The summer newness is wearing off in my house, and with that comes lots of complaints about how bored my kids are. I ignore them, of course, after all being bored builds character, helps our kids be creative, and it’s what my parents did in the ’80s.
The way I see it, if I could keep myself occupied during the summers of the ’80s with zero prompting from my parents, my kids deserve the same gift. In fact, those long hot days as a teenager were some of the best days I can remember. My friends, siblings and I were never at a loss.
How we kept busy during our ’80s summers
Save for a cassette tape and play the same song over and over.
We all remember how much time it took to fast forward to your favorite song, then rewind it to play it again. You had to work for it if you wanted to hear your favorite jam over and over.
Rip pages out of magazine to adorn our walls.
Teen Beat, Young Miss, Cosmo, we’d flip through these babies and rip out all the pages of the things we loved: our latest celebrity crush, cool outfits, inspiring quotes, makeup tutorials. Then, we’d lie in my bed and lose some self- esteem while looking at it all, but damn it gave us a vision of how we wanted our life to be when we grew up.
We’d hit the local pool, go to each other’s house, or ride our bikes to the beach with the baby oil, tanning magnifier, Sun-In, and Sunny Delight in hand. There was always a boom box blasting our favorite love songs.
Make a mixtape.
Mixtapes were a labor of love. You not only picked out all the songs, you numbered them, wrote them in beautiful handwriting, and decorated the covers before handing them to lovers and friends. This could take an entire afternoon.
Walk or ride bikes.
We always seemed to find each other without constantly texting or tracking each other–we’d just walk, or ride bikes to all the hot spots: our favorite ice cream place, the local convenience store, or where our best friend served burgers, to hang out.
Watch Soap Operas.
General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, Santa Barbara, As The World Turns…we couldn’t get enough.
Play board games.
There was nothing like hunkering down on a rainy day with some Kool-Aid and popcorn getting into a long game of Monopoly or Life.
Go roller skating.
It didn’t matter if you had the adjustable skates that slid over your shoes, fancy white skates decorated with feathers and pom-poms, or if you skated inside or outside. There were local roller rinks all over the place, and it was totally normal to see someone being pulled along by their dog on a leash rolling down the road.
Eat Ramen, candy, and drink a Slurpee.
I’m still obsessed with those candy rings, and collecting enough change to get a Slurpee was exciting. And who didn’t love making a big bowl of Ramen before watching The Price is Right, or Wheel of Fortune?
Make friendship pins.
Sitting for hours sorting beads, talking to your siblings or friends, and trading pins to attach to our shoelaces was some of the best therapy we got as kids.
Get out the hose or sprinkler.
If we couldn’t get to the local beach or pool, out came the hose, sprinkler, or Willy the Water Bug, along with our parent’s reminders to only have it on for a half hour or so. Of course, we never listened.
Play in the woods.
We caught frogs, built forts, picked berries, and climbed trees. My sisters and I tried to make a tree house once. It didn’t work out, but the vision was there!
Watch the clouds.
Lying our backs, seeing everything from ducks, to hearts as the clouds floated by the blue sky was a good way to pass the time until something more interesting (like hearing your rotary phone ring) came along.
Lie to our parents.
We’d take the family car and say we were going to the movies, or a girlfriend’s house only to drive around with the windows down looking for our latest crush after getting dolled with mom’s makeup.
Even as teenagers, we played flashlight tag, manhunt, dodge ball and kick ball. We twirled batons and made up dance routines. We played before breakfast and stayed out until the street light came on. We’d come in with dirty feet, dirty finger nails, mosquito bites and lots of stories to tell. Then, we’d lie in our beds listening to the humming of the box fan in our window excited to get up and do it again the next day.
Yes there were times we were bored in the ’80s, but because we couldn’t text anyone, we got up, found our people and did stuff together; lots of amazing life-changing stuff that has stayed with us for decades and that made us feel incredibly lucky to be a children of the ’80s.
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