Monday, July 27, 2015

Nostalgia by Betsy Ashton

A few days ago I sat talking with a friend about raising kids today. We reminisced over lattes about how wonderful it was go be a kid when we were, well, kids. Imagine this setting.

Six kids ranging in age from three to seven lay in the grass on a hill and stared at puffy white clouds floating in a deep blue sky. Four bicycles and one tricycle lay scattered on the grass, along with a pair of clip-on skates. The girls wore shorts and cotton blouses with buttons, the boys tee-shirts and shorts. Each had ridden a bike or tricycle or skated over two miles from their neighborhood to hang out at a local park. They played a game of guessing what the clouds looked like.

Flash forward to today. Parents drive their kids to the park, bicycles and tricycles in the back of their mini-vans. Kids ride only on the path that weaves through the park, never out of sight of their helicopter parents. No child skates unless in a rink wearing the latest in shoe skates.

Kids no longer lie in the grass. "You might get bitten by a tick and get Lime disease." "You might get dirty." "All sorts of bad things live in the grass." "You might get bitten by a snake."

Don't even think about picking a blade, putting it in just the right place between your thumbs and blowing through the gap to make a whistle. "You don't know what pesticides the park groundskeepers used on the grass."

Kids wear hats and sunscreen to the point where little of the sun's beneficial rays ever strike skin. Heaven forbid a kid today gets a slightly crisped nose. No longer do peeling noses teach lessons about being careful.

Even at parks, the older kids don't look at the sky. They look at images of clouds on their smart phones rather that look up and imagine.

Kids used to be able to slide down metal slides and singe the backs of their thighs. They played on swings, trying to go high enough to feel like they were flying. Old metal merry-go-rounds spun kids until they were dizzy.

I don't know about you, but I grew up as a free-range kid. I skinned knees, got sunburned, fell off my bike and lost clip-on skates when I bumped along rough sidewalks. And I loved lying in the grass watching the clouds float by. They took me away from reality on magic carpet rides of my imagination.

Do you miss being a free-range kid? I do.


Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, which is now available in e-book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Diane Burton said...

What lovely memories, Betsy. Sad, too, that the world has come to the point where parents have to be so vigilant. We hear on the news or read about such wicked people who do vile things to children. Were those types of people around when we were kids or did our parents just not know about them? Life was so much simpler way back when.

Jannine Gallant said...

I was like you, growing up in a TINY town with my bike as my only means of transportation. We came home at dinnertime, and my parents didn't have to worry about where I was. My girls have grown up in a bigger town full of tourists (and traffic) in the summer. I didn't send them out on their own on their bikes until they were a little older. But I know parents who literally wouldn't let their kids play in their own yard without watching them every minute. I was never that type of helicopter parent. I figured my girls were smart enough to run away from strangers if someone tried to lure them to their car. I doubt the world is filled with more pedophiles today than it was when we were kids. The media is just more extensive in their coverage. It certainly is a different world...but I'm not so sure the old one wasn't better.

Leah St. James said...

I did too, Betsy. We hung out with kids in our neighborhood - boys and girls, all different ages. I remember roaming about a mile from home, in a pack, following some poor guy we'd decided was a Russian spy because he wore a trench coat. :-) We had sleep-outs in the summer in each other's back yards using a clothesline and blankets to form a tent. (Although I'm pretty sure we did have sleeping bags.) We chased fireflies at night and had marathon canasta sessions when it rained.

... Now I'm homesick! Thanks for helping us remember the good times.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Another free-range kid here feeling a little homesick for what used to be. I was born and raised in a big, big city and retreated to the country to raise my kids. It was/is as close to those days of yore that I could get. Thanks for memories, Betsy.