Next came the party games. Pass the parcel. Pin the tail on the donkey. Blind man’s bluff. All conducted silently and efficiently. A girl would end up crying and leave early. What fun!
Sounds hellish now and so very posh and formal, but it was anything but! We lived in a respectable street of council houses, where people had their ‘standards’. It was an honour to be invited and as far as we knew, we were actually enjoying ourselves. And if we got through without getting slapped (because getting slapped was big in the 70s), bonus!
Fast forward to the 21st century and, well, it really is like we’re living in the 21st century! Parties arranged via Facebook. Parents scarcely involved. No party food. Money given as gifts. Birthday cards occasionally given, but few are acceptable (definitely not the ones with the badge!). No venue for the party, instead roaming the shopping mall and eating there. Attendees must also have money to join in the ’party’. Small coterie of close friends only, no large groups. Tantrums over being chaperoned.
What. Is. Going. On? I remember the first time our daughter was told that the party gifts were all to be cash. Eh? When did it become ok to request a gift, never mind a cash gift? And again, we live an ordinary life! No Aston Martin, no mansion, no swimming pool. These are just ordinary twelve year old girls who live in the neighbourhood. Apparently, this is just how it’s done now.
I can’t help thinking – wouldn’t they be happier with a spam sandwich and a game of snap? Wouldn’t a polystyrene cup of weak orange squash be so much more fun than an outing to McDonald’s? Think of the fun of nibbling the top of the cup! Work with me here! A game of Scrabble instead of iPhones? No?
No. It’s different now and no going back! And to be really honest, I love the strange, free-form way kids communicate and arrange things. It’s a sign of the times. In this age of companies who only exist on the web, taxi companies with no taxis, accommodation companies with no accommodation – is it any wonder kids are developing really weird ways of interacting with each other?
Well it isn’t weird to them, and that, I think, is how I got from parties in the 70s to life in the age of the internet. Back then it was all structure and tradition. Now it’s all about memes, social media and fluid communication. Kids navigate any number of different games and social media platforms without ever realising how sophisticated that really is! Outings and meet-ups are arranged spontaneously and short-notice. They’re growing up with this new normal, and it’s their world. They understand it.
I’m fascinated and excited by it all. Things are changing so quickly in the world that you can almost see it happening. And as long as we make sure our children are navigating the digital world safely – and keeping a balance between all of that and connecting with family, I’m all for this amazing pace of change.
I may not always understand it all, but I don’t have to. I just have to understand my child.