Wednesday, January 4, 2017
I realize that to adults today up to about age 40 or 45, I am an ancient curmudgeon, having passed from kindergarten to high school in the 1960s. But young people, trust me: what you see in the pic above is an example of what a normal childhood should be like.
There was a dense woods right on the other side of the fence along my yard when I was a lad. That property was owned by a private country club, but the nearest fairway was about 250 yards away. When I was still small, some of the older kids went into the woods and carved out an oval, dirt bicycle racing track. I rode on it later, and we had some really wild races. There were many collisions and spills and usually half of us would go home bleeding from some mishap, almost all were bruised. One guy (but only one) broke an arm.
Every parent knew about it and thought it was perfectly okay. Not one of us was told not to race. The big kids controlled who could race and who couldn't, based mostly on age but also they dismissed too-reckless riders. That didn't happen much because every kid knew the standards and who had the right to enforce them. We worked this out on our own, not under adult direction.
The only time I saw an adult there was a dad whose son had rushed home to tell him to come kill a big snake that came out of the woods onto the track. The dad came with a long-handled garden hoe. He lopped off the snake's head, threw the remains into the underbrush, looked around for other snakes, found none, and went home. The racing then continued. (And every one of us made sure we drove through the snake's blood staining the track!)
Here's another example of kids playing normally:
In my 1960s childhood, my mom would actually kick us out of the house at mid-morning with an advisory not to come home except for lunch and dinner.
After dark, weather permitting, there was almost always a group of neighborhood kids out playing kick the can or something, often until 9 p.m. or later. No adults hovered around, it was just us kids.
When I was 12 and older, my buds and I would go on long bike rides taking us many miles from home. We were gone for hours on end. We had no cell phones, so no text messaging, we had no bike helmets, no nuthin' but ourselves and what our parents had taught us about safety. And no problems ever encountered.
When we wanted to play ball, we went around the neighborhood rounding up the other kids. There was always a vacant lot we could play on and the owner was fine letting us play there because he'd done the same sort of thing when he was a kid. We'd choose sides and play. When there was a disputed call, we had to work it out on our own. No adults refereed; there weren't any around anyway. And if we'd asked them to, they'd have laughed us to shame. Over time we learned what compromise meant, what fairness meant and how to navigate conflict because otherwise, no ball game. And we learned this the hardest but most effective way, on our own.
We didn't spend every Saturday from age 5 being hustled off to practice with some league team because there weren't any. We never thought that a grownup should always settle our disputes; that was our business and the grownups thought so, too. Sometimes (though rarely) disputes got settled with fists and everyone under the age of 125 understood that to be part of growing up, too.
Millennials, that is what a normal childhood is like. I weep that you never had one.