Everyone’s heard their parents or grandparents chastise the youth of today, reciting stories of the ‘good old days’ of their childhood. The expression to describe this is ‘looking through rose-tinted glasses’ which means seeing things as better than they actually are, and ignoring any of the bad bits. ‘Back in my day ...’, begins the tale, before you’re treated to a rendition of how, 40 years ago, all the children were as good as gold, the streets were safe havens, nobody complained about anything ... and you smile and nod whilst secretly rolling your eyes.
However, just recently my sister sent me an article: ‘Things that the Youth of Today will Never Experience’. What followed was a list full of all the wonderful things we had experienced as British children of the early 1990s - the pick’n’mix sweet aisle where you choose all the sweets you fancy, playing ‘Snake’ on phones that resembled bricks, being able to buy a Freddo chocolate bar for 10p, collecting Beanie Babies - suddenly remembering all of these things, I was sent right back to my childhood.
‘We had it the best’, declared my sister. ‘Young people these days will miss out on so much. We enjoyed the simpler things in life. We weren’t constantly glued to Facebook and YouTube, we didn’t have iPads and smartphones. Things were better back then.’ I found myself agreeing with her, before pausing to laugh a little at the situation. There we were, both in our early twenties, and we were already beginning to sound like our parents, bemoaning the golden years of our youth.
Obviously, a great deal has changed since the early nineties, and the experience of childhood is ever-changing from generation to generation. But that is a necessary by-product of a changing society; new toys take the place of old, just as trends change over the years. I like to think that the children of the generation proceeding mine will have just as rich a childhood as I had. It’s true that they will pay more than 10p for a Freddo chocolate bar, but they can also have an entire library of books on one device, a thousand songs on something the size of a credit card, and a lot more exciting ways to pass the time than directing a snake made of pixels around a one inch square screen!
Do your grandparents or parents talk about the past as if it were better than the present?