There’s something that’s been much on my mind lately.
The Olden Days.
I’ve given it a lot of thought and have come to the inescapable conclusion that when I was young, no one gave a damn about little kids.
We ran amok in the summer for hours on end. Sometimes all day. We went home when the streetlights came on. Adult supervision? Hell, our parents didn’t even know where we were half the time. No one cared. I’m serious.
It goes a long way in explaining the bizarre toys we all loved so much. Firecrackers. Lawn darts. Mercury.
Dangerous? Toxic? Are you kidding me? That was part of the fun!
You’d go up to a mom on any summer day in those days and ask her where her precious children were and you’d most likely get, “Oh, they’re around somewhere. Probably off with friends doing something.” Why? No one cared about kids. At best, we were tolerated. Looking back, I get the feeling we were probably considered a form of livestock or necessary evils or some such thing.
When I tell teenagers this, they roll their eyes and make that annoying sound deep in their throats. “All older people say the same thing!”
We all say the same thing because it’s true, dammit! You think we got together and made this crap up? Yeah. Millions of grown-ups huddling off to a giant covert midnight meeting in some Top Secret secluded area to decide what we would say about what it was like when we were kids. Holy smokes, the kiddie-winkers are on to us!
Nope. There can only be one plausible explanation. Back then, kids were considered fungible goods that were easily replaced. Remember, people, shortly after the Baby Boom, adults were hip-deep in children. Little Suzie or Debbie bounced off the trampoline and into an oncoming Ford Pinto? And the ensuing gas tank explosion ignited the polyester clothing on every kid in a 25 yard radius? Well, it’s not like we can’t make more kids, now, is it?
Such a staggering supply of youngsters not only diminished the demand but it also cheapened the value. When you’re awash in kids, after a while, they’re practically inanimate objects. It’s a weird way to grow up and, given the dramatic change in adult attitudes to children these days, it’s even harder to explain to kids today what it was like back in the olden days.
Teenagers marvel that cars back then did not have air-conditioning. Air-conditioning? We didn’t have seatbelts let alone children’s car seats! Dad slammed on the brakes and you’d go sailing past your parents and out through the windshield. You’re a hood ornament and your folks are yelling at you about how expensive it’s going to be to replace the glass you broke!
I don’t know exactly when this laissez-faire parental attitude changed but by at least the early 1980s, the pendulum swung the other way. Parents began to be overprotective to an insane degree. I’m not exactly sure which is better. To me, they’re both nuts. There has to be some kind of reasonable middle ground between lawn darts and bouncing around your parents’ car like it was a pinball machine on the one hand and on the other hand evacuating a school because someone brought in a peanut butter sandwich or accidentally dropped a thermometer.
I don’t know which is worse – parents who think their children are idiots so they feel the need to protect them from every possible form of injury… or parents who know their kids are morons who will injure themselves but just don’t give a damn. Both are scary prospects.
It will be very interesting to see what happens when the present crop of college grads starts raising kids of their own.
This is going to be good.