The Evolution of childhoods

By  Venuri Gangodawila

Were you too once a happy child? If so, this content below will blow you towards your happy past because you, dear reader, would surely belong to one of the sections mentioned.

What is this “childhood”?

Childhood or juniority of any human’s life is the most beautiful, stress free, lovable and genuine stretch of time. Generally, a person until he or she attains the age of eighteen years, is considered to be a child. So it’s during this time span, the purest and most delightful yet simple phenomena take place in a person’s life adhering to his or her living surroundings, the people he or she associates and the experiences he or she gains,  which backs their life until the last breadth. It’s the memories that make a person to live on.

Therefore I hope it’s the time to look back and observe the variations and the evolvement which this very concept has been subjected to, by glancing over several generations.

The generation afore: how did their childhood elapsed?

Well the word “generation afore” would make you remember your father or mother relating to you about their life those days. I also possess this experience. My father sometimes used to tell me how his childhood was spent with a strong, hardworking father, an effortful mother and three siblings, which is absolutely interesting to listen.

They represent the group which did not have any access to technology or sophistication. And also the technology was not at a point of development during their childhood. So they chose to satisfy their needs which were also limited, through simple means; be it may the food, clothing or any sort of essentiality.

When talking about the childhood of this generation, their ways of playing cannot be left out. Important play items of the preceding generation were the well-known “kurumbatti mashima” (a play item made with small, young coconuts) and the “roong peththa” (an item made with tender coconut leaves) which can be distinguished as very minimal yet very environment friendly sources of play. And also the games like “thaachchi paneema” and “chakgudu” (I couldn’t find English versions of these names) and flying kites were their life.

The only source of entertainment was the radio which my father’s generation immensely adored. How his family used to listen to the radio programs those days, which were thoroughly based on intellectual, simple “yet nice to listen” topics during his childhood is an interesting part in the story and also the way they gathered around the device to spend their evenings fruitfully, listening to programs like “Lama Pitiya” hosted by respectable lyricist Karunarathne Abeysekara, “Handa maama”, “Muwanpalassa” radio drama, “Hindi songs session” hosted by Mr.Ravilal Wimaladharma(Father of the award-winning actress Yashoda Wimaladharma) and “Vinoda Samaya” (a comedy show) got me overwhelmed.

Traits like the above, regarding the simplest childhood of the generation before us made me ponder about the fact that how lucky were they to own such a pure version of it.

Childhood of us: the 90s kids

When it comes to the point, “90s kids”, it needs to mention that it was a very interesting period of time to be born.  It seems like 90s kids were the last generation who genuinely enjoyed the childhood. I am an example. Being a 90s kid, I could experience an awesome childhood with my amazing group of cousins and friends. Being the only child, all I owned and still own is a quite big group of cousins and some real friends with whom I shared my childhood. If we travel back to those times, it was the time when the present technology wasn’t much prevalent.  The personal computer with CRT monitors with the Windows 98 OS was our only technological equipment.

We were always playing our little games outside until it gets dark. Most of my time was spent with my closest cousin. We had ample time to play until we got tired. We made play houses (I guess that we were the last people who made them). We played many unique games. We flew kites. We used to read good books. We played with clay. We acted small dramas. We organized small events according to the seasons. We ran. We got bruised and injured and most of all we laughed often and we experienced all kinds of childish emotions.

Another significant feature back then was our sources of entertainment. Television was a friend of us. We were in front of the television to watch our series of shows where 90s kids got the opportunity to watch many  like,  “America’s funniest home videos”, “Bananas in Pyjamas”, “Barney” and cartoons like “The adventures of Tintin”, “Franklin”(which were two of my favorites) , “Bugs Bunny” and “Tom and Jerry”. If we be specific to Sri Lanka, the programs like “Hapan Padura” and the Sinhala dubbed cartoons like “Inguru Paan malli” (‘The Gingerbread man’) and “Dosthara Honda Hitha” (“Doctor Doolittle”) stands out. Those were our childhood joys which we never missed.

Education (primary) too was not much stressed like today where we had enough time afterschool to do our homework and to play. And we enjoyed our time in school with real companions and real teachers where we played and learned joyfully. It was childish charms that we were worried about. We helped each other. We laughed. We really were children. Now, when looking back, I really miss our childhood which was pure, genuine and very simple. Yes it was in its very words “good old times” where we exactly ‘lived’ our lives.

The contemporary childhood

When referring to the present era, the first question that pops up in my mind is that is this really a childhood?

Where are the real joys of childhood? Now it’s only the programmed children performing their allotted tasks like waking up so early in the morning, running to school, then running for tuition classes, coming home, eating something or not eating at all and finally going to sleep like robots. Their routines seems to be simple but it’s also complicated. There’s no time to go and play outside, no time to share their stories with parents, no time to enjoy and most importantly kids these days got no time to live.

In this matter, technology too plays an important role. During a time where technology even detaches the relationships of adults, children of today seems to be engrossed with a vast array of technological accessories. It has revolutionized into a level of addiction among the kids where they would rather stay indoors and play a video game or to surf through social media (which has become another menace), instead of going out and playing with their peeps. The unfortunate consequences of these are the anti-socialization and the isolation growing in children’s lives.

In addition to the above facts, the feelings of children today also have been subjected to change. There’s a vast contradiction between how we use to think about our matters and how children these days think about their matters as they seem to own a tinge of adulthood, where they try to experience everything, every emotion in a quicker pace. That might be because of their curiosity to know everything, as their brains are much developed of course. Although they’ve improved the aspects like intelligence and knowledge, concepts such as interpersonal communication and respect towards people are abandoned from their lives. For example, if you visit one of your friend’s house where they got children, you are able to observe that those kids or at least one of them are preoccupied on a technological device, maybe a smartphone or a tablet and would never divert his or her attention towards you or even towards his or her parents.

After all, it’s embarrassing to see that the pure innocence and the originality of the childhood which our generation and the generation afore us clearly enjoyed, has been faded away from the lives of children of present day. However we solely cannot put the blame on them or even on their parents. I believe that the fault lies in the systems; educational and social, and also in the perplexed and fictional concept known as the “competition”.

On the other hand, there is a difference between the urban child and the village child. This too has to be mentioned. Village children still got the opportunity to experience their childhood than the urban child. They perhaps are not much educated or intelligent like the town children or maybe the other way round. They however are able to get exposed to the environment more and to enjoy their times.

Therefore, if there comes a day when every child is able to live his or her life to the fullest, that would be the greatest achievement gained by the world, despite the development of technology and erudition, as Agatha Christie once said thus; “One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think to have a happy childhood.”


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