I'm Getting The 90s Childhood I Never Had

For many people, the 90s bring back positive memories of fanny packs, flared jeans, and chokers with daisies or yin and yang charms dangling from the center. My friend Jessica remembers the crinkled, one-size-fits-all shirts. You know, the ones that look like they fit a Barbie, but somehow expand to fit an entire human body. Not me, though. I just remember wanting them, watching enviously as my friends collected Lisa Frank stickers or applied their twelfth layer of Bonne Bell Flip Gloss.

I had a different sort of childhood. The kind who went to nun camp over the summer and had to practice piano six days a week (the bane of my existence).

In fifth grade, my friends wore spaghetti strap tank-tops over T-shirts and butterfly clips in their flipped-out hair. Meanwhile, I wore hand-me-downs salvaged from a black garbage bag or dresses sewn by my mom.

Inspired by my friends’ latest Britney Spears CDs and copies of Seventeen, I dreamed of low-rise jeans, belly button piercings, and blonde hair. But my dreams would remain only dreams. Britney dressed immodestly, my mom said. And even if she had approved, we didn’t have a CD player. I listened to my cassette tapes of Alvin and the Chipmunks instead.

My sheltered-ness extended even to food. Remember the butter spray that was blue, and purple ketchup? Dunkaroos? Juice bags? Lunchables? Oh, how I wished I had the kind of mom who bought purple ketchup.

By the time I met my husband, I was embarrassingly uncultured. He’d quote movies that I’d never watched. I knew Grease had great music, but I didn’t watch it until I was pregnant with my first daughter. I loved to use the quote “Run Forrest, run!” but didn’t watch the movie until 2022.

Though my parents would probably call my upbringing “counter-cultural,” to me it was a lonely place, and I knew I didn’t want that for my kids.

All this to say, when 90s trends started to make a comeback, I was fully on board. I will never be able to go back and change my childhood. But I can make damn sure my daughters — who are 6 and 8 have a chance to live out my 90s dreams, and I’m living vicariously through them. My butterfly clip placement? Impeccable. Our scrunchy game? Strong. Neon colors? Blinding. While I haven’t convinced them to wear flared jeans, we tie-dye with the best of them. We watch all the movies I wasn’t allowed to, and I can proudly report Father of the Bride II and Parent Trap are among their favorites.

And I’m getting a shot at the snacks, too. For all we know, the Lunchables we eat today were made in the 90s and are still fresh, given the levels of preservatives used to embalm the food. Of course I let my kids eat them. Capri Suns line my fridge. I crave Dunkaroos, but they give me heartburn. And my daughters, not realizing how blessed they are, told me they don’t like them.

Though we haven’t broken into the giga pets or jelly sandals (which I just learned today are not called “jelly roll sandals”), there is still time in this wonderful era of Amazon to make all of my daughters (my) dreams come true. Am I pushing trends onto my daughters so I can live vicariously through them? Obviously, yes. Is this any different than my mom, pushing 1800s fashion onto me? I plead the fifth. Without question, 90s trends are way more fun than 1800s trends.

But maybe living vicariously through our children is just what moms do.

Laura Onstot writes to maintain her sanity after transitioning from a career as a research nurse to stay-at-home motherhood. In her spare time, she can be found sleeping on the couch while she lets her kids binge-watch TV. She blogs at Nomad’s Land.

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