Generational Divide: Baby Boomers reflect on a childhood worlds apart from today’s norms

The world has changed a lot since Baby Boomers were children. Source: Getty Images.

It’s stating the obvious that there are planet-sized differences between how Baby Boomers grew up and the world that most modern Australian children come of age in.

Technology, of course, has played the starring role in this seismic shift, but there are plenty of cultural and societal differences as well.

Foods tasted different back then (Quiche Lorraine was about as exotic as it got), music didn’t sound the same and fashion suddenly went bonkers.

Many bemoan that times were much simpler then and parenting much more straightforward. Mother or Father’s word was law. There was none of the constant negotiating or kid-centric approach that seems to define today’s parenting groove. With prime time shows like Parental Guidance celebrating the broad spectrum of parenting ideology in play today (everything from helicopter and tiger parents to French nouveau), to say that parenting has evolved a little since boomers were kids themselves is like saying that the Kardashians enjoy a little publicity.

In the 1950s and ‘60s, kids were treated like kids. By the time they reached the age of 20, many were living in their own homes. The whole concept of a “teenager” was still relatively new because no-one thought that the bridge between childhood and adulthood deserved its own name (try telling your teenage grandkids that prior to the 1940s, the term didn’t even exist!).

Getting to adulthood meant you were party to some parenting styles that just wouldn’t wash by today’s hyper-PC standards. Starts at 60 looks back at some of the things that marked out a boomer childhood.

No fridges with filtered water

drinking from garden hose
Remember your parents and grandparents letting you drink water from the garden hose? Source: Pexels

In the days when kids would spend hours playing in the backyard or out on the street with other kids from the neighbourhood, it wasn’t uncommon for parents to allow thirsty children to drink water from the garden hose. The last thing your mum probably wanted was a bunch of parched kids pestering her every five minutes in the kitchen for a glass of water.

It’s unlikely a modern parent would allow this, what with all the chemicals leaching out of the hose plastic. But when we were growing up, there was nothing better than a refreshing sip out of the hose on a hot day when you’d been out riding your bike or running wild. We can still conjure up that slightly metallic taste, can’t you?

Don’t come back ‘til dinnertime

Children were allowed to walk the neighbourhood without adult supervision and there was always a backyard to explore.
Children were allowed to walk the neighbourhood without adult supervision and there was always a backyard to explore. Source: National Archives of Australia

Of course, the invention of video games and the internet were a distant dream then, so there wasn’t really anything all that interesting to keep us indoors after we’d got bored of playing marbles or board games. Letting children play in the streets without parental supervision would probably be considered neglect by today’s standards, but it kept our own parents sane.

Video games didn't exist, meaning Boomer children had to find their own fun.
Video games didn’t exist, meaning Boomer children had to find their own fun. Source: Pexels

The more the merrier

When family outings did happen, it was often an excuse for us to invite other friends and kids to pile along for the adventure. This often meant squeezing a few extra sweaty bodies in the back of a car or wagon. It was fun at the time, but no one wore seat belts. With road safety rules tighter than ever, it’s probably a good thing this isn’t encouraged these days.

A family trip wouldn't be complete without other kids from the neighbourhood.
A family trip wouldn’t be complete without other kids from the neighbourhood. Source: National Archives of Australia

Because we said so…

Our parents loved us just as much as today’s parents (or at least we like to think so), but once they’d spoken, that was it. There were none of today’s endless debates around the dinner table about unfair parental rulings, plea-bargaining or accusations of emotional “triggering” whenever parents say something they don’t want to hear or insist they do something they don’t want to do. Our feelings didn’t really come into it back then and that was that.

Spare the rod, spoil the child

And, while we hated our parents at the time for it, many Baby Boomers thank their parents in hindsight for giving them a hiding if they misbehaved. They’re not the best memories and many modern parents refuse to smack their children, but it was the norm for over-60s.

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