Wednesday, August 12, 2009

We were allowed to live, oh how times have changed!

Born before 1980? Its a miracle you survived! We were tiny daredevils: sun-blasted, pocket-knife-carrying, bottom-spanked, cow eaters. We ran the streets armed with BB guns and cap guns, boxing gloves and bottle rockets, wholly unprotected by bike helmets, sunscreen or Amber Alerts. By today’s standards, our playtime perhaps bordered on lethal. Houses were filled with the blue cigarette smoke of our cocktail-drinking parents. And yet, somehow, despite all that, most of us made it out of our childhoods just fine.

I grew up in the suburbs in the '70s. Back then, we kids waited for the school bus without our parents. Horrors! If you were a child then, you were allowed to go visit your friend down the block, or ride your bike to the library, or play in the park without your parents accompanying you.

As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, booster seats, seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of my dad's red pick up on a warm day was always a special treat. We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank Kool-aid made with sugar, but we weren't overweight because, WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING! Who would have thought 30 years ago that it would be necessary to run public service announcements encouraging parents to get their kids outside playing?

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K. We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 150 channels on cable, no surround-sound or CD's, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or chat rooms.......WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them! Do kids even socialize nowadays? If we needed information, we had to go to the library. Things were different; catching fireflies could happily occupy an entire evening. We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

Tree forts, dodge ball, Red Light Green Light, hide 'n' seek, jumping through the sprinkler on hot days, slip 'n' slide, big wheels, swing sets, capture the flag, my banana seat bike was my mighty stead, imaginations - that is what many kids lack these days. Boredom was never an issue for me, and today if kids have to use their imaginations or if it has nothing to do with a computer screen they get - bored!

When we did something we were not supposed to or got into trouble, we got spanked! Mercy! Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected. We learned our lesson and moved on. I have noticed that the style of parenting has changed considerably from when I was a kid. I was taught that being out in public wasn’t a right, it was a privilege, and I’d better be on my best behavior. Act like a lady. Look, but don’t touch. No "I-wants and the gimmes". Proper table manners. Please, thank you, and excuse me. Mr & Mrs to adults. Do not interrupt grown-ups talking. Don’t bother strangers. Bring your own entertainment. Sit still, be quiet. You cannot get up from the dinner table until you are excused. I know parents these days don't have it easy trying to raise decent kids in these decadent times. Unfortunately, the tenets of my childhood outlined above are now the exception rather than the rule. I feel so lucky to have grown up when I did!

What did you enjoy as a child that you think kids these days are missing out on?


Anonymous said...

A horse-related something that I certainly don't recommend to anyone - it's amazing that I didn't get killed -
When I was about 9 or 10, a good friend and I would go to the pasture across from my house - it was a big pasture with a large mixed herd of horses and ponies - and we would go "pony-hopping". This involved getting a pony, getting on it - no saddle or bridle - and staying on as long as possible while the pony ran through the pasture and the woods - this usually ended with use being bucked off, scraped off on trees or being unseated when the pony veered suddenly. The goal was to stay on as long as possible.

Kathleen Coy said...

Great post! Most kids I see within the last 15 years or so seem to be missing a certain "spark" in their eyes that I remember kids having. Maybe it's from not having to entertain themselves the way we did? Or maybe I'm imagining it? (no pun intended, lol.)

PS. My word verification is "maggic" :-)

jrosey said...

Oh, I so agree with this! I didn't have a Nintendo growing up, but I had books, a horse, and art supplies. Couldn't have been happier. While I was sometimes jealous of what my friends had, I am now so thankful that I grew up that way and hope to pass along that type of childhood to my children. This is one of the main reasons we built a house in the sticks. Our kids will go outside and play and will help with chores. Totally agree on the kids respecting their "place". Don't interrupt adults, manners, etc. Thankfully my husband feels the same so hopefully we will be raising respectful little ones. Although, I know it will be a challenge and they might hate me at times, but I think they will be better off for it. I have to admit, though, that I tend to err on the side of safety, so I do think I will be insisting on helmets, etc. Although, I will try not to be too frantic and still let them be "kids". ;) Great post!

WarPony said...

I remember riding my mare, Penny, down the side of a country "highway" miles from home, alone, with just a piece of twine around her bottom jaw. I was wearing nothing but shorts and a tank top. No shoes, and certainly no helmet.

I remember climbing a pine tree taller than my grandfather's three story house so I could watch the boat races 5 miles away on the reservoir, and falling out of the tree. lol. The only thing that kept me alive was that just before I hit the ground head first my foot caught in the Y of a branch and jerked my ankle apart instead of splattering my skull on the ground. I hung there for god only knows how long before someone heard me screaming for help.

Sometimes I think we were better off back before we "knew better".

Mountain Woman said...

I'm much older than you but I fondly remember the days of my childhood. We just ran wild. Not doing naughty stuff, just playing outside from dawn to dusk and being kids. We never worried about stranger danger and all that. Just a better world for children all the way around.

Shelly's Stuff Jewelry said...

Sure is amazing how times have changed! I can remember being 5 or 6 and going with my older cousin (he was 7) to pick wild berries for Grandma's jam. We would walk through the mountain trails and around the worries about getting lost, being snatched, or falling in the water.

Twisted Fencepost said...

Me, too!
And how I miss those carefree days. Living in the country, I have tried to bring as much of my life growing up to my children.

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