Children are more coddled and protected than ever in 2019. For kids, it’s oppressive. I know mine listen to my stories of summers full of freedom and independence, running around the neighborhood all day until dark, with wide-eyed envy. These days, kids are hardly free to do anything we could back in generations past.
8. Play all day with no adult supervision, roaming neighborhoods and friends’ houses until dark
When I was about seven, I was allowed to run with my sisters and the neighborhood kids all summer until the street lights came on. We would dash out the door after breakfast and not be home until dinner. My mother had no idea where we were. We would eat lunch at whoever’s house was offering, drink from garden hoses, run through backyards uninvited, play at the park, walk to the White Hen for candy, visit the library, chase the ice cream truck, and ride bikes miles away from home. Nobody ever questioned us or even looked at us funny. These days, if you let your seven-year-old even walk a block from your house alone or with a friend, CPS will be on your doorstep with a court order for a “neglect” investigation. It’s absurd. Even if you want your child to have the kind of childhood you had, you can’t. If no one else lets their kids out, then yours are all alone instead of in a big pack like we had, and then it is less safe. Back in the days of real freedom, there were at least fifteen to twenty kids out all day playing together and watching out for one another. Now, the streets are empty and children are shuffled from one scheduled and supervised activity to the next, or to”playdates” or organized sports. There’s no time or opportunity to just be wild and free from adult supervision. It’s flipping depressing.
7. Ride in cars without seatbelts
When I was a kid we had a station wagon with blue vinyl bench seats. There were no seatbelts. When we were infants, my mother put us in a laundry basket on the passenger side front seat. When we got bigger, we sat in the back, bouncing around like ping pong balls. We survived several accidents like this. I don’t know how. I vividly remember my face smashing into the back of the bench seat in the front on a few occasions when my mother stopped short, and one scary black ice scenario where we all felt like we had crushed ribs from being flung against one another too hard. While it’s not recommended, there was a freedom and joy about driving that we don’t have anymore in our boosters and five-point harnesses. Gone is the joy of climbing into the back of the station wagon to play cards with your sister on sleeping bags or waving endlessly at the poor guy behind you. Gone is the ability for kids to get comfy and take a good nap on the floor stacked with pillows. It makes me sad that on a twenty-hour car trip my kids are locked into seats with bad neck support, getting numb legs. And while we all know seatbelts are better, and I wouldn’t take my kids out of them, I still wish they could experience a cross-country trip like we did. It might have been stupid and dangerous, but it was a hell of a lot of fun.
6. The joy of phone calls
Nobody calls anyone anymore. It’s just telemarketers. Real friends text. It is so rare to sit for hours on the phone anymore and I don’t know why. But back in the 6th grade I remember having one hour-long conversation after the next with each friend (sometimes on three-way) to the point that my parents got fed up and bought a second line! With three girls in the house, they never could get a call out. My phone time was so excessive that I asked for a phone with a padded ear. I would lie on it like a pillow and laugh with my friends for hours. That was a lot of fun. These days, our kids are lonelier than ever with very little human interaction from friends that isn’t digital in nature. There’s something about the connection of a human voice. I encourage mine to Facetime whenever possible. Most of the time, though, they’re texting.
5. Lawn darts, rusty slides, dangerous park equipment
What’s backyard gaming without the threat of impalement? Or park play without burning your legs on a steel 25 -foot slide? At our neighborhood park, the slide was so high that it would make your stomach drop half way up the ladder. Metal, rusty, slick as heck, one ride down that would send your insides into your throat at warp speed. It was so fun. Then there was the merry-go-round that one person would spin around super fast and then jump on and hang on for dear life until everyone was too dizzy to stand. In all the years I went to that park on Aspen Drive, I don’t remember ever seeing an adult there. It was a kids only zone. Nobody’s mommy came with them to the park. It was a sanctuary, where no one bothered us, and kids could be kids. There’s simply nowhere like that anymore. Parks have been sanitized and de-riskified with padded ground and plastic, twisty slides that are so slow it seems pointless to even use them. No more seesaws, or tether balls (that gave more than one bloody nose in my day), no more rusty merry-go-rounds or death slides. Everything is super safe, and yet everyone’s mother is hovering. It makes no sense.
