There are some of my own childhood experiences which were specific to the nineties/early naughties that I hope my child doesn’t have to go through.
Luminous Kappa tracksuits. Tamagotchis. Curtains (the hairstyle. As a household item I think they’ll remain important). A Blue Peter presenter being sacked for taking cocaine. Pokemon: The Movie. Sunny Delight and associated dental problems. Endless streams of boy bands/girl bands (although I did own every 5ive album and a number of Westlife’s…).
There are other childhood experiences in my own memory which were one off events that I know my child will never experience, for example celebrating a new millennium. In this particular instance I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. On the one hand, living on the outskirts of London meant that as a family we were able to travel into town to experience the celebrations and watch spectacular fireworks above the Thames, the London Eye and Big Ben. On the other hand, my abiding memory of the evening is nearly being crushed amongst the crowds, my dad having to hold my eight year old brother up in the air to avoid him being squashed, as we sought safety between some bushes in a flowerbed somewhere along the Embankment.
However, 36 weeks of pregnancy has also given me time to think of a number of my own childhood experiences that I hope our child gets to have. Some of them are specific things from the period that I grew up in; others are more timeless things that I’m glad my parents enabled me to experience.
8 of my childhood experiences which I hope our child will get to enjoy
1. Watching Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet
For part of my childhood, one evening each week was defined by hiding behind the sofa during the brilliantly scary opening of Captain Scarlet, in particular the image of Captain Black, mysteron agent. He’s still the only fictional character played by a string puppet that genuinely scares me. Add authentic scariness to dramatic music, huge explosions, creative gadgets and a base that hovers in the sky or converts into a desert island, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a legendary series. I appreciate that to my child Scott, Virgil, Brains et al. will probably look like a relic from history, but fortunately Dan shares my passion and we’ve got the DVD boxsets ready. Any mention of the newer cartoon versions will not be tolerated.
Let’s be honest, the sooner we’ve got past the Duplo phase the better. I remember the feeling of satisfaction in completing a functioning fire station and also the pride in showing my parents the finished product. I’m looking forward to helping my own child design, engineer and create in our own living room (and after recently discovering the entry fee to Legoland, I think it’s safe to say that our living room will be the venue where lego-related activities take place).
3. Exposure to sport
For me, this included watching sport; Match of the Day on a Sunday afternoon (recorded from the night before), or my dad playing cricket or football (my mum was a mean hockey player but I never got to watch her). It also meant playing; family cricket on the beach, drop-kicking rugby balls at the park, ‘mini-matches’ (of football) between our study doorway and kitchen doorway. From a young age, my parents had the three of us throwing, kicking and catching and I’ve appreciated the coordination skills that taught me ever since.
4. Postman Pat / Fireman Sam / Thomas the Tank engine
The precursory TV programmes to Captain Scarlet and Thunderbirds, but also books, model trains and toys. I’m genuinely quite excited about reintroducing them into our family life, as are my mum and dad, who’s loft is suddenly going to feel a lot spacier.
5. Collecting football stickers
I think I’ll be happy to accept Match Attax as basically the same thing. I can still remember the smell of a packet of freshly opened football stickers. The trading in the playground. The excitement of completing an album (not that I ever did…). There’s also something about having a collection and a shared interest with friends; a sense of purpose and commonality. Oh, and if he/she happened to come across a Gianluca Vialli shiny from 1997, that would be a bonus…
6. Family meals
I recently confessed to my parents that I’ve never particularly liked Chicken Supreme, which was normally a weekly fixture on the Greenhalgh menu because it was one of very few meals my brother actually liked. However, regardless of what the meal was and despite not really appreciating this as a child, sitting round the table as a family is something I’ve realised is really valuable.
7. Choosing Pick n Mix
Sadly, it won’t be from Woolworths. But being able to pick a mixture of your favourite sweets from a vast collection into a striped paper bag. Who wouldn’t love that? In fact, I think the picking probably beats the actual eating.
8. Listening to music
And not just listening to music, but responding without inhibition. My Dad used to stick various songs on his record player (I mostly remember Ray Charles’ Shake a Tail Feather and The Who’s Magic Bus and Boris the Spider) and we’d shake/twist/jump/dance accordingly. At some point I must have begun to feel slightly more self-conscious because that’s no longer my natural reaction to music in a bar/club. However, there’s something incredibly joyful about responding to music uninhibited, as if without a care in the world; I hope our child shows us how it’s done again.
There is a danger of course, that I’ll attempt to relive my childhood through our child. Or even try and achieve what I didn’t through them (and not just finding a Gianluca Vialli shiny). In reality, my child may not collect football stickers. They may not even like football. They might not want to watch Thunderbirds, and they might prefer Peppa Pig to Postman Pat. Ultimately that’s fine. They will have their own unique identity and personality. However, I have no doubt that – as my parents did for me – I want to create memories and experiences that they will remember, use activities to teach them important values and introduce them to a variety of good things.
Just as long as they don’t ever come home in a fluorescent shell suit and their hair in curtains…