I was thinking the other day that
the world sure seems to be going crazy.
I remember growing up when things
were not so complicated and life was quieter. No iPods sticking out of
kids ears, no Wii, no PlayStations, no High Def TV, it's a wonder I made
it without all that stuff.
Those of you who grew up in the 50's, 60's
and even the 70's probably look back nostalgically upon those days and
wonder what the heck happened to our world.
But, let me start by saying that most of us
who grew up in those days survived being born to mothers who smoked,
drank coffee and Pepsi, took aspirin, and used sugar and ate tuna fish
from a can - all the while they were pregnant.
We slept in our cribs on our tummies and we
didn't die!. The cribs were probably painted with paint that was full of
lead but we didn't get sick, demented or poisoned!
The medicine bottles around our houses
didn't have "child-proof" caps. No great effort was made to make
cabinets, doors, and stairways "child-proof" and yet we survived.
I used to ride my bike all over the place
without a helmet! When my family went somewhere in the car, we didn't
have airbags, seat belts, or infant seats. Mysteriously, most of us
survived this terrible time. Do you remember?
When I wanted a drink of water I turned on
the faucet, filled a glass and drank the water from the tap. Or, if it
was hot outside, and I was out playing I drank water from the garden
hose. It tasted like rubber, but I survived. I wouldn't have believed
then that people would be making billions of dollars selling water in
bottles with fancy names like "Dasani" on them for $1.49 each.
When I was lucky enough to get bottle of
Coca-Cola, I shared it with four friends. We each took a sip from the
same bottle and not one of us died. Can you imagine that? But most of
the time my mom and my friend's moms made us Kool-Aid because soft
drinks cost too much.
We ate cupcakes, pie, white bread, and real
butter. We had ice cream and pie for dessert and cookies and WHOLE milk
for a treat after school. We drank lots of Kool-Aid which was full of
sugar. And even after all that bad, fattening stuff, my friends and I
were not fat because we were always outside playing. Imagine that!
In the summertime we'd go outside in the
morning and be gone all day playing outside and the only rule was that
we had to be home for lunch at noon and be home for dinner at night.
After dinner we'd go back outside and play and have to be home when the
streetlights came on.
And all this time we were outside playing
with friends, we were out-of-touch. We didn't have cell phones or pagers
and our parents didn't worry about us or wonder where we were, because
that's how things were then. And yet we survived this rudimentary world.
My friends and I built go-karts and Soap
Box Derby racers and rolled them down big hills only to find out we
forgot the brakes. We rode into telephone poles, bushes, and cars and
got bruises and cuts and scrapes. But we survived.
We roller skated on roller skates with
metal wheels that strapped on the bottom of you shoes. These were roller
skates that didn't roll very well. We didn't wear helmets or
kneepads, elbow pads or any other kind of pads. We just skated and when
we fell we got back up and skated some more, bloody knees and elbows and
When winter came and it was 10 below zero
outside, we went to school. They didn't close the schools because it was
10 degrees below zero. We didn't have wind chills then, no one knew or
cared about wind chills. All we knew was that it was cold. It was winter
after all. After school
on those bitterly cold days, we came home, had cookies and milk, and went
outside to play in the below-zero weather. We built snow forts, snow
houses and had
snow ball fights and we had fun. And we survived!
Growing up we had all of three three channels to watch on TV, not
150. And there was always something good to watch! I remember how
thrilled I was when UHF TV came to our area and we had five channels to
watch. I thought it was the greatest thing ever.
We built tree houses and climbed trees and
fell and broke bones - but we didn't sue the owners of the trees. Nobody
sued anybody much in those days. Surely you didn't sue someone because
you fell out of their tree. Now we sue people because the coffee they
served us was too hot or because the hamburgers they sell make us fat.
What has happened to us?
We made fishing poles from tree branches
and kite string. We made hooks from paper clips. We fished in streams
where there were no fish. We fished through manhole covers in the street
where there were no fish. But we imagined there were all sorts of slimy
things down there to fish for. We never caught a thing, but it was fun
trying. We found things to do and make our own fun.
I played on Little League baseball teams
where you had to actually try out for the team. Not everyone made the
team. Not everyone who made the team got to play. Sometimes we actually
lost and learned how to deal with losing. And sometimes we won. When I
got older I learned this is how the world is: sometimes you win,
sometimes you lose and not everyone makes the team.
When I got into trouble at school my
parents actually sided with the school! They didn't stomp into the
school and demand an explanation and an apology. If the school said I did something
wrong, then I must have done something wrong. Parents didn't sue
teachers. Parents didn't complain when their child was punished. You
know all the time that I was in school I don't remember anyone ever
getting punished for something they didn't do, myself included.
When we did something really bad at school,
we got paddled: A nicely sculptured piece of wood sort of paddle - with
holes drilled it it for extra speed and extra pain. Bad kids got their butts paddled with it.
I never got mine paddled because if I had I would have had to face
another paddling at home from my dad. When we went home we didn't
complain to our parents about the school or being abused - we knew which
side they would be on.
When we had dinner, we all ate at the
table. We called it "supper". We ate supper when dad got home from work.
And we all talked to each other. My dad, my mom, my sister and I all
sitting at the same table, at the same time every day, eating "supper".
I survived and we survived and those of us
who grew up in the 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's learned to survive without
government regulations and without the over-protectionism so prevalent
in today's society.
We grew up knowing freedom,
self-expression, and took risks. Mothers and fathers took responsibilty
for their children. We learned what it meant to lose and we dealt with
the disappointment of losing. No one protected us from defeat or
sheltered us from heartbreak. We endured it; we cried and went on. Our
familiarity with defeat taught us how to be gracious in victory.
When I was growing up, no one protected my
feelings. In those days, believe it or not, not everyone made the team. Not everyone
got chosen for the playground kickball game. If we failed in school, we
repeated the grade until we passed. There was no pressure on teachers to
promote failing students. So, we tried hard not to fail. We tried hard
We found ways to spend our time without
relying on our parents to buy us things or give us toys to entertain us. Our parents didn't feel that they had
to find things for us do and they didn't feel they had to entertain us.
We found things to do ourselves. We found
friends by going outside and looking for them. We made up games to play;
we found ways to be happy and have fun.
We found out the hard way that the world
isn't always safe and neat and tidy. We scraped our knees, banged our
heads, got bruised, cut our fingers and scratched our legs. We got
poison ivy and poison oak. We found out that dogs can bite. We learned
that a hot pan on a stove is hot by burning our fingers on it.
We had fun and learned responsibilty
and lived without computers, cell phones, Nintendo, PlayStations, iPods,
or DVDs, We found ways to entertain ourselves by inventing our own games
and playing with friends, outside in the heat of the summer and in the
cold of winter. No one talked about frostbite or heatstroke. We
never thought about that kind of stuff.
Today, kids are protected from as much pain
and disappointment as possible. We don't think "winning" is a good
thing. And we sure don't want kids to have to experience heartbreak, failure or
We grew up learning what pain and
disappointment and failure felt like. We grew up knowing both the thrill
of winning and the heartbreak of defeat. That is how we learned from
those experiences. We grew up prepared for whatever the world threw at
We grew up learning that some things are
right and some things are wrong. And if we did the right things we were
rewarded. If we did the wrong things we were punished. There were no
shades of gray. Right and wrong were black and white and we learned the
difference between them.
We grew up knowing a
feeling of freedom that today's kids, with all their high tech toys,
will never know.
Despite the dangerous and unprotected world
in which we grew up; with all the disappointments and bumps and bruises
and scares that filled our childhood - it's amazing looking back that I survived
- and so did you.