Kids These Days or How Did I Survive Childhood

Kids these days have it so easy. I’m sure you’ve heard this lament. It could be because I work on a college campus, but I hear it a lot. And between you and me, Odd reader, I don’t agree. Growing up now is so much harder than when I was young.

Let’s discuss! I’ll build my case with a few examples based on my experiences growing up, and you can share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

When I was growing up, we played fast and hard

Craig-be-nimble, I am not (please refer to my ice skating post), so I’m grateful that I grew up during a time when falling down wasn’t fatal. Back in the day, your parents chased you out of the house each weekend and summer morning and told you to stay out. We rode bikes without helmets or knee pads. I even boasted that my bike didn’t have brakes. We played tackle football without gear  unsupervised for hours. I don’t remember any injuries beyond the usual bruises and scrapes, and dehydration wasn’t a word in our vocabularywe had garden hoses. Such play seems to be as lost as the dinosaur. Now, kids dress for play like knights riding out to battle in full armor. Four-year-olds on big wheels wear helmets, and seven-year-old scooter riders dress in leather jackets, helmets, and biker boots. And then there is the sun screen, hats, and water bottles. My parents’ biggest safety concern was that we didn’t kill ourselves on untied shoe laces.

I played this way all the way through college with big guys and never suffered a broken bone or concussion. Until recently, it never occurred to me that play could be fatal. One of my student workers fell of his skateboard. My initial thought was ‘no big deal.’ He went into a coma and almost died! He spent five weeks in the hospital and another three weeks in a physical rehab center. And guess what he did when he got out? He hopped back on that skateboarded! He is, without doubt, the bravest person alive.

When I was growing up, our moms were our social media

My mom and other moms talked. They talked on the phone or over the fence. If you stepped out of line, the mom posse would push you back on the straight and narrow, and life would go on as before. The world remained clueless about our transgressions. These days, kids have the ability to document every moment of their lives through social media. They Tweet, text, Facebook, and Instagram their life experiencesin most cases, less than 20 years’ experience. Who cares, right? Wrong. Parents, teachers, college admissions directors, and future employers all care and take notes. Nobody started paying attention to anything I said or wrote until … well, never mind. My point is, adults and friends did not hang on our every word. They sensibly ignored most of our opinions. If I said, “Hey Mom, I finished reading Mein Kampf and found it interesting,” she would nod and say, “How nice.” Compare this to the kid that posts on Facebook that they read Mein Kampf and found it interesting. It wouldn’t take long before the kid is labeled a Nazi; even worse, 10 years later, a potential employer may read the post and consider them a risky hire.

We had the freedom to be idiots, explore different ideas, and change our minds. We could hurl insults at our friends without the fear of suspension. There was no political correctness, gender correctness, or cultural appropriateness. Getting over it was a way of life.

When I was growing up, a spaz by any other name was still a spaz

Hyperactivity was a not diagnosis. If you couldn’t sit still, you had ants in your pants, and your nickname was “Spaz.” A nun’s ruler kept you in your seat, not medication. If Timmy liked matches, moms kept an eye on him and put the matches away. He would not end up a drooling zombie from electroshock therapy and medication. Today’s kid’s process the first time they saw daddy and mommy doing the “struggle-snuggle” with their therapists. We accepted and mocked the different in my day, but they mocked us right back. We all got on with our lives; it was easy to do.

When I was growing up, parents practiced benign neglect

Neighborhoods rocked with play, and I mean really rocked. We would battle with BB guns, rocks, and sticks, the goal being to bruise the other guy first. One of the rules of friendship was to first hurt each other and then help each other up. No one held a grudge, and everyone was a back the next day to do it all over again. No adult supervision was needed.

One of our favorite games was to corner someone and gang up on them. Trust me, it was fun for everyone. Or we would play “Kill the Man” with a ball. The object was to throw the ball up and for all the kids to pile on top of whoever caught it. We played this game over and over. I can’t imagine that either of these games would gain the seal of parental approval today.

The playground taught us about fair play and solving our own problems. We learned to duck, keep our eye on the ball, and wear a cup. Now, kids learn to wait for their parents’ applause and to pretend that the score doesn’t matter, because everyone gets a trophy.

When I was growing up, strangers with candy were a good thing

One of the most exciting days of the whole year was Halloween. The average costume was homemade and cost about $2.50. We would wait until it was pitch black and spooky and then go from door to door asking strangers for candy. After we had lugged our bags of candy home, we consumed the massive amounts of sugar until we passed out. Today, costumes are seldom homemade, and kids only trick-or-treat at homes that have been preapproved. A candy checklist replaces the candy at the end of the night, and the allowable amount of candy is one piece per day, with large and small pieces on alternate days. Parents no longer steal all the good stuff because stealing sets a bad example for the children.

When I was growing up, it was easier to identify the perverts

They didn’t have screen names and troll you into unfamiliar Internet territory; they hung out by the swings at the park and asked you to help them find their puppy. They wore a lot of black and then put on a dress every Sunday. Our parents pointed to the back of milk cartoons and warned us of stranger-danger and then sent us out to play.

