My last post started out about how when I was a kid I would explore construction sites, and old buildings. I still explore construction sites, but now I get paid to do so. Anyway, I ran across this article from the Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/03/hey-parents-leave-those-kids-alone/358631/ I just love that the article’s title is from a Pink Floyd song. It was linked from this article on Reason.com http://reason.com/blog/2014/03/24/junkyard-as-playground-sounds-like-more
Anyway, it reminds me of my childhood and how long a leash my parents gave me. In fact I don’t remember many rules at all. The only rule was the unwritten one. Don’t do anything to make Mom scream or cry, and don’t do anything that Dad would give us a disappointed look. That was usually enough to prevent me from doing really stupid or dangerous. Even with that rule in place, I still ended up learning how not to hurt myself the hard way.
When I look back at what we used to do as kids compared to what kids are allowed to do today it makes me wonder who has the better education? The school of hard knocks is not for sissies. And you never graduate, you just outgrow it.
I remember times when I was quite small, maybe 8 or 10 years old, my Dad would bring me and my friends piles of large boxes (made for shipping refrigerators, washers, and dryers) a roll or two of duct tape, a permanent marker, and a couple of box cutters and say, “Have fun, don’t cut yourself”. And off we went into the side yard to make our cardboard city. This would keep us occupied for hours, cutting windows and doors, putting on roofs and connecting boxes together in an attempt to make multi story forts. I don’t remember cutting myself or anyone else, but I do have a healthy respect for box knives.
Other times we would go out to Folsom Lake. While my parents would lie in the sun, or sail their Catamaran sail boat, my brother and I would seek adventure. We would just go that away and find stuff to do. Once we found an old log by the shore line, worked to roll it into the water, then swam with it out into the lake to see how long we could stand on it. No life jackets, no supervision, no fear. We learned to wear flip flops or old tennis shoes into the water because of pull tabs from beer cans were wickedly sharp. We learned what poison oak looked like, but only after spending a week or so covered in itchy sores. I would climb trees, hike trails, and stand on the edge of cliffs looking down. I still do this.
Then there was that time at a construction site that my brother and I were exploring…. We found a really big pile of soft grey/white powder next to a building that was covered on the outside with scaffolding. I think the powder was to make stucco. Anyway, I thought it was great fun to climb up the scaffolding and jump into the powder. Each time I landed into the powder I got covered in grey dust. I would brush myself off and climb just a little higher. I loved the thrill of being weightless for a second or two before landing. Of course, I kept going higher and higher until one time I went a bit too high. I landed so hard on my feet that my nose met my knees quite sharply. Nothing quite says “Hi Mom” like being covered in grey dust and blood. So I went to a construction port-a-john to clean up. Used a whole roll of TP to stop the bleeding. But after several minutes with a garden hose, I almost looked presentable. I think I threw away the t-shirt. My logic at the time was it was better for mom to get mad about a lost t-shirt than ask question about all the blood.
Kids now a days seem more content to play video games, and sports. Parents seem intent on protecting their kids from predators, perverts, and bumps and bruises. Schools seem obsessed with zero tolerance and expel children for pointing their finger and saying “pew-pew-pew” or bringing a pez to school.
The point is that it seems that our society frowns upon allow their children as much freedom as they used to. I see too many kids wearing protective gear, or playing video games, and not enough kids climbing trees and exploring. Are parents more protective now that they were in previous generations? Or are kids less adventuresome than in the past? Is the US more dangerous now that it was when I was a kid? Or are parents more protective? Is this a natural reaction to over exposure to information? Or just a reaction to changing technology? Or is the US a dangerous place for children and they have to be protected constantly?
Part 2 coming soon.