1990s nostalgia is definitely having A Moment. Slip dresses, button-front skirts, crop tops, and overalls are back in stores; there are two new documentaries about Nirvana; and, perhaps most telling, Kim Kardashian is using '90s filters on all her Instagram pics. But it's not just fashion, music, and photography that are making people miss the good(ish) old days. Many '90s kids area now parents themselves, and they're missing the relative simplicity of parenting in a decade when the internet was mostly just unreadable flashing colored text that said "You've got mail!" So how does parenting in the '90s compare to today? Things have definitely changed a lot, some for the better and some…well, you'll see.
1. Cell Phones Weren't a Must
Sure, cell phones existed in the '90s, but they weren't as common or as "smart" as they are today. You definitely wouldn't have even considered buying one for a child. Instead, the kids who were really rich (or drug dealers) had pagers proudly clipped to their belts, as if they were surgeons on call. Now, modern moms are tethered to their phones - and they don't know how their moms ever parented without them. How did anyone create a carpool Signup Genius, geo-locate their kid, or email in missing permission slips? They didn't, that's how.
2. Movie Night Took a Little More Work
Movie night was just as big a deal to kids in the '90s as it is to kids today, but the '90s parent had a whole extra layer of work involved. There was no scrolling through 10,000 movie options on Netflix. Rather, '90s kids will remember spending countless hours roaming the video store looking for the one cool movie that wasn't already rented. And the worst part was getting socked with a fine if you didn't take the time to rewind the damn VHS tape when you were done.
3. The Electronic Babysitter Was a Lot Less Capable
Thanks to TiVo, Netflix, Hulu, Google, and other on-demand services, a tired mom can bring up her kid's favorite show with just a few swipes and then go lay down to take a nap knowing her kid will be looking at something that legitimately entertains them - appropriately. Back in the '90s, kids mostly had to deal with whatever show was on TV and then fight with their siblings over what channel to watch, and there was way too much risk they'd end up watching Singled Out on MTV.
4. The Grunge Trend Was a Real Money Saver
Most people think of the grunge era for its iconic music, like Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots. But the real genius of grunge (for parents, anyhow) was what a bargain it was! Suddenly, kids wanted to wear their dad's old bowling shirts, grandpa's flannels, and ripped jeans they found in a dumpster. Washing their hair with bar soap and accessorizing with hemp and colorful wires made it even more cost effective. Now parents are stuck with forking over major $$$ for designer brands and living with piles of discarded fast fashion.
5. Porn and Gross-Out Videos Weren't As Easily As Accessible
Porn has existed for a long, long time, but thanks to the internet, there's a huge difference in the type, amount, and availability of porn accessible to youngsters. Before, moms could feel safe knowing their porn (be it videos or magazines) was stashed in the back of their sock drawer. These days, parents know that porn can be (even accidentally) accessed on anything with a screen - and they dread having to explain things like why 'Two Girls, One Cup' isn't a sweet story about sharing a lemonade with friends.
6. Road Trips Were a Lot Noisier
A good old '90s road trip involved a lot of loud singing, 300 rounds of the Alphabet Game, and sleeping in the way back of the station wagon. If your kids were really lucky, they got to fight over the Discman, holding it ever-so-carefully on their laps so it wouldn't skip. And then the batteries would die. Today, almost all the noise is gone thanks to phones, video games, streaming movies on tablets, and wireless headphones. It's gotten so good - or bad? - that instead of repeatedly asking "Are we there yet?", kids refuse to get out of the car when you are finally there.
7. Terrorists Were Less Terrifying
September 11, 2001 changed everything. Kids before then knew that terrorism existed, but hadn't seen it on such a personal level. Kids born after the Twin Towers fell have never known a world where airplanes weren't turned into flying bombs to mass-murder thousands of innocent people. And, yes, the Columbine shooting happened in 1999, but kids and parents since then have seen more school shootings than they can count, including Sandy Hook, also known as every parent's worst nightmare. Perhaps the world isn't actually a more dangerous place now than it was in the '90s, but it sure feels that way.
8. You Had to Give Your Kid Actual Lunch Money
Online lunch accounts connected to your credit card are a marvelous modern convenience that parents probably take for granted. Gone are the days when you had to give your child actual money and trust them to take it to school and spend it on actual lunch instead of buying 27 pencils that smelled like chocolate from the pencil vending machine. (Why were there pencil vending machines?) Really savvy moms put the money in a baggie and safety-pinned it to their child's clothing.
9. Birthday Invitations Weren't Made to Look Handmade, They Were Handmade
Today, moms have Evite and Paperless Post, which not only electronically deliver adorable invite, but can also provide directions, include gift registries and purchasing options, and even remind you to send thank you cards afterward. Three decades ago, all birthday invitations came on paper - and if that wasn't bad enough, they also had to have a page or two of Mapquest directions stapled to it because GPS wasn't a thing and your house was hard to find.
10. Caillou Made Your Ears Bleed
Parents in the '90s had to deal with a particularly annoying subset of children's TV shows in heavy rotation, including Barney, nonsensical Teletubbies, and the perpetually whiny Caillou. (Bonus points if you can still sing the theme song.) Kids' programming these days has gotten a lot smarter, funnier, and way less annoying. Have you seen Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse or the modern version of My Little Pony? Because you really should.
11. Social Media Didn't Make Anyone Feel Bad
Drama and kids have always gone together, but today's teens and tweens have infinitely more ways to employ it themselves and toward others, thanks mostly to social media like Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube (but not Facebook, no one under 30 uses that dinosaur!). In the '90s, if a kid wanted to bully someone, they had to do it to their face or say something mean in the bathroom stall. Now, the whole world is a bathroom stall.
12. Raffi Was a Superstar
Baby beluga in the deep blue sea… every '90s child and hence every '90s mother could finish that song in their sleep. Children's singer Raffi was the first true superstar in the genre, teaching kids about everything from sea life to Santa Claus to toothbrushing to how to make a banana into a telephone. Now kids have way more options, but perhaps none are quite as good at connecting with children as the master was.
13. The Tooth Fairy Was a Lot Cheaper
A quarter used to be something really special, especially if you found it under your pillow in exchange for a missing tooth. This was because in the '90s you could actually buy things - good things! - for 25 cents. You could get two and a half Jolly Rancher sticks (a thing that doesn't even exist anymore) or a neon-colored bouncy ball or puffy scratch-'n'-sniff stickers or even a plastic slinky. Today's kids get no less than a dollar from the tooth fairy, and some even get video games, gift certificates, or toys as a reward for doing what children have been naturally doing for centuries.
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