Every time I log on to Facebook these days, I seem to come across some former classmate who has posted an article urging parents to give their child a “1970s summer.” Remember back in the days when we spent long and leisurely summers just hanging out all day, getting into harmless mischief, roaming in nature, watching Charlie’s Angels, playing games with other children, and endlessly expressing our creativity without parental supervision? Remember that? Or maybe not.
Nostalgia has both personal and collective expressions. You have personal memories of your own experiences that you might long to return to, though these often become distorted over time. Cultures also have shared nostalgia, and why certain memories reach the status of collective nostalgia is something to ponder. What social or political message is being communicated by collective expressions of nostalgia, or a yearning for some aspect of the past?
It is true that kids in the 70s had more free time in the summer, but it bears remembering that all this unsupervised time was due to some cultural factors that are no longer our reality. For one, there were more moms at home, not necessarily by choice. And for those families that did have a working mom, childcare as we know it today was not as widely available. Many children, even young elementary students, spent all day long at home alone. And now? Most women work. My kids being home with me all summer is not a possibility.
And while parents may be a little overprotective of our children nowadays, some of this is for good reason! Sunscreen, bike helmets, and carseats are all making our kids safer than 70s kids. And we now have a sense that leaving 7 year olds home alone all summer is not a good idea.
All that said, one thing that I really appreciate about MCS is that my child IS getting some of the benefits of the “70s summer.” Our classrooms are prepared environments that allow children to choose what they want to do and to work independently without having to follow a teacher’s lead all the time. And our wonderful backyard provides many opportunities for our children to roam without a parent or teacher hovering over them, while still having some supervision. And as I’m sure most parents have noticed, those kids are getting plenty hot and dirty. Digging for earthworms is my 3 year old’s very favorite activity, and her clothing shows it. While I might not always fully embrace this when I’m emptying entire bottles of Shout on her muddy shorts, I really am thankful that being at MCS gives her a chance to dig in the dirt, play with worms and bugs, and built forts outside this summer.
Was the 70s summer really all that great? And are there things about an MCS summer that are preferable to summers you experienced growing up?
–by Sherianne Shuler
Dr. Shuler is a Communication Studies professor at Creighton University whose daughter attends the Co-op! Read more about Dr. Shuler’s academic work here!