My dad used to tell me the old tale of walking uphill both ways to school. In the snow. With no shoes. Uh-huh.
And when my sister and I wanted to buy a treat or trinket he would tell us to find the penny candy and that a loaf of bread used to cost a nickel. Uh-huh.
And even though I think he exaggerated a bit about “the good ole days,” some current trends in society don’t necessarily seem to be improving over the “old times.”
One thing we are really missing is neighborliness. (Which I didn’t know was actually a word but my iPhone says it is, so we will go with Siri on his one.) You know – kids playing outside with the neighborhood kids until the street lights came on.
I also remember my dad telling us how he had the run of the neighborhood until the street lights came on – which was said in a way to suggest that would be okay for my sister and I. But. Mom didn’t agree.
Are parents more protective now? Or are times changing? Or is bad news so much more public that it has us all scared? Or have people been guilted in to being protective because of the judgement of others?
It’s probably a combination, but recent news of Sandusky’s sentencing has brought these thoughts to the surface again for me. Here is a man who is so sick that, even after many people corroborated stories about his indecent sexual activity with minors, maintains his innocence. He claims he’s been framed in some sort of conspiracy. A psychologist on the radio said that often times pedophiles will not even realize the gravity of their crimes, truly believing that they are actually helping the poor, neglected at-risk youth they are inappropriately interacting with.
And at-risk these boys were. Part of an organization to get at-risk youth focused on football. And then violated by their coach.
So, who’s going to let their kids run the neighborhood until the street lights come on? Or spending time hanging out with the Little League coach? Or the youth group leader? Or the Cub Scout leader?
And when we are forced by knowing these disgusting, amoral, unlawful, and sickening acts we close the doors. We put up walls. We trust less.
We don’t let our kids play outside all day and find adventures or make up fantasy worlds in the woods or the leaf piles. Because if something did happen, we would never forgive ourselves. Right?
Well, what if the thing that happened was that kids played. Outside. With fresh air. And their imagination? What if what happened is that they learned to cooperate and compromise with kids older than them or younger? What if what happened is that there were games. With winners and losers and the feelings and sportsmanship associated with each? What if what happened when the kids got to know each other they learned what “neighborliness” was all about? And when they grow up the walls can come down a little. The doors can be opened and we can go back to a time when kids were kids. Playing outside with their neighborhood posses. Until the street lights came on. Because, lets face it – bad things can happen anywhere – and if you kept your kid in a bubble and something bad happened to them would the guilt be less? Would you easily forgive yourself – cause, hey, at least you protected them the best you could, right? Does that soften the blow of a tragedy?
Are you a “helicopter parent” or are you raising a free-range kid?