The Cynical Dad – Then and Now

I recently had a conversation with another parent about the scourge of mobile phones, particularly when it comes to kids. I know it’s a cliché to say it was simpler back when we were young and didn’t have the same technology, but it’s true.

And it got me thinking about what else has changed since I was growing up…cue wavy lines and flashback…


I’ve always had a keen interest in music. As teens, most people listened to pretty much the same few bands – Pearl Jam/Nirvana, Oasis/Blur, The Cure/The Smiths, and so on. We used to watch “The Beat Box” and “Top Of The Pops” to find out the charts. In December we’d listen to Fanning’s Fab 50.

These days, with YouTube, SoundCloud and others, there’s an unlimited selection of music available. But there’s almost too much choice of music and ways to listen to it – kids and teenagers just share and stream music now with a click or a swipe and usually don’t have a clue who sings the song or even the name of it!


We used to play. Sounds simple, and it was. We played with Lego, little army men, Barbies (or Sindy!). Outside, we played rounders, 52 bonkers and just kicked a ball. We used cycle around and go for hikes.

Young kids do still play nowadays, but it’s far too short a window. All too soon they’re grown up, too cool for school and parents and playing etc., and trying to act like grumpy teenagers.

The whole process of growing up has shifted back by a good few years, much to my dismay.


Gone are the days of 2 channels or even the ‘luxury’ of the English channels. Bruce Springsteen’s declaration of “57 channels and nothing on” seems laughable now. Countless channels to satisfy everybody’s tastes, from documentaries on sex dolls to mind-numbingly repetitive cartoons; from weird Asian sports to white-suited Evangelists preaching eternal salvation; all kinds of ways to slowly fry your few remaining brain cells.

But it’s not just the content, the way we watch TV is light years from Glenroe of a Sunday night. I can’t remember the last time I watched a program ‘live’. Anything I want to watch is recorded and must be retrieved from among hours and hours of baking programs and highlights of football matches.

Social life:

Most of us started venturing into the grown-up world of ‘going out’ in our teenage years. We stood awkwardly at teenage discos, dying to approach someone we fancied, but nowhere near brave enough to do so. There are still discos for the young ‘uns, and I’ve brought teenagers to enough of them to realise that they’re a far cry from my own experience.

The people attending these events look like a different species to me and my friends at that stage. We all dressed similarly, in dark, baggy clothes, afraid to stand out. Now the kids get the hair done during the day, meet at each other’s houses before the disco, and could never wear the same clothes to 2 discos in a row.

And that is literally just the boys.

And don’t get me started on the girls and what they’re barely wearing!

I know I sound old and out of touch. That’s because I am. I’m a parent, and so in my kids’ eyes I was never young, never lived and haven’t a clue what it’s like to be them.

God, I suddenly feel the urge to ring my own mother and apologise….

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