For years now, Scooby Doo has been entertaining my kids, and also for years, I’ve been telling them that I used to watch Scooby Doo when I was a kid. Every time. They must be thrilled when they see me coming with the same nugget of nostalgia. The blank looks and implicit shrugs say it all. They can’t actually remember a time when they couldn’t pause the TV or choose what they want to watch on Netflix, so my little trips down memory lane mean nothing to them – they think I watched TV exactly like they do.
So when I went for coffee with the eight-year-old recently, I was thrilled when she said, “So mum, what was life like when you were a little girl – what was different?” Finally! Someone wanted to know!
I straightened up in my chair and got ready to tell her everything about life growing up in a small Cork village in the 1980s.
I told her that lots of mums didn’t work back then, sometimes because of a rule called the Marriage Bar, which meant they had to give up work when they got married. She was suitably horrified.
I told her that we didn’t have mobile phones – we had just one landline in the hall, and it was connected to the wall by a cable. She reckoned she’d seen something like this before. She said mobiles are probably a good thing for staying in touch when you’re out and about, but can be annoying when they ring a lot. “But then, there is an off switch,” she said. Indeed.
I told her that we were allowed out to play alone from a younger age, and that parents today tend to worry more about traffic and danger than our own parents did. She said it probably depends on where you live, and that being allowed out gives you confidence and independence. Point taken.
I told her that we only had two TV channels and you just had to watch whatever was on, even if it was a grown-up programme or Nuacht. But we did have Anything Goes at the weekend – Saturday morning TV was special. She liked the sound of that, especially the donut eating competitions, where children had to try not to lick the sugar off their lips (Oh what I would have given to be in that competition.)
I told her we didn’t have as wide a variety of food as she does now, but that we always had chips on Saturday, made in a deep fat fryer. I told her we had a Soda Stream, and explained how that worked. Her eyes widened at that – imagine, fizzy drinks on tap. She doesn’t even like fizzy drinks, but still. Amazing.
I told her that actually, school probably wasn’t all that different from school today. Blackboards instead of whiteboards, Anne and Barry instead of phonics. And a projector for Irish. Or comhrá with felt words on a board. I lost her when I tried to explain that.
“When you were a kid they were modern I suppose,” she said. “And when I’m a grown-up, everything we have today will be old-fashioned.” I guess that’s true. Then again, she just spent the afternoon cycling around the estate with her friend, and now she’s watching Scooby Doo. Maybe nothing changes very much at all.