What was your leisure time like at nine years old? If you were born before 1975 or so, chances are excellent that it was nothing like a nine-year-old’s life today. Ever thought about that?
Pretty much, I was turned loose on my bicycle during the summer and on weekends. I had a lot of autonomy, but I had to check in periodically. If I was at or near a friend’s house, this could be a telephone call. If I was close to my house, it meant a drop-in visit.
In either case, if dinner wasn’t imminent, I almost always got an extension. Essentially, we played all day unsupervised, up to a mile or so from my house. The only thing I had to do was confirm my continued consciousness every two hours.
I picked up several years of divorce-generated potholes shortly after I turned 11, but by and large, I had an idyllic and independent boyhood. It was full of sun, mud, BMX bicycles, ramps, creeks, dams, snakes, turtles, crawdads, trails, rope swings, forts, sticks, fences, drainage ditches, pocket knives, pine cones, and old man Draper’s ’49 Chevrolet rotting in the woods.
I’m heartbroken that my boys won’t ever have it like I did. They can’t even have pockets of it, really. It’s the wide-openness of it that bestows its charm, and that world is gone. I think early- to mid-Generation X contained the last children who experienced it.
I wonder sometimes whether “things” (bad guys, accidents, what have you) are any worse now than they’ve ever been. Couldn’t instant reporting be creating an illusion that the world is a much worse place now? What if it isn’t true?
But I’m not going to risk it, and neither are you. That makes us either the first sane or first insane generation of parents ever.