When I was growing up, gender wasn’t an issue

Girls could be girly girls and wear dresses and play with dolls. They could also be tomboys. It was fine; nobody thought much of it. A girl taught me to throw a football. Eventually, the tomboys would grow up and become interested in boys, or the girls who were not interested in boys became PE teachers. Nobody cared or talked about it. Now, kids have to decide how they want their gender identified. We had it easy. You were a boy or a girl, and you liked whomever you liked. Today, there are a dozen different choices, made at an age when the only decision kids should have to make is answering, “Do you want fries with that?”

Kids these days have to grow up too fastthey have too little time to play, make mistakes, and experience failure. It’s true that each generation survives despite the obstacles, and kids today have opportunities, both in life and careers, that we only dreamed of. I wish them well, but I’m grateful that I grew up when fear wasn’t rampant, people were more accepted, and we could all just live and let live.

Now, it’s your turn to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

Be brave!

12 thoughts on “Kids These Days or How Did I Survive Childhood

  1. Good Morno,
    Glad to see the cousin and Queen of El Morno back on Odd.
    I don’t think it has ever been easy to grow up. But I do think it is more complicated now for kids than it ever has been before. Kids needed to be protected from complicated. I live in a small town where we mostly know one another. Maybe one of the few left and while some of these issues have shown up many like gender have not reached us yet. Social Media has been one of our biggest issues and I feel very fortunate that my kids at least missed that part of growing up until they were college age. On the other hand my kids will tell you they were too protected and their world was too small growing up. But I am proud of them and like to think we gave them a pretty good childhood. Which they will get around to appreciating more when they have kids.

    • I agree with you Mike, no matter when you do it growing up is a minefield we all have to cross. I thought it was interesting how much I have been hearing about the benefits of today’s world for the young when I see so many complications. In my never-ending effort to go against the stream I tried to come up with some witty comments. fortunately Cole’s Mom was up to the job of making them sound intelligent. Thanks for reading!

    • Hi Mike! Good to be back Cousin Craig inspires me whit notes like, “Odd needs a post.” Your kids are great and enjoy your company! I grew up in El Paso, Texas and I was so happy to see it in our rearview mirror when we moved to Houston after I graduated from High School. I think wanting bigger and better is natural.

  2. I’m old. Things have changed so much. My girls grew up in the 70’s and believe me I did a lot of lamenting about how times were so much better when I was a girl. Of course I was seeing it from a Mom’s perspective then and not a 16 year old perspective. My grandkids have brought me into the technical era, they say I have a knack for it. I do wish they had more freedom, and less pressure. We knew guys that were a little light in the loafers and a few P.E.teachers but when I was growing up but it was never discussed or acknowledged. I think the fact that people are more open today is helpful and I supported same sex marriage. Why not. We all survive one way or another. My life has been good throughout the generations.

    • Amen Luann! Live and let live. What people do in their homes is their own business as long as it is between consenting adults. I joke about the PE teachers of course, but many friends of mine are living alternative lifestyles and I find them no better or worse than anyone else. Of course, they’re all better people than I am, thank goodness!

      • You are one of the most progressive “Old” people I know and only you would call yourself old. Love “Light in the loafers.” I had forgotten that saying. We do survive and many (like your pack) thrive! Craigie, you are fine person, too.

  3. I’ve long believed I grew up in the Best of Times — no confusion over gender, no arranged play dates, no supervised backyard sports, no fear about sampling the dog’s treats or licking a sucker after each other. Any kid wearing a helmet while riding a bike would have been teased mercilessly, and there were plenty of disagreements solved in fistfights behind the school.

    My son Domer complains that we left a “mess” for his generation — sky-high rent, ridiculous college tuition costs, an aggressive atmosphere of one generation vs. another, ecological damage to the planet, awful race/ethnic relations and so on. He’s got a point. I suspect I, like many other parents, did the best we could with what was handy to us. And hey, if we’d left things in perfect order, there wouldn’t be anything to protest, right?!

    • Debbie-
      Maybe you should tell Domer about the mess they left us. Racial inequity much more open than today, a country in an unprecedented state of unrest, a cold war, gas lines, hostages, etc. I’ll take the cue from Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and agree with you that there have always been crosses to bear. When you child has kids make sure to point out all the failings of his generation . . . as every grandmother should do.

      He does have a point though, I mean we had an ozone layer.

      Thanks for reading!

      • Our kids have an opportunity to make things better and to be more involved and I am excited that kids these days are in a place (mostly because of their Mom’s hard work) to become citizens that help make the world stronger for the generations that follow them. Maybe we were a little to complacent but hindsight is always 2020. I think the Millennials whine too much and I believe I said as much standing in my own kitchen the other day….. We did grow up during good times!

    • Really? I didn’t have any of those experiences. I edit but the clever thoughts and writing belong to Craig.

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