If you were a kid in the 70s, you too probably remember a more chill, carefree time–where kids played outdoors, unsupervised from sun up to sundown. I love to reminisce about being a kid and am overly nostalgic about my mostly unchaperoned, dysfunctional up-bringing. It’s somewhat curious that I’m so fond of my own childhood yet do things completely different with my own kiddos. ‘Tis a sign of the times I suppose. Anyhoo, I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane and compare my summer days of the 70s and early 80s with my own over-scheduled offspring.
Who’s In Charge? Oh Yeah, No-One!
Summertime when I was a kid was a time of wanderlust. It was a time of discovery and a time to explore. It wasn’t a time to stay indoors. We were wise enough to know to get out of the house quick in the morning in order to avoid a long To-Do list of unpleasant chores, parents who believed in spanking, yelled, and knew how to say No.
Our main mode of transportation was our bikes. We rode our bikes everywhere. Sans helmet. We rode to the play ground, we rode to our friends’ houses, we rode to the store. We rode to wherever we needed to go.
We would hit one back yard after another, where we’d create elaborate imaginative games. Tree houses would become our pirate ships or caves. Tire swings would be our air crafts to the moon. We’d play whiffle ball for hours. Lunch time was spontaneous, to be enjoyed in the kitchen of the nearest house. If we were lucky we’d get Pizza Rolls or Spaghetti O’s and a Hostess snack cake. If not, bologna or pb&j. White Wonder bread was pretty much guaranteed. Trans-fat and high fructose corn syrup–why not? Hawaiian Punch or Kool-Aid were likely served. As soon as we finished we’d be back on the streets. Possibly pretending to “drive our cars” (our bikes) to meet “our boyfriends.” Where we’d pretend to make-out. Or, maybe we’d ride to the river and go for a swim. No life guard, no parents, often no towel, probably no sun screen.
When we hit the convenient store for a much-needed snack (after all we’d rode our bikes for miles) we loaded up on candy bars and chips–Pringles, oh yes, we had the fever. Charleston Chew was good because it was so big. Sugar Daddy lasted a long time and was cheap. Pop Rocks and tiny Chiclettes were also a solid choice. But alas, that snappy Hey, you got your peanut butter in my chocolate, No, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter ad would probably win out. (Reese’s are delicious.) We’d get as much crap as we could afford and divvy it up. One “graveyard” Super Big Gulp would do, as several kids would share the mammoth drink. With one straw. We weren’t worried about germs so much back then.
After 8-10 hours of being accountable to no one, we’d finally wander back to the neighborhood. Where eventually the mothers would yell out the front door, “dinner time,” to which we’d unenthusiatically head home. But wait. Was it a ‘Three’s Company’ night or ‘Solid Gold?’ After all, we hadn’t watched TV all day. Pong and Asteroids hadn’t been played for several days.
If it was the weekend, maybe we’d get dropped off at the roller rink. More time unsupervised. Yay! After arcade games, more junk food, and couples’ skates we’d head home where we’d catch some ‘Friday Night Videos,’ or the’ Twilight Zone’ until the TV turned to color block lines and eventually static. And the next day, we’d get up and do it all again. A new day meant a new adventure. The unknown. Anything was possible…
Micro-Managed Every Minute!
Summer time for my kids and most of their friends means day camps or lessons. Nowadays we have a camp for every type of kid. We have science camps, horse camps, dance camps, sports camps, arts & crafts camps, leadership camps–you name it they have a camp for it.
If our kids want to go somewhere, we drive them. If they want a snack it’s most likely healthy, whole grain, possibly gluten-free and accompanied by good old water, maybe lemonade. They might get a fro-yo if they’re lucky. If they want to ride their bikes out of the hood, parents watch or ride alongside. They always have their helmets strapped on tight.
If our kids want to go for a swim, it’s likely at a private/member’s only pool. Of course a parental will be present at all times along with several certified life guards. SPF 50 will be applied and re-applied. Rash guards, aka swim shirts, are on hand if swimming will be for an extended period of time. Swimming without goggles would not go over well.
Our kids have cell phones and iTouches and can communicate with us at all times. On a rare occasion where they may be off on their own, not being closely monitored, we know we can track them down in seconds.
Our kids have been well-trained to use their hand sanitizer that’s been strapped to their packs or bags. They know better than to share a drink. They all have their own water bottles. BPA free. The water went through the Brita prior to being poured. They would never drink from the hose.
Our kids rather enjoy being at home–probably because they’re over scheduled. We say Yes as often as possible. (My kids only chore is to feed the fish, which they complain about. Their responsibilities include reading, and being kind & respectful kids. They have hundreds of toys, in every room.)
If our kids want to watch TV, they can find any show or cartoon at any time of the day. They can BE the video game. If our kids go to the movies, we are in tow. Our kids go to bed tonight knowing that tomorrow will be much like today. Another day of structured, heavily supervised activities…
Sometimes I worry that all this over parenting is doing them a dis-service. Will they be boring because they had such a “normal” up bringing? A little dysfunction builds character–after all look at me! I sometimes fear I’m doing too damn good of a job. Although, I’m probably fucking things up that I haven’t even thought about. I suppose only time will tell…
Until then we may as well enjoy re-living the good old days. Here’s an old favorite that’ll take ya back. I’ve been obsessed with this song lately. The whole almost 40 thing, ya know. Ta!