Dear Beloved Children Who Insist Their Lives Are Really Really Hard,
Oh, my sweet pups.
You have no idea what you’re talking about.
The two of you live with both parents in a lovely home in Suburban New Jersey that has a snack selection that rivals the average Whole Foods store.
I was the sixth kid in my family, the last one born after three marriages between my parents. It was the 1970s and I was the last of the litter, so obviously I wasn’t automatically fed each time I craved snack; I had to forage. I was lucky my parents ever remembered my name.
And if I ever whined to my mom during dinner that “this chicken nugget is too bumpily and isgustink” then pushed it away in a huff? I wouldn’t be here today to tell you that you will eat the damn nugget like it’s a savory golden fruit the gods plucked from the Heavens and personally handed down to you on a BPA-free platter made of diamonds and Minecraft blocks.
What was that? You’re thirsty? You want me to get you an ergonomic Thermos to fill with cold filtered water from the fridge? Sorry, but I’m too busy right now, lost in fond memories of the lukewarm tap water lightly flavored with whatever happened to fall into our well that season, served in cups Grandma and Grandpa got for free at the gas station. You’ll have to get it yourselves.
Speaking of The Good Old Days, when you pout and complain that the house is too cold but your bathrobe selection is alllll the way upstairs in your bedroom, I recall the fact that I spent eighteen years inhaling lead paint and the fumes of generic brand Kool cigarettes with the filters broken off in a tiny ranch-style house where the thermostat was controlled by someone who lived through the Depression era. Close your trap and get off your ass kid: it’s about time you learn the term “Darwinism.”
For Christmas you finally got an American Girl doll, the approximate value of a small third world country, but a mere two months later it wasn’t enough. You asked, “Why can’t she have a friend?” I’ll tell you why: because when I wanted new toys I had to use my allowance or paint friendly faces on rocks I found in the back yard. Why don’t you go make a new doll out of doll parts from the one hundred other non-American-Girl dolls littering the basement–excuse me, I mean littering The Playroom That Takes Over The Entire Bottom Floor of Our Home?
Mad I won’t take you two to Chuck E Cheese, Disney World, and Atlantis on a weekly basis? When I was your age, my youngest brother, the neighborhood kids, and I spent our afternoons and weekends roaming around each other’s back yards and the abandoned construction site in the woods by the old farm. As long as none of us caught rabies from a woodland creature gone rogue, lost too much blood or more than one finger, it was considered a darn good time. I’m sure you two can entertain yourselves with minimal bloodshed/infectious disease somewhere in the vicinity of this home for free, if you really tried.
Also, “summer camp” for us was wandering down to the local park in the hopes that someone was there to play with, other than the hippies who smelled funny and always asked whether we had any extra Fruit Roll-Ups on us. “Camp” ended when we heard our parents ring the cow bell, or when it got dark enough for it to be almost dinnertime. My siblings and I never petitioned for more than that, because we were smart enough to already know the answer (Hint: it rhymes with “shmell shmo”).
You guys want me to spend my hard-earned money to rent you a movie because there’s “nothing on” the 472,000 channels playing on the two flatscreen TVs you are currently reclined in front of while I wash yet another load of dishes/laundry/household filth you accumulated? We didn’t even have a color TV until I was in high school, never mind cable television. Did I complain about having to walk four blocks to my friend’s house if I wanted to watch Fraggle Rock?
You don’t complain about this “hardship” to the man who fought in both ‘Nam and the Korean War who is nestled in the rust-colored corduroy living room chair after another fourteen hour work day, insisting he hand over the TV Guide right now and start paying for more channels. That kind of poor decision making would get a very large decorative wooden spoon removed from the kitchen wall and replaced right onto your delicate backside. I watched Hanna Barbera cartoons, The Muppets, and Tom and Jerry whenever I was blessed with the permission to watch TV, and relished every mindless moment.
Awwwwww…are you bored again? Is there nothing to quench your creative thirst in the eight drawers of arts and crafts storage cabinets, sticker books, perler beads, paper dolls, and Rainbow Loom bands we have peppered around the house? Think it’s unfair I won’t take you to the craft store today for something new? Back in the 1980s there were only three crafts in existence: friendship bracelets, latch-hook rugs, and Shrinky-Dinks. My friends and I spent an entire decade enjoying them without a single complaint. You might want to try that same technique right about…now.
When you wander around our toy-filled, high-tech, sports-equipment-strewn, climate-controlled, love-saturated home proclaiming you’re bored and your lives are quite the hardship, it makes me want to explain how thrilling Pong once was to every kid I knew who got to play it once they finished their mandatory three hours of chores per day, and throw every iPhone every parent has ever given to a child under ten years old out the manually-rolled-down window of a claustrophobic, cupholder-less 1978 VW Rabbit while sharing a can of Spam as Daddy pushes one of five buttons to see which of the five radio stations we want to listen to on the way to something he and I decided to do that will make your sweet little minds implode from disinterest–and no, you have no say in what we listen to in this scenario.
When I was a kid, there were no “playdates” arranged in advance; we kids found other kids wherever we happened to be and just played together.
When I was growing up, there were no “extracurricular activities” every day; we were too busy sitting in the way way back of our moms’ station wagons while she ran errands or being as quiet as possible while she visited her friends for afternoon tea and gossip.
There was also no complaining about being bored or about how hard our lives were; we were too busy trying to stay alive to do so.
As a kid, did I have fun? Of course!
As a kid, was I loved? Absolutely.
As a kid, did my opinions or wants matter? HAHAHAHAHA! That’s adorable.
Back then, the parents were in charge and we kids figured out how to entertain ourselves and enjoyed what we could whenever it came our way.
Or suffered in silence.
Hey! That sounds like a great idea. Here, take your monogrammed iPadAirs with retina display and these organic Goldfish crackers and go suffer somewhere else; Mama’s got some rocks she wants to paint.
Like this? Subscribe to my weekly newsletter today.
Kim Bongiorno is an author, full time freelance writer, and the blogger behind Let Me Start By Saying. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter, hire her to write for you or speak at your event, or buy her banana pancakes because they are delicious.