Sometimes when I surf the net, something unique will catch my eye and I’ll begin clicking away, on link after link, just to see where where I wind up. Usually these “virtual treasure hunts” end with some crappy site, often selling something like a “Skinny Pill” or the latest incarnation of the Thigh Master; at which time I’ll lament at the 25 good minutes of my time I wasted and will never get back.
However, this morning was a different story; when embarking on such a quest, I actually wound up with some “treasure” that was worth discovering -Yay! Out of curiosity I began following a link titled “How Did We Make It This Far?”, which took me to a few more links, all of which turned out to be slightly different versions of a single manifesto titled “Looking Back, How Did We Survive?”
Each list was a tongue-in-cheek view at how life has changed over the past 40 years – and not necessarily in good ways – mostly pertaining to things we did as kids that are deemed harmful or dangerous for the precocious rug rats of the 21st Century. What these lists are ostensibly saying is that – between “modern” parenting methods and society’s take on what’s considered “acceptable”- kids today are in serious danger of growing up to be to be a bunch of P.C. driven, soft-shelled, lightweight crybabies, all because of what our Western society defines “harmful” and “safe”. It seems that today’s parents feel pressure to bow to this pack mentality, purely out of fear of being looked upon as being irresponsible… they send their kids off to schools with sanitizing foam in their lunch kits, tell them not to sit “too close” to the kids with colds, and whatever they do, make sure they don’t get their clothes muddy – despite the fact that they – we – all survived these horrible practices a mere 30 / 40 years ago ourselves!
In my day if we dropped our P & J sandwich on the floor, mom would scream at us to pick it up, pick the hairs out and eat it, because food costs money and kids were starving in Africa, and who did we think we were to throw away good food anyway? Money doesn’t grown on trees you know! Such scorn practice was commonplace; probably because in the long run, it wasn’t scorn – it was common sense! However, try this in Mrs. Simpson’s lunchroom at any elementary or middle school today and I’m sure there’s a MUCH different response! “Johnny! Don’t eat that french fry; it fell on the floor and it’s dirty!” For the sake of dropped food everywhere (not to mention starving kids in Africa) I sure do miss those days…
Since the sites I came across where all written in 2002, it meant that internet, iPads and cel phones weren’t commonplace yet; nor were the specialized diets, (for people AND pets, because “Fluffy doesn’t eat gluten”) and whatever “syndrome” or “disorder” is popular this week… (I swear back in in day “A.D.D.” was a math term, and nothing else) So with this “advanced” society shaping our perception of “right and wrong”, and “what’s safe versus what’s not”, these days it must be hard for parents to allow their kids to live a “normal” childhood; you know, one where a scraped knee or bloody nose is not a national emergency, but rather the by-product of a fun day playing ball with friends.
Let’s turn back the clock around 35 to 45 years and take a look at a few things from a lost era that old codgers (like me!) sometimes refer to as “The Good Old Days”. The following is a combination of the list I stumbled upon, but (since is was written in 2002) I’ve added a few more recent examples of things that seem to be stunting modern society’s perception of what childhood should look like. I hope this little trip down memory lane list will remind us all that sometimes – just sometimes – putting a band-aid on our kid’s scraped elbow is okay; because honestly, everyone knows that the 2 x 4’s us kids used to swing around our heads made pretty damn good light sabres!
If you’re ready, and your seatbelt is securely fastened, then let’s go time-travelling!
As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat, as was an ice cream cone, or going to a movie
Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paint; and we were usually the 7th or 8th kid to use them, but never the last!
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets; and when we rode our bikes, didn’t wear helmets
We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. In fact we wondered (a) why would anyone bottle water, and (b) who’d be dumb enough to pay for it?
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then rode down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times we learned to solve the problem
Halloween costumes were always made, and never bought. The best ones were put together on the fly, using stuff from around the house, and always a half an hour before needed
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. No cell phones. Unthinkable.
We played dodgeball and sometimes the ball would really hurt. We got cut and broke bones and broke teeth and there were no law suits from these accidents. They were accidents. No one was to blame but us. Remember accidents?
We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned to get over it – usually within a day or two
We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank sugar pop, but we were never overweight since we were always outside running around and playing games
If we shared a bottle of grape pop with four friends, oddly no one died from this; nor did they ever get the dreaded “cooties”
We didn’t have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X Boxes, video games at all, 99 channels on cable, blu-ray movies, surround sound, internet chat rooms. Instead we had friends who we’d stay outside and play in the street with until it was dark
We didn’t have cel phones; “phones” were those black things with a dial in the hallways of our houses that our parents used to call their parents every Sunday, and on holidays. Computers were things in science fiction movies; not in our back pockets
We rode bikes or walked to friends houses; we knocked on the door, rung the bell or just walked in and talked to them, like, in person. We walked the 3 or 4 miles to school every day, and it wasn’t a burden or inconvenience – it was just “walking to school”
We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live inside us forever
We ate penny candy, swallowed bubblegum, and our intestines did not stick together because of it. Our brains also never caved in when we picked our noses!
Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t, had to learn to deal with disappointment, or try harder next time
Some students weren’t as smart as others so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade. Tests were not adjusted for any reason, because why would they be?
Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected. No one to hide behind. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!
For better or worse, we did all these things and yet, somehow most of us survived to tell the tales! In fact doing these things is what made us who we are today, for better or worse. All I can say is that from what I’ve seen in my own life, I’m pretty grateful for the skinned knees, walks to school, the swallowed gum, and especially the lack of electronics that our generation had when growing up; in fact to this day if I drop a french fry on the ground, I still pick it up and eat it – as long as nobody is watching!
I guess the bottom line is this: With all of the rules, expectations and safety regulations out there today, combined with the moderne electronic conveniences available to just about anyone, do kids today still have a chance to be kids? I believe they do; but only if moms and dads give them a big cardboard box, or a busted vacuum cleaner or even a box of old clothes; and then tells them to “go out have some fun”… and why not? It worked 40 years ago, and we didn’t turn out so bad!
Or did we? Check this out, and YOU be the judge!