As a Gen Xer, I recall doing crazy things that didn't seem to phase any of the adults I knew. Things like being somewhere that I couldn't be reached via telephone… for hours … possibly alone … without any supervision. I know, it sounds nearly suicidal these days. Back then it was simply called fun. Not only were our parents OK with these freedoms, they encouraged them. Did they not love us? Did they not care? Were they that hard up for a few minutes of peace that they would risk our lives?
Most the adults I know now would be vehemently against such insane acts, myself included. In fact, being unreachable by cell phone could push us straight into panic mode. Here are a few things we did as kids, which make me wonder how we survived. Nowadays they'd get someone arrested or at least get your house taken off the play-date circuit...
We Were Lost For a Good Portion of the Day
We used to run around the neighborhood for hours. Making forts in people’s hollowed bushes, licking honey suckle and probably any other plant that looked yummy. We used to hike into the woods and try to jump streams or catch frogs or caterpillars, and burn ants with magnifying glasses. If I don't know where my kids are and can't reach them, they are by my definition, lost -- and a call to 911 may be in order.
PS - My kids get to enjoy wilderness too, well certainly not alone and not really wilderness, so much as our fenced in yard. Oh, and if they so much as look at a frog they have to wash their hands after. That's still fun though, right? A little?
There are pictures of me riding in my dad's convertible in a Moses basket. A freaking Moses basket, in the back seat, that was actually not a seat, but more of a shelf. "Yes, officer there was a baby in this car, but I hit a bump a few miles back and I haven't seen her since."
Once I was out of my "car seat" it was time for seat belts. Which were more of a suggestion. Sure, if I was sitting in the seat of my mom's shiny brown Mercury Marquis, maybe I would buckle, but half the time I was lying across the ledge of the back windshield, or popping up and down from the floor, or making my stepdad's hatchback into a bed or doing some other annoying thing that ensured my parents would never be able to quit smoking.
Pardon Me Can I Borrow Your Lungs?
Speaking of smoking. It seemed that everyone was either a smoker or a smoker who was trying to quit. My mom smoked while preggers, as did tons of mothers. That could nearly get you arrested these days, well at the very least shamed out of the cul-de-sac.
I also recall being sent into the store to buy my mom her cigarettes, of course no clerk cared that I was eight years old and looking for Vantage 100s. I'd hand her the carton and the change so she could then engulf me in second hand smoke until I was 12. Maybe that's why I was always popping down to the floor of the car, smoke rises.
And my dad, who smoked a pipe, used to take me into the smoke shops to help him pick a blend, of course there was always a heavy smell in the air that I so enjoyed and a cool looking Indian statue. Not to mention they gave stuff away to kids, like licorice or corncob pipes, and pipe cleaners to make into little men (they were looking for repeat business 10 years down the road). Really, only candy stores could compete with a good smoke shop in those days.
Our Playgrounds Were Death Traps:
Where to begin… The see-saws that we would pile on one end and crash to the ground? The monkey bars that we would climb on top of and hang upside down from until someone got a broken arm or a concussion (which happened monthly)? Maybe that metal spinning merry-go-round thing that you would rev up and jump on and off of until you passed out or puked?
No wait, I know, the swings. Yes, I know you can still find swings, but in those days, it seemed everyone had a swing set and they were rarely up to code or should I say, in the ground. My set was in the ground, well three of the legs anyway. It was a bit rusted and it creaked when you put more than a pound of weight on it. But it was most fun, when you were high enough that the one not so stable leg would lift out of the ground up past the edge of the grass and bang back into the ground as you swung forward with a thud. I bet you remember that feeling. And it never dawned on anyone to fix it, hmmm?
You're 7 Years Old - It's Time to Fend For Yourself:
I was a latchkey kids. My parents were divorced. My mom worked until 5 and I was supposed to get myself home from school, maybe have a snack, watch some TV, do my homework and be responsible for an hour or two. Sometimes my mom had me go to my neighbor's for extra company. This is why my kids aren't allowed to stay home alone until they're 30.