4. Hanging out at the mall in packs of 11- to 15-year-olds
Not only did we go to the mall by ourselves, we usually rode there on our bikes, ten miles from home, across highways and through forest preserves. It was awesome. Then we’d spend the whole day bothering store owners by not buying stuff (except the candy store, which we cleaned out of candy cigarettes–another thing you can’t find anymore. Mall-ratting was awesome. Nobody ever called the police or asked us where our parents were. It was a given that the mall was a tween’s natural habitat. There were more of us than adults. Sometimes we would go see a movie or hang out in the food court, but the greatest part was the feeling that the day was ours and we were free to do whatever we wanted as long as we were home for dinner. Just recently a mother was arrested at a mall for letting her ten-year-old go into the Lego store without her while she shopped a few stores down. Arrested! They called that “child endangerment.” If our parents were held to those standards, they’d be in prison for life.
3. Buying cigarettes for a family member
Yes, it’s true, this really happened. My dad owned a grocery store way back when and I worked there my whole childhood. We would regularly sell cartons of cigarettes to little kids who would come in with a note from their mom or relative. No one even blinked at that. I rang them up myself! Now, most of the time we knew the parents of the child well, so no one questioned it. But this was something that everyone did. It was also very normal for kids as young as seven to be sent to the store alone to shop with a list. I sent my ten-year-old into a store to buy milk and the cashier refused her and made her come get me because she wanted to verify that I allowed her to use my card. And I sent a note! Apparently, notes aren’t allowed anymore. And it sure makes grabbing milk difficult when you’ve got a baby sleeping and a perfectly capable kid who could do it if only everyone wasn’t so damn paranoid.
2. Sitting in the car for up to an hour while Mom grocery shops
Oh yes, we all did this. Back when I was a kid it was completely normal to have a parking lot full of kids in cars waiting for parents. No one thought this was a crime or weird at all. And we loved it! We didn’t want to go in the store and be dragged around while Mom bought stuff! I remember vividly sitting in the car with the windows down playing with my neighbor friend (who was probably four and I was seven) as we waited for my mom to come out with the groceries. No one would have dreamed of calling the police and I never remember stories of kids dying in cars either. I don’t know if that’s a recent thing or if it wasn’t reported, but back in 1980-something you were the weird one if you dragged your kids into every store. Now, you can’t even leave your kids in a warm car in the middle of a blizzard to walk ten feet into a gas station to pay for gas without fearing the police will descend. It’s absurd.
I was ten when I got my first babysitting job. It was twice a week and I would ride the bus home with the kids and get off at their stop and stay with them until their parents came home and I would walk home. This is unheard of now. It’s not even legal for a ten-year-old to be home alone in most states let alone babysitting. And why is this? At ten I could cook a meal, change a diaper, and was a very good babysitter. What has changed so much that today’s ten-year-olds are treated like infants? The other day, I wasn’t home when my kids were dropped off by the bus and I got a call from the district to ask me if they were safe to be let off at home with no one home. My oldest is thirteen! I explained to the district that my oldest child is perfectly capable of babysitting. It’s legal in our state, and they should mind their own business. (I might have said it nicer than that, but for God’s sake she’s a year and a half away from high school!) Now I’m scared to ever be anywhere when they are dropped off for fear some busybody at the district will call CPS! It’s the dumbest thing on earth!
But in case you thought all was lost, there are a few things kids today can do without your knowledge or consent: have an abortion; take body-altering drugs to stop puberty in case they have gender identity problems; and get the abortion pill or vaccines! When people say “Make America Great Again,” they mean stop this crap and go back to a time to when a great childhood meant going for candy with friends without being harassed — not going to a baby butcher without parental knowledge.