I get told quite a lot that I didn't have a childhood. Usually what this means is that I didn't play Pokemon (a subject so touchy for me that it will get its own blog post, possibly next week) and I didn't watch [insert speaker's favourite children's cartoon here].
In fact, I watched relatively little TV as a child. I still don't watch very much, mostly documentary and topical comedy. My parents were quite suspicious of the TV as a source of things for children to do, and I still kinda agree with them, BUT I don't want this to turn into a 'kids these days' rant. I get really, really angry when I see people venerating 'old' ways of parenting, whether that's forcing children to play outside (it's cold and wet out there, alright?) or corporal punishment.
I actually think that the proliferation of internet access and video games are great for kids. The internet teaches skepticism and fact-checking at a far earlier age than traditional methods (there are serious psychological studies backing this up, though I can't lay hands on any off the top of my head), encourages literacy and technological expertise, and connects us to more people, from further outside our own cultural bubbles, than ever before. Video games are interactive in a way few other forms of media are, and are increasingly social too.
But that's at least two big debates, both for another time (I'm not saying there aren't problems with modern childhood). Here, I want to reflect a bit on the peculiar cultural isolation that comes from 'not having had a childhood'. After all, it's not like I actually had a deprived childhood - I made up for a lack of TV with books and books and books. Instead of crying over Bambi's mother (uh, spoiler alert? ;) ), I cried over the end of the Jungle Book (no, the actual book, which I highly recommend).
But it can be profoundly alienating to have no nostalgia for things so many of my friends love. I spent years listening to long conversations about how great Thundercats was, having no idea what anyone was on about, and was finally sat down by a friend and force-fed the first half-dozen episodes. Without nostalgia, and I'm sorry to break it to you like this, they were terrible. Clunky dialogue, stilted animation, cliched or non-existent characterisation and flat, formulaic plotting.
I had a similar experience with Scooby Doo. The Simpsons and South Park are prime offenders, too. I actually have a friend who recently became Dr. Nick, and I have no idea why this is funny (well, ok, I do now, but only because I googled it). Fortunately on that score, he's also Dr. Jones, and for better or worse that song was part of my childhood.
Would I trade the actual experiences that shaped me for better knowledge of pop culture? No, because that would be trading being me for being someone else, and there's not really any sense in the question 'Would you rather be not you?' And as the Dr. Nick example shows, it's much easier to get into the know than it would have been ten years ago.
But if/when I'm a parent, I'm sure I'll have to think long and hard about how much I want my children to be part of the culture that surrounds them. It doesn't happen so much to me anymore, but there were times when the exclusion I experienced brought me considerable pain, either purely from being left out of things or from being actively bullied for not knowing the difference between Scooby and Scrappy or whatever. My parents made good decisions for good reasons, but I'm not sure I'll be deciding the same way.