Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summer then, Summer now.

favorite season {please stick around a little longer!}

When my siblings and I were growing up, we - and all of our friends - had a lot of freedom during the summer.
Although we were mainly confined to our own neighborhood, from the time we woke up in the morning, until the sun set at night, we were free to roam about and play with our friends, pretty much for as long as we wanted.
Nobody we knew had a video game system, with the exception of maybe a Nintendo that the whole family shared, and nobody had their own tv in their room, so it was rare that you had the luxury of spending entire days sprawled on the couch playing video games, or watching tv or movies. 
Outside was pretty much our only thing to do.
I think when I was a kid, and probably for most of the generations before me, parents didn't see entertaining their kids or doing a lot of "play" as their responsibility. They handled your basic care, spent time talking with you or doing things together as a family, but when it came to most of your imaginative or creative free-play, you and your siblings and your friends were on your own.
My sisters and I were lucky enough to almost always live in neighborhoods with lots of kids. {Shout out to the ghetto always having lots of babies}. So every summer, as soon as we woke up we'd hurry to do our chores, and then dash outside to be with our friends.
In an attempt to stay outside - and effectively away from parental supervision - for as much of the day as we could, we found creative ways to occupy ourselves.
We played marathon games of Uno, Gin, Rummy, Poker, 21, and BS. 
By the end of the summer our decks of cards were soft as soap lather, and permanently bent almost in half. 
We hopped on our bikes - or on someone's handle bars if you didn't have a bike - and rode down to the elementary school or the baseball field or even the public pool. 
We'd go watch community league baseball games for free, and then stay after everyone was gone to play kickball or baseball on the empty diamonds. 
Almost every night, the park filled up with kids, and sometimes their parents, for pick-up basketball, volleyball, or soccer games. 
We were sunburned, freckled, tanned, wild-haired, and free. 
When our parents finally did call us in, we'd all stay in one bedroom together so we could keep playing until exhaustion over came us. 
We would do almost anything we could think of to stay entertained, but surprisingly we never really did anything too stupid. 
Sure, we built skateboard and bicycle ramps in the drive way, or climbed up on the roof to hang out, or took off to McDonald's without telling anyone, but none of us were smoking, or drinking, or having sex. There wasn't any drugs, and aside from the time we jumped the back wall of a neighbor we knew was out of town to take advantage of their pool, we never really broke the law. 
There was always a huge group of us, ranging from my age to my sisters' ages, and summer was two straight months of freedom and comradery. 

I wouldn't dream now of letting my two kids do half the shit we were allowed to do when we were younger. 
Leave the house the WHOLE DAY, with no cell phones, no pagers, and be allowed to be anywhere in the neighborhood at any time? Nope. You can go outside, but for the love of Jesus when I come out to check on you I better be able to see you. 
Stay out from the time you get up, until nightfall without checking in? 
If you're going to be outside that long, you best come check in every couple hours at least.
Get on your bike at barely 10 years old, and ride it all the way to the nearest intersection to get McDonalds?! 

I don't buy into the idea that it's any more dangerous in the world now than it was then, really. 
I know there are more people in the world now, and the city gets vastly bigger every day it seems like, and neighborhoods aren't as tightly knit as they used to be, but every generation says "It's not safe now like it was when I was little", and I just don't think that's true. 

I think the biggest reason why we can't let our kids have the freedom that I had as a kid, and that my parents had as kids, is because being over-protective has become the norm. 
Children aren't allowed to hang out in groups and pretty much do their thing, from the time they're pretty young, so long as they all stuck together, so it's gotten to a point where kids don't know how to look out for themselves and for each other until older and older ages.

When we were little, kids stayed home alone after school at 7 or 8 years old, and during the summer it was you and your friends, and you could go all day without even seeing your parents.
We were raised with the expectation that when your parents aren't around, you look out for yourself, and more importantly, you look out for each other. 
The responsibility of independence was given to us much earlier, and it was that way with almost everyone you knew, except for the kid we all felt sorry for whose mother never ever ever let him out to play without a parent there to watch. 

Whatever the reason is that things are so different, I wish my kids could have a summer like the ones that I had when I was little. 
I tell them all the time that if I had a time machine, I would take them back to the summer I was 10, and leave them there for the whole thing. When summer ended I'd bring them back, and see which they preferred: now, having computers and tv's and internet and video games, but much less freedom to be outside with their friends and explore and roam, or then, with no tv of their own, no computer, no internet, no cell phone, no video games, but a huge group of friends, and a whole neighborhood to explore and call home. 

I think they would choose then, in a heart beat. 

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