts with your kids in one simple way…)
I loved being raised in the 80s and 90s.
Choices didn’t outnumber the stars, so communities connected over the same things…
We discussed the easy answer to “Sweet Treats” for 100 (“What is Reese’s?”) because everyone’s parents had Jeopardy on the night before. Or what Diana was wearing on Wheel of Fortune. Or the prizes on The Price is Right.
If asked, “Where’s the beef,” we all knew it was at Wendy’s.
We could collectively bust out the moonwalk, robot, roger rabbit, and running man dance moves like bosses.
The latest Sears or JCPenney catalogs sat on our kitchen counters, and we compared our circled items and earmarked pages.
For any space shuttle launch or return, we huddled around televisions on carts, whether at school or the office.
We chatted about Full House, MacGyver, The Cosby Show, Who’s the Boss, 21 Jumpstreet, and Murder, She Wrote.
And listened to Casey Kasem’s weekly American Top-40 countdown religiously, blank tape in the cassette player ready to record our favorites and share when at each other’s houses.
Boredom felt normal and spectacular. It led to things like…
Talking into the fan so we sounded like robots and being highly amused.
Figuring out how to at least make all the colors match on one side of the Rubik’s cube, then taking it to school to compare. Bragging rights if you could solve the whole cube. Bonus, if timed.
Looking for whose house had the kaleidoscope of bikes scattered across the front lawn so you could join the neighbor kids.
Entertaining ourselves for hours under blue skies, clouds puffed like cotton candy. When thirsty, we’d crank the handle to the hose and let the cool water pour between our lips.
Walking to the library for a stack of Sweet Valley High books.
Performing from the living room bay windows’ ledge, belting out Tiffany’s “I think we’re alone now.”
And letting moves morph into dance routines, couch pillows shape forts, and sandboxes transform into cities, complete with rivers of water running through.
No one needed an invite to find friends, we’d walk out the door and…
Head to the mall with change in our pockets. We’d grab a coke and join the crowd watching the kid with the mullet dominate Pac-mac at the arcade.
Rent the roller skates with the giant front stopper. At the rink, when the long broomstick was brought out, we’d try to, shoulders way back, skate underneath its sinking height bopping with the how-low-can-you-go rhythm.
Bike to the local pool. If we had $2.00 for the ice cream sandwich tucked into our pockets, we’d be good.
Stay for the church-on-the-hill potlucks because they were something to behold. Everyone bought their best food: cherry pie, deviled eggs, fried chicken, green bean casserole, and more. We’d eat and hang out and eat some more.
Gather at the shaved ice stand after dinner with the rest of the town. We’d order cherry drizzled on the left, and bright green lime on the right. Perfection.
No internet and explosion of information constantly in our faces, so it was all dialed down a bit…
Bedrooms weren’t polished. We’d plastered our walls with posters from Walmart and cut outs from Bop or Tiger Beat Magazine. Our shelves boasted exactly zero participation trophies but a few ribbons we’d won at the school field day.
Toys were fewer, complete collections fit into our small closets. Couches turned into airplanes, boxes were shaped into ovens and refrigerators: imagination was our biggest toy, and we used it well.
Phone images didn’t constantly remind us what just-right looks like. Our seventeen magazines inspired as we teased our perms and shaped our bangs into a tidal wave. The goal was big, so if it wasn’t exactly right, a shrug and some hairspray were all you needed to walk out the door with confidence. Our busy days soon washed away the image of perfect-hair-magazine-girl.
Parents worried less about where we were. We’d roam the neighborhood with great freedom, just making sure to be home by dinner.
Halloween costumes were never bought, rather taped together from whatever we could find around the house.
Gifts were smaller. We’d get one for your birthday and feel the same enthusiasm for it as Laura Ingalls did when she opened an orange (as in a piece of fruit) for Christmas.
School spirit was a thing, and educational pressures weren’t the same…
After games, we piled in Dennys for late-night shakes. No invite needed, just come.
When the town got the “good” player, everyone felt like their community had struck gold. Best players were hometown heroes. There was no thought of opening-enrolling to a new school and stacking a local team.
Sports weren’t so intense. You could go to high school and assess your current interest, not be stuck with what your dad signed you up for in kindergarten that you’ve gotten competitive in.
On-level classes were good enough; honors were a maybe, if you really wanted to.
Dances were highly attended. Girls boasted mermaid sequence dresses or off-the-shoulders styles, and hoped Eric Clapton’s “The Lady in Red” filled the room, and “their person” would extend a hand.
Homecoming parades were a big deal. Every school club and activity had some sort of decorated truck or float. Kids lined up to collect candy while parents clicked their disposable cameras.
Styles were epic…
From music: Prince, U2, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Bon Jovie, Amy Grant, MC Hammer, and too many to list.
To movies: Top Gun, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Independence Day, and on.
To clothes: Leggings with oversized shirts and a belt, poofy skirts, tucked-in tops, pleated jeans, rolled-up pants, and more.
And accessories: side ponytails wrapped in scrunchies, hoop earrings, leggings, long socks, and bling.
It’s all making a comeback for a reason.
I get nostalgic about my 80s and 90s childhood. The world’s gotten so much more complicated, and our kids navigate the pressure, weight, and confusing messages every day.
But parents, we can do something spectacular. We can urge our families to tuck phones away, bike to get ice cream, sit around a campfire, invite friends over for a potluck, join the live music at our local park, shop at the outlet stores, or stay for the church-pie-social.
We can create moments of simplicity, community, and connection for our kids to sink into.
80s and 90s style.
Sharing a piece of our childhood, recreating what we liked about growing up when we did.
Of course, all while wearing the back-in-style-mom-jeans and with game-show-style enthusiasm.
Bring back a piece of your 80s and 90s childhood, and connect with your kids over conversation starters.
Join this community of other parents that share an 80s and 90s childhood…
Your brain bounces between your day at work, what time(s) your kids need to be at practice, your teen’s missing school assignments, that you haven’t called your mom lately, the load of the laundry to be switched, “What’s for dinner?” and “Why are 3 of my brain-tabs frozen?”
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Cheryl is a mom of 3 boys, wife, speaker, high school teacher, and author of Empowered Moms & Kids. She has a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and is passionate about learning and teaching. On www.empoweredmomsandkids.com you’ll find inspiration and encouragement for moms raising tweens and/or teens. Read more in the “about” section of this page.