Sunday, January 14, 2007

My Childhood in a Different World

There are a lot of challenges that children face in the world today and adults have gone to great lengths to protect them from these dangers. This is a positive to a certain extent, but also has caused great harm to the first generation that will not live longer than their parents.

When I was growing up, I did not have such protections and neither did the friends I grew up with. This has a lot to do with the area I grew up in, but also has a lot to do with how we as children were treated back then (I was born in 1973, so I’m not talking ages ago when children had even more room to move). My friends and I regularly did what is unthinkable to today’s children. Here is what we did:
  • We ate fast food, white bread and real butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it. It didn’t matter because we would burn it off by running around, outside, all day long.
  • We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. That’s right there was no parental supervision, no play dates, we were just gone.
  • No one was able to reach us all day, we did not have cell phones, but our parents knew our friends parents so they would be able to find us.
  • We fell out of trees, jumped off of roof tops with an umbrella, got cut, broke bones and teeth and guess what? There were no lawsuits from these accidents, we were just being kids.
  • We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and anything else our imaginations would allow us to create. This means that we actually made our own set of rules, and if someone didn’t agree with the rules we just kicked them out of the game. We learned to cooperate on our own and you either got with the program or got out.
  • We rode bikes or walked to school. It wasn’t a special “walk to school day”; it was just how we got there.
  • Our sports leagues had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment and play on the B teams.
  • The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. The same if we got in trouble at school. Parents actually sided with the police and principals. We were actually held accountable for our actions.
  • Our parents played outside with us when they returned home from work. They didn’t bring work home and they actually came home at a decent enough time to make this a priority.
  • We had an allowance to help pay for what we wanted to do, there actually were no handouts.

The point of all this is not to say look at my generation and how hard we had it, because we did not have it hard at all. It is to look at the way we did it and what we were allowed to do. Our parents actually believed in learning by living. My umbrella didn’t slow me down when I jumped off the roof, just like my parents said it wouldn’t, but I was allowed to find that out on my own. There was no childhood obesity epidemic because we were always outside moving and actually playing all day long. We had to play because there was only one TV in our house (the average today is 3+ per house) that got 8 channels, all of which were soap operas during the days.

So while you are making sure that your child has the newest gaming system, computer, cell phone, and powered scooter, know that you are killing your child and setting them up for a world that is not as forgiving. You are giving them an unrealistic view of what it actually means to earn something through hard work and planning. When you finally get the time to put down your Blackberry and actually take your child out to play, know that it is a special moment because according to statistics, your child won’t be around to experience such a moment with their child.

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