How to get into the parenting groove of years gone by.
There’s nothing quite like a good second-hand store, especially one brimming with quirky crockery, deep piles of daggy duds and row upon row of recycled rags and riches. Op-shops provide an opportunity to explore brands and styles without the inherent wear and tear that fast fashion has on our wallets and planet. And you know what is hot business right now? Couture from decades past. After a jaunt down the aisles of my local preloved emporium, I pondered: what if we parented in 2020 like it was 1970? What if we brought the daggy back, and rocked it? Might it spark joy? Here are some of my favourite aspects of corny but comforting seventies-style parenting.
Time travel parenting might make dinner prep a whole lot simpler. No more MasterChef for the evening meal or navigating copious kitchen equipment and accoutrements; no more focus on mouthfeel or perfect plating for the fussy family. There’s just no need when we can serve up 70s favourites like powdered mash potato, cheese and pickled onion skewers, and the one-pan-wonder that is quiche.
Forgoing three-course degustation menus means we’ll no longer be tempted to gulp down boutique herbal gin distilled by the social media savvy. Instead, we might just deep dive occasionally into a heavy-on-the-cream mocktail or Pink Squirrel. Then again, we’ll all be just ﬁne drinking tap water and a soft drink once a year on our birthdays.
Kids’ birthday parties
Kids’ parties of the 70s were simple, frugal and fun. There was one prize in pass the parcel – not one in every layer – and a party game highlight might include throwing a coin out of a window, aiming for a teacup inside the bucket below – cheap thrills, especially when only ﬁve-cent pieces were involved. A lion hunt through the suburbs was always fun too, kids trusted to carry big sticks as they went in search of the mythical beast which would always end up being a stuﬀed animal, crammed in the crook of a gumtree. And, on the snack side, rather than big bowls of junk food, cheese rings, donuts and apples would be strung up on the clothesline. If they didn’t want to starve, blindfolded kids would at least have to work for it.
Kids went to the school closest to their home and the responsibility of getting there was solely in the hands of the public transport department or their own legs. Parents had better things to do with their time like play tennis, dawdle, read the paper in bed and get up later while still getting to work on time.
The front yard
There was nothing quite like the 70s dads who put their BBQs in the front yard rather than the back. They’d stand there with terry towelling hats and big smiles, charcoaling sausages and inviting anyone who walked past to stop in for a snag. It might be highly embarrassing, but what a great way to share community joy and get to know your neighbours. Front yards also offered kids plenty of problem-solving opportunities, especially because bindi-eyes weren’t sprayed out. It wouldn’t take long for kids to work out that sharing thongs amongst themselves meant they could protect both hands and feet as they kamikaze cartwheeled through spiky lawns. We could also go retro by planting a few daisies and letting the clover bloom so the kids can spend time making daisy chains and clover jewellery. The bees will enjoy it too.
Wisdoms and discipline
Want to sound more inspirational or authoritative? Try on some of the best quotes from the 70s. If the kids need reminding about changing their underwear, try Andy Warhol’s “They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” Or, if you need to crack down on a challenge from a wayward toddler or teen, how about this one from Dirty Harry: “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” Or, when you’re negotiating jobs for pocket money, there’s Godfather classic, “It’s not personal Sonny, it’s strictly business.”
Rather than accruing major credit card debt for your next holiday, the seventies take on Airbnb involved house-swapping with distant relatives. After a longish drive, bopping along to both sides of a cassette in the back of Dad’s Ford Galaxie, kids would break free from the backseat to explore the fibrodigs of a holiday home in an unfamiliar town. Add some simple fun with marbles, knuckles, elastics, board games and card games; and bring back slide night, forcing anyone who visits, even if it’s just the courier, to view the family’s 15,000 photos stored in the cloud.
The 70s evoke thoughts of flares over flair, more giving and less striving, the simple pleasure of our own, not what we owned. Time travel parenting is worth a try, because just like a good op-shop, if the 70s don’t fit, you can take that era back and swap it for another.
Who knows, maybe a little inspiration from the past, is all we really need to get our parenting groove on.