I remember when my children were very young, I couldn’t wait to watch all my old retro cartoons with them that I loved as a kid. My son’s second word was ‘Skeletor’, would you believe, so obviously they were growing up in a retro collector’s house where there was at least a subliminal retro influence. But I soon wondered if they would actually enjoy all the things that I enjoyed. Would they enjoy seeing He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in the same way I did? Would they think Transformers and Dungeons & Dragons were as cool as I did?

I was aware that children’s play habits had moved on. Less and less children are playing with action figures and instead screen based games are taking over. Also animation styles change over the years too, so there is no guarantee that the cartoons from my day would capture my children’s attention. I’m glad that I managed to become aware of this risk before I wholeheartedly and excitedly subjected them to all of my youth. I think if you do that then you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

One of the first things a new parent discovers is the that you can’t control what sort of personality or tastes your children will have. It’s not as simple as nature v nurture. It’s a bit of everything. For example when we were growing up, our siblings didn’t always like what we liked, did they? And they were growing up in the same household in the same decade. Everyone’s different.

Forcing your own thing on your children often ends poorly. They might resent you for it, or they might rebel against what you push on them. We often loved our cartoons and toy franchises because it was ours. It was our thing separate from our parents. That’s what sometimes made it feel special and ‘ours’. That sense of ownership is an important step in order to feel attachment to something I think. So instead, I just like to have the things that I love visible and around various parts of the house. Just have it available. Open the door. If one my kids latch on to something and choose to walk through that door then I will gladly share things with them and let them explore. That’s all a bonus. We have had days, such as on my birthday, where I have suggested that we have a morning watching some old cartoons from my childhood, and they happily watch them and enjoy them, but they’re not asking to watch them every week and so I’m not going to bother trying to make them watch them every week. They are aware of the franchises and characters and do like them and that’s enough for me. Just being able to share references and jokes with them is enough.

But it can work the other way too. Your children will almost definitely teach you new things. And so they should. It’s great if they like some of our stuff from our youth but they need their own stuff from their generation too. I’ve hugely enjoyed getting into things like Pokémon Go and Fortnite and lots of great new cartoons that my kids like. I think that sharing time with them enjoying things that they like is one of the best things you can do as a parent. 

Furthermore, if you have a child of the opposite gender to you, that opens up a whole new world of toys and properties to experience with them. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching my daughter enjoy various properties from Happy Land to Shopkins to LOL dolls and many more. It opens up a whole new experience and like skills to learn such as how to untangle dolls’ hair or matching up accessories and clothes.

In summary, as parents that are passionate about our love of retro properties and the happy memories from our childhood, it’s great to share these with our children, but to understand that their experience of these toys and cartoons will be very different from ours. Their viewpoint and perspective needs to be embraced and whatever they latch onto, whether out of our wheelhouse or out of their own new interests, we can be there with them to enjoy their journey. For it is indeed their journey and we’re just along for the ride on this one.