Life on Tapp: The wonders of childhood are just as magical now as they were in the olden days
Blaise Tapp writes: I’ve lost count of the number of times that folk who keep Shearings in business reminisce about their own childhood; a halcyon time when they would drink milk from the udder, play on bomb sites for 12 hours at weekends and didn’t watch television until they were 17. They decry the lack of children playing out on the streets of Britain today and scoff at the antics of helicopter parents – jumpy types who follow their darlings around with hand sanitiser and a first aid kit.
While there’s no doubt that times have changed, the idea that childhoods of today are any less magical than those of their grandparents or great grandparents is for the birds. They do have a point, however, when they say that today’s youth are obsessed with screens.
As most 21st Century parents will tell you, devices dominate the lives of their little darlings and, without adult intervention, they would happily be on them from the moment they had their Coco Pops until bedtime. I can confirm that the struggle is real and the most serious sanction that can be imposed in our house is the temporary removal of iPad or mobile phone privileges. There are times when the screen is a convenient tool for time-poor parents – I will be the first to admit that devices were a Godsend at times during the dark old days of lockdowns – but it’s unfair to write off an entire generation as screen addicts who don’t know how to enjoy the outdoors.
One of the highlights of a difficult summer came at the weekend when we hosted our youngest’s 8th birthday party. It was a reminder, if I needed it, how kids don't always need SuperMario, TikTok or videos of piano playing cats to have fun.
It turns out that they are just as happy handling snakes, lizards and giant snails as they are sitting in front of a screen. As she always does, Mrs Tapp came up with the bright idea of the month when she booked a reptiles and insects expert to bring some of her pets to our home.
Birthday party entertainment has come a long way since the 1980s, when all you got was a ropey Punch and Judy show or a bloke who stank of fags and Old Spice who could make a sausage dog out of balloons.
The hour or so that the kind lizard lady spent on our lawn, showing the children a selection of her exotic creatures, was a resounding success and she kept them captivated with a series of facts that John Motson would have been proud of. Of course, the main attraction was getting to stroke and hold the array of animals – the most popular being a giant African snail and that household favourite, the boa constrictor.
As someone who is to animal husbandry what the Spanish FA is to feminism, I wasn’t that fussed about handling any of them, but in a bid to save face, I reluctantly agreed to hold the constrictor. Being squeezed by a large snake that lives off dead rats and small rabbits is not something I will rush to repeat but it kept the kids away from the sweets.
The party was finished off with a good old fashioned game of hide and seek and a go on the trampoline and our beaming boy has since told us that it was the best day of his life. Even accounting for the fact that the average eight-year-old is prone to hyperbole, there’s no doubt that this was his special day.
Growing up in Britain today is very different to how it was 70 years ago but the wonders of childhood are just as magical now as they were then.