From Childhood to Collegehood: A Social Step Backward

Outfits may be better, responsibilities may be larger, and freedom may be grander, but that magic of childlike moments never extinguishes.
Photo by Noemi Gonzalez

Childhood offered simplicity with few expectations. As kids, having fun was the primary concern; time was not. There was excitement in anything that was different from routine, and there were few things more exciting than getting out of the house and getting into activities. The biggest stressors were chores, and the only time deadline was dinner.

Fast-forward seven years to the present: “Collegehood.” Nowadays, social plans must be formed several weeks in advance just to be sure there will be no conflicts. Unlike the wanderlust of childhood when it was more fun to change up routine and stay at friend’s houses, in college home is yearned for and a steady routine is desired. Chores are now relaxing time away from classes, and routine is an accomplishment.

Compared with the “good ol’ days of childhood,” college offers mediocre options. Although they are subpar in comparison to the joyful bliss of youth, comparable activities do exist.

Here are five childhood memories and their subpar college equivalents:

 

Childhood Memory: Slumber Parties

College Version: Crashing at a friend’s place

Slumber party mornings no longer consist of fluffy warm pancakes, but instead the jolting realization that mom is no longer here.
Photo by Noemi Gonzalez

Undeniably, childhood slumber parties were a work of wonder, aided greatly by parents. Food was not just plentiful for these events — it was overwhelming. Sleepover attendees came adorned in their greatest patterned pajama bottoms and were sure to bring their most plush sleeping bags — ready for good, innocent fun.

Truthfully, the only similarity between youthful slumber parties and college crashing is the next-morning cleanup. As a college student, nothing sounds worse than crashing on the floor. Chances are slim that there is any food in the pantry, and certainly no sweet syrup-drizzled pancakes will be served in the morning like they were as a kid. If they are, they should be cautiously avoided.  Instead, after crashing at a friend’s place, the rotten stench of feet, sticky beer stains and Taco Bell lingers ’til the next morning.

Perhaps it was better when mommies were involved in the party planning.

Parent-Planned Parties > College Keggers

 

Childhood Memory: Playing Outside

College Version: Organized ultimate Frisbee

It seems that the classic question: “Hi, can so-and-so play?” is one of the past.

Now, any outdoor event requires careful planning, a $20 minimum for supplies, and plenty of forced creativity. Back on the streets of the neighborhoods, kids used to whip up three or four hours of nonstop games, competitions and events with little or no supplies.

Even a well-planned game of Ultimate with an old Frisbee disc requires preparation, detailed invites and rarely come together on the fly. If they do, certainly the excitement fades quicker than it used to.

Not even the most energetic flying disc wizards of college can compete with the fresh innovation and spontaneous uniting of the childhood neighborhood crew. The imagination of playing outside was incredible and almost unattainable at the college level. How did the cracks in the street become war-zone boundaries? How did pillars and bushes become refuge from attack? Why were rocks so fun to toss?

Truthfully, if an event is pre-planned, it is already subpar. The best memories came from that impromptu doorbell ring that turned quickly into a full-fledged kickball tournament.

 

Childhood Memory: Super-Secret Exclusive Clubs

College Version: Private Facebook groups

Clubs that were formed on the basis of who knows the secret handshake are gone and are replaced with the invite-exclusive, private Facebook groups.
Photo courtesy of Noemi Gonzalez

Back in the day, super-secret clubs offered a place of refuge and friendship. Today, privatized groups still organize together to discuss relevant issues, share noteworthy experiences, complain about life and plan social events to post on Facebook. Club headquarters have simply moved from tree houses onto the internet.

Private Facebook groups allow for comparably exclusive group forming. For example, the “No Boys Allowed” club from third grade most likely had a leader and primary contributors to group content and focused heavily on event planning. Nowadays, the leader is less like a bully and more like a club president with good morals and leadership skills. Although the requirements to be the boss are slightly different at the collegiate level, “the leader” takes more or less the same roll as rule-maker and executive trendsetter.

It seems that third grade brains aren’t all too different from 20-year-old brains. Essentially the “ASU Freshman Girls Living in the Dorms” Facebook group and the “No BoyZ Allowed” childhood groups are comparable. While group discussions used to be held in forts made of blankets and pillows, they are now online. Regardless of their location, they both centered around event planning, friendship and freedom of expression.

Perhaps Facebook is just “Fort Clubhouse 2.0.”

 

Childhood Memory: Playing Dress-Up

College Version: Going Out

At the age of eight or nine, it was okay to pair a cheerleading top with a loose floral skirt, platform heels, and a purple feather boa. As for hair, crazier was cooler. The only person around to take a picture was a mom, and it wouldn’t ruin your reputation if you couldn’t walk well in heels. The poses for pictures were much more creative, silly faces were given freely, and there wasn’t any overwhelming pressure about how the pictures may turn out.

Dressing up used to mean the clippity-clop of oversized heels in the kitchen. Now, those heels better fit correctly and match the perfect photo-worthy outfit.
Photo by Noemi Gonzalez

Now, it takes more than three hours to put together an outfit. The primary reason for even dressing up is for the pictures that will ensue. Before that freshly straightened hair starts to curl from the humidity inside the house or is dampened by beer, pictures must be taken. Anywhere between 15 to 35 ought to be enough to stand as its own photo album on Facebook.

It’s hardly possible anything even occurred if no pictures were taken for proof.

However, unlike when mom was taking the pictures for her scrapbook, now it’s crucial that you assume the most flattering body positioning, hand placement and slight head tilt in every photo op. After all, these pictures determine whether or not you will ever find love.

Perhaps playing dress-up was good preparation for the future party scene, but it was certainly no accurate preview for the pressures and public scrutiny that come along with all of the new form of dress-up events.

 

Childhood Memory: Lemonade Stand

College Version: Working a club booth fundraiser

Everyone did it. With two gallons of cold water, three packets of powdered lemonade, a pack of Dixie cups and a collapsible table in hand, business was underway. Nothing could dampen the crisp excitement for the big lemonade business, and business goals were always set high.  It didn’t even matter that rejection was plentiful, and the day’s total earnings were $7.23. That was still enough to buy a new pack of Pokémon cards.

Unfortunately, the rejection doesn’t seem to change even with age. Even with maturity and education, at the ripe old age of 20 years-old, business at booths doesn’t seem to flourish. Spending 6 hours in the blistering sun for no revenue was no stressor for a 10-year-old, but it may take a bit of a toll on an already on-edge college student. Rejection was so much easier back then.

With the pure heart and open mind of a child, life seems so much more enjoyable.

It may be beneficial to channel that “inner-kid” that is suppressed by the stresses and requirements of college life.

Perhaps if parties were approached with intentions for innocent and pure-hearted fun, they would offer much more excitement and energy. Indeed if dressing-up could be once again free of the primped pressures of college, there may be more giggles and less drama. It may be beneficial to plan less and improvise more.

Surely that goofy, childish energy is still embedded within the strict and serious confines of the college brain.

We may just need to ask our 10-year-old selves can come out and play.

 

Reach the writer at enjnicho1@asu.edu