Sunday, June 01, 2008

Freedom of Summer Past

A few of the bloggers that I read have made mention of the beginning of summer vacation for their school-age children, and are busy making plans to keep the kids busy for the next two months or so. Back in my day, my mom made plans for my summer holidays to an extent, but once my older brother turned the legal age for babysitting, I think 12, we were pretty much left to do our own thing. There really wasn't a lot of choice for a single mother of two, who didn't have the resources to send us to camp for the whole summer. Some will argue that times were different back then, and maybe they were, but I have always been proud/smug/amazed at how independent we were at ages 9 and 12, due to the amount of rope we were given to hang ourselves with.

Sleeping in late was high on our daily agenda. Once we were up, we watched a LOT of TV. Re-runs of Alice stand out in my memory, along with Different Strokes, and The Facts of Life. Game shows, cooking shows, whatever - we just kept watching. By mid-morning, we would make our own breakfasts. Sometimes we had cereal, but I do remember frying bacon and/or eggs all by ourselves as we prepared our BLT or western sandwiches. Frying. Wow. No microwave option at the time either. Think of a nine year old that you know - now imagine his or her parents giving him or her permission to fry something while home alone. I can't see it happening. As scary as that sounds though, we really could take care of our basic needs by ourselves.

At some point in the day, I would typically hook up with my best friend who lived next door, and we would head off to the pool that was available to all residents of the townhouses that we lived in. No sunscreen of course, but who needed it back then? There was an actual life-guard working there, which was pretty much the most supervision we had during the hours between 9 and 5. The lifeguard was probably 14 or so, and I remember her sending us to the store to pick up powdered donuts for her, which she kindly shared. We were always running off to the store, the second either of us managed to come up with any amount of money. One of the nearby stores was forbidden to us by our parents who weren't comfortable the the crowd that hung out there, but we just HAD to go there, 'cause that was the best place for beef patties, and possibly cream soda flavoured freezies which just popped into my head. Memory or pregnancy craving? Who knows? We also walked over to the local mall on many occasions, and once again, although it felt like a perfectly safe activity, I still can't see anyone letting their nine-year-olds do the same. Correct me if I'm wrong.

There is no doubt in my mind that society has us protecting our children way more than is probably necessary, although as a parent, I want to protect my children as much as I can. On the other hand, I would really like to allow for a certain amount of independence to promote growth. Reflecting back on those freedom days of summer, I really don't feel like I was ever in harm's way. We had relative street smarts, and learned to make good decisions. I wish I knew how to pass these skills on to my kids given the current social climate, where things may or may not be worse than they were, but fear is at an all-time high.

8 comments:

Chantal said...

I agree with you on all of that. My hubby and I are working hard to try and instill the sense of freedom we had but we still have fears. Both of us grew up in neighbourhoods where there were lots of close friends/family around. We don't entirely have that in our current neighbourhood. I know my mom left me in charge of my siblings from when I was about 12 years old (they were 9 and 7) but my father worked at a college and had a lot of time off in the summer, plus I had my grandparents in close proximity. I know we still have a few more years before we even consider leaving my guys alone (D is only 6) but I think that the way we treat/teach our kids now will ensure they are able to take care of themselves eventually. BTW I watched Alice too! And I forgot till you mentioned it! LOL

petite gourmand said...

so very true...
I recall the exact same kind of summers, riding my bike (no helmet) to the corner store (across a very busy road far from home) having a key on a string on my neck and looking out for my little brother.
I also remember watching Mork & Mindy and Captain Kangaroo while eating truck loads of Captain Crunch, rice crispies with say a cup or so of sugar on them or lucky Charms because let's face it, they were magically delicious.
I wonder if one day Lulu will hate me for feeding her Organic Kamut "crispies" every morning?...

I might just have to pick up a box of fruit loops for the summer for the poor deprived child.

THE MOM BOMB said...

If my kids had any idea of the amount and extent of bad 70s TV I ingested as a youth, they would have my head.

There's a new girl in town, and she's feel-in GOOD! Loved that Flo.

We were totally unsupervised and my Mom was at home. She let us play in the tall weeds by the railroad tracks and the rattlers.

kittenpie said...

In fact, did you read about that mom who sent her 9-year-old home on the subway alone and there was a HUGE uproar about it? I was totally riding subways alone by at least ten.

motherbumper said...

Dude I didn't even know I had parents until I was twelve.

fzaltz said...

I can imagine you and Dave frying bacon together, and Dave acting like he knew everything about frying, and meanwhile bacon grease splattering all over the place... Bet those sandwiches were GOOD!!!

Despite my parents being super serious and overprotective, I travelled unaccompanied on planes and trains starting when I was about 11, and I drove myself to Detroit when I was 16. That must have been before the world went to hell in a handbasket.

b*babbler said...

I truly find it amazing how little freedom our children have now. Is the world *really* that much scarier a place?

I remember telling someone recently how once Peanut was older that the park was right around the corner for her to go to alone with her friends, and the person was horrified. Shocked and horrified. Let her go to the park alone? (This same person also couldn't imagine me letting her play in the backyard unsupervised. The back yard that is fully fenced and that I can see from any point in my living room/dining room.) Sigh.

Seriously folks. How can children learn street smarts if they never get the opportunity??

b*babbler said...

I truly find it amazing how little freedom our children have now. Is the world *really* that much scarier a place?

I remember telling someone recently how once Peanut was older that the park was right around the corner for her to go to alone with her friends, and the person was horrified. Shocked and horrified. Let her go to the park alone? (This same person also couldn't imagine me letting her play in the backyard unsupervised. The back yard that is fully fenced and that I can see from any point in my living room/dining room.) Sigh.

Seriously folks. How can children learn street smarts if they never get the opportunity??