Friday, 10 February 2012

Remember When...?

A little nostalgia to end the week....

Remember when we were kids and how golden it all was?  Candy was cheaper and better back then.  I used to get fifty cents a week for my allowance and I could buy a bag of chips and two old-fashioned wine gums at the store that I walked to by myself.  Soda cans were skinny and only had two little holes you would punch in to open it instead of the pull tab.

Remember when children belonged outside and you didn't need TV or the government to tell you that?  Remember when bad weather meant you were bored and had nothing to do?  Sure you might discover your legos or blocks but they were a pale second to the fun of outside.   Even on overcast, cloudy days my mother was known to open the door and exclaim "What a beautiful day!" right before booting us out the door.  "Come back when the streetlights turn on!" she'd shout and we'd be on our merry way.

Remember when we spent hours away from home and our parents only had the vaguest idea of where we were?  As young as 8 or 9 I used to get up at 7 am on summer mornings, pack a picnic lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and then take my little brothers to the city park 10 blocks away.  We'd stay there all day, running around, climbing trees or flying kites.

Every summer my parents took us to an amusement park.  They sent us on our own to go explore the park and ride all the rides until supper time.  Then we would eat with our parents and spend the rest of the evening going on all our favourite rides with them.  That feeling of freedom and independence made us feel so good and strong.  Like we could handle anything!

Remember walking to and from school?  When I was 6 my mother walked me halfway to school on my first day.  On the way she approached a group of "big kids" in the fourth grade.

"You kids going to that school down the street there?"

"Yeah."

"Great!  This is my daughter, Jenny.  She's going to walk with you from now on."

And that was that.

Remember running just because it was fun?  Remember the exhilarating feeling of the wind in your hair and how it felt that at any moment you could fly if you tried hard enough and ran fast enough?  Remember the playground equipment?  Jungle gyms built so high that if you climbed to the top you could see the whole world.  Teeter Totters that went up and down, carousels that spun round and round.  Swinging on the swings so high and then dismounting by letting yourself soar through the air and land like a gymnast.  I used to pretend I was Mary Lou Retton and Wonder Woman.

Remember when you could sit in the coveted front seat of the car?  Yeah, I know...safety and statistics etc. but still, wasn't it awesome?  We even used to stick our heads out the window to taste the wind like our family dog.  Back then my parents enforced seat belt laws by saying, "Sit back!  There's a cop car up there!"

Remember when you could go visit your friends and you didn't have to bring your mom with you?  A five year old could go call on the neighbour kid by himself without making a "play date" out of it.  Back then it was weird if a kid had to call home the minute they arrived somewhere, as if they were on parole or something.  It was enough for most kids' parents that they just shout "I'll be at Jenny's!" as they ran out the door.

Those are some of the best memories of my life.  Life is different now.  I'm glad we have carseats and use seatbelts.  I'm even glad soda cans are bigger.  But I miss the freedom of childhood. It bothered me that my kids aren't getting the time to be free and wild and have fun the way I did when I was a kid.

In the last year or two I've been intentionally ignoring all the fears I have of what might happen when they are out of sight.  I purposely allow Frick to go places on his own and to have free run of the neighbourhood.  It wasn't easy at first; most of his friends were not allowed this level of freedom and I was worried I was being a negligent parent or that something bad would happen to him.  But it's getting easier.

The thing is, when I asked myself why I was hesitant to give my kids the same amount of freedom I had when I was growing up I really didn't have an answer.  I was limiting their childhood because I feared the statistically unlikely things that might happen.  That just didn't seem fair.

If you haven't yet, go check out the Free Range Kids blog.

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