Last week Mr Fraser and I grounded our nine-year-old daughter, Miss Fraser, from all her electronic devices–her regular Kindle, her Fire, her DS, her computer, and the TV. She’s taking her electronics fast pretty hard. At one point I reminded her that when I was her age, I didn’t have any electronics except a TV which only got six or seven channels, two of them extremely fuzzy, and yet I entertained myself just fine with books, toys, and paper and pencils/crayons. All of which she has plenty of. “But you were used to it!” she wailed.
She’s adjusting. She’s been digging out toys she got for Christmas or her birthday that she’d barely touched, and she follows me around the kitchen wanting to help, but bored by the simplicity of my typical weeknight cuisine. While I’m just trying to get pasta or breakfast-for-dinner to the table, she’s trying to make it a round of Chopped or Iron Chef. Which might be fun–on a weekend when I have more time.
But it got me thinking what her childhood would’ve been like if she’d been born in 1804 instead of 2004. Setting aside for the moment the fact she’d probably be motherless (since I had complications of late pregnancy and labor and delivery that were no big deal in the 21st century but would’ve been dire back then), her world would look very different. She wouldn’t have My Little Pony figurines, she’d have an actual pony. (Assuming of course that Regency Mr Fraser and I were at least genteel and could afford to keep horses.)
(Yes, yes, I know, that’s a horse, not a pony. But isn’t it pretty? Horsie!)
She wouldn’t be able to read about Katniss Everdeen, Harry Potter, or Firestar the warrior cat, but she might enjoy Charles Perrault’s fairy tales. Or, given that we are Frasers (it’s a pen name, but one chosen from my family tree), she might find The Scottish Chiefs more to her taste than anything else available in 1813.
And while I suppose the Regency versions of me and Mr Fraser would’ve felt obliged to restrain our daughter’s tomboyish tendencies, I’m sure she would’ve angled for toy soldiers instead of dolls.
As much as I love history, the only thing I envy about Regency Miss Fraser’s childhood is the pony.
What about you? What are your favorite toys, or your kids’ favorites? And what would you have played with 200 years ago?
Having been Barbie obsessed as a child, I would have to say I would definitely have as many dolls as I could get my hands on. My sister and I also created plays with our Barbies, (which turned into soap operas most often). So in Regency times, I would hope that perhaps we’d be well off enough to have one of those child-size puppet theaters to put on our doll plays.
The other thing my sister and I played at as children, may have translated well back in time. We played make-believe in the woods. We were serious about it. We fed our house-guests bark and leaves, with muddy “coffee” or “tea”. We built imaginary walls and doors and windows and were appropriately upset when anyone unabashedly walked through the walls. We would not play make-believe with just anyone. We were snobs about our ability to make-believe something that made sense. If you couldn’t ‘play right’, you were ousted. Unfortunately we weren’t very flexible! I would hope to have been a child who got to grow up in “the country” and would maybe have had some room to roam about the property without fear and without a strict nurse who let me climb trees and play among them. A pony would be nice as well, I could only piggy-back my sister, who was the same size as me, for so long. I was a truly inadequate pony, or black stallion as it was.
I played make-believe in the woods a lot, too–at least during the narrow window of time my mother determined it was safe. Basically, it had to be cold enough that snakes weren’t a problem, but it couldn’t be deer season, which can be a surprisingly risky time to be a human in the woods.
Art supplies. As a kid I spent HUGE amounts of time drawing, painting, etc. (I was also keen on emboridery; shocking, I know). We didn’t even HAVE a TV for large parts of my childhood. So I’d have been a pretty content kid had I been born 200 years earlier.
Miss Fraser would probably enjoy that side of a Regency childhood, since she takes after her grandmothers in that regard. I would’ve suffered, though–I’ve never had any kind of gift for the visual arts or even been particularly crafty.
Ponies and horses. Definitely. And dogs and cats, of course! I would have read constantly. And I daresay I would have been writing as well – sweeping epic romance novels as only a nine year old girl could write. I would have played the pianoforte too. Some sort of needlework too. I actually won prizes for my needlework at the fetes in the little English village where we lived.
I’m sure my needlework would’ve been a trial for me and my mother/governess alike–the lowest grade I made on any assignment pre-college was on a sewing project in HomeEc, of all things. But the pianoforte I could’ve handled.
I liked books better than toys but I also loved crafty stuff, including toys that were on the creative side. Spirograph, Etch-a-Sketch, Lite Brite…yes, I’m dating myself! I also loved horses (reading, sketching, dreaming about) but didn’t get lessons until I was in my teens.
My daughters are a lot like I was, into books and arts/crafts. They also liked the American Girl dolls for a while, not the big expensive ones but the miniature ones. We built a house for them and they had all sorts of interesting discussion comparing their different historical periods.
I tried to get Miss Fraser interested in some of the American Girl books. I thought she might at least go for the Kaya series, since at the time we’d been talking to her about her own Native American heritage and what that meant. She never bit, but lately she’s gotten hooked on the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series, so maybe I’ll make a history geek of her yet.
I loved my teddybears the most & still have Augustus the bear my mother made for me 🙂 Sitting rather relaxed on a shelf in my bedroom, a comforting sight!