It’s official: according to the LA Times, it now costs almost $235,000 to raise a kid. And kids are fun, but that’s a whole lot of great vacations manifested in wailing little monsters that are determined to not let you sleep. And while a lot of these costs are due to rising prices of the necessities for the little money-munchers, we can’t avoid the fact that there is another component that makes parents shell out cash for these ultra-techy Late Millennials: big-ticket gadgets.
Parents of ‘90s kids had a much cheaper experience than their counterparts today. They didn’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on iPads and Kinect game systems. In fact, the only gaming option for ‘90s kids was Oregon Trail, which we all know was less of a “game” and more of a lesson on how to avoid dysentery and starvation. But besides that, our parents were able to pull off the biggest scam since the Pet Rock: Pogs. Cardboard disks that, for who knows what reason, we couldn’t wait to trade with our friends. And such a great concept: throw your Slammer at someone’s pile and you get to keep all the Pogs that flip over! (Non-‘90’s kids: it’s even more awesome than it sounds. I promise.)
But it wasn’t just our constant begging for decorated garbage that kept parents’ wallets full. Gifting a Furby practically guaranteed that you would never have to buy your kid another electronic toy in their lifetime. Because they were über creepy. Those things could have easily replaced the Chucky doll, with their mechanical eyes that would pop open without any provocation in the dark corner of your room while you were sleeping. Then, as if you weren’t already terrified enough, it would start growling that it needs to be fed and blink its eyes as if undergoing an exorcism.
Our parents even got a pass when it came to paying for the pure-bred, teacup dogs that Paris Hilton made popular as we grew older. Instead, our parents threw Giga Pets at us, or if we were really lucky—some Seamonkeys. To their credit, they probably used these toys as a way to teach us responsibility, and it’s our own fault that we were too naive enough to realize that we were virtually doing chores without any of the actual perks of having a pet. And Seamonkeys were cool, but I think our whole generation forgot about them after two weeks and left them for dead in our basements.
But even as we look back and think: wow those were some lame toys compared to what kids have today, these toys are a mark of our generation. And they actually made our childhoods pretty darn epic. Kinect may be fun, but who would want to give up memories of sitting on the blacktop at recess throwing our Slammers until we (finally!) won the My Little Pony Pog? And who could forget the excitement when you found out you were getting a Furby for Christmas, not because you unwrapped the box, but because it started talking under the tree before you made it all the way down the stairs? And what about traversing the Oregon Trail until your whole fleet of cattle died and your family was left schlepping through the Rockies?
Yes, ‘90’ kids rocked childhood. And the icing on our cake? We did it all to the beat of the Backstreet Boys.
Okay, I admit it: there’s one place in this city where I am instantly recognized the moment I step in the door. Yes, in a city with three million people and enough tourists to create our own Model U.N. Ahh, the candy store. And really, at first I wasn’t embarrassed, thinking that the staff must have fantastic customer service skills to be able to recognize their patrons (perhaps I shouldn’t give so much credit when I’m the only one tall enough to see over the counter). But as I kept returning, the staff began engaging me in conversation as if we were old friends, reminding me about details of our past discussions and even (gasp!) remembering my husband’s name! That’s when it got out of control.
In all fairness, I tried to stop going due to sheer embarrassment, but there’s something about those walls of sugary bliss that I just cannot, and will not, resist. So as I walked home last week, somewhere between noshing on chocolate raisins and sour gummy bears, I began to wonder why we all can’t seem to resist the lure of our favourite childhood desires. Are we drawn to the memories of childhood, or is childhood a universal place that we never really leave?
Our biggest mistake is to believe that we all stop being kids at some arbitrary point in time and then start being adults at another point. We all grow up assuming that one day we will reach that magical birthday when we shed our childish ways and suddenly feel like adults. But I haven’t met anyone, even amongst the over-the-hill crowd, who has admitted to reaching that point yet. Everyone keeps insisting that they still feel young and carefree, that they are still trying to figure out life. And you can see the proof just by watching The Real Housewives party until they can’t stand up anymore or by flipping on C-SPAN and watching grown men look flat-out b-o-r-e-d for three hours. There isn’t a pre-designed manual on how to act like an “adult”—we all just make some good guesses about life based on our reservoir of experiences and then live with the illusion that everyone else knows what the heck is going on (don’t worry if your reservoir seems to be in the middle of a drought…mine does too).
Only a couple of days ago I ran down the street in my neon-green, orange-laced Nike sneakers, and a five-year-old girl pointed at my feet and exclaimed: mommy, preeetty shoooes! I chuckled inside, not because of the memories of youthful jubilance, but because when I found those shoes at the store last summer, the voice inside my head sounded exactly like that little girls’. Ohhh, preeetty shoooes! Yes, I know I’m an adult by my age. I just don’t feel like one.
So the next time you order ice cream with extra sprinkles on top, dance to the Spice Girls in your bedroom, or nab that extra scoop of sour gummies, remind yourself that everyone else is permanently young and carefree, too. And nobody has quite figured out what it means to be a grown-up, whether they admit it or not.
Even the gents on C-SPAN have probably done a cannonball or two in their lifetimes.