They Had It So Easy

Everyone grew up hearing the stories about how are parents had it so much harder when they were kids. Trudging to school through the snow, uphill both ways, past the bully with the penchant for inflicting wedgies, and the old man on the corner who threw shoes at kids who dared step on his lawn. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

They may have had it harder as kids, but they had it a hell of a lot easier as parents. I’m facing issues with my ten year old my parents never would have had to face. When I was five years old, I rode the bus home from kindergarten around noon and stayed home alone for the next couple hours every day. That’s FIVE years old. And I wasn’t locked safely in the house. I was running around the neighborhood and down at the creek. There was no fear someone would drive by and snatch me away.

These days, I hate every moment my daughter goes out to play and I can’t see her. I live in a very safe part of town, but the reality is, you can never be too safe.

There was no such thing as video games until I was somewhere in my pre-teen years. And even then, it was Pong. Remember Pong? No blood flying in this game. Nothing but a blip on the screen flying in this game. Now, gamer is a profession and the games they play require them to kill people or commit Federal offenses. Today, kids are interacting with people all over the planet, some of whom are more interested in luring them into a dark alley than helping them save their villagers.

Even something as simple as an iPod requires constant policing. My kiddo wanted an App that would allow her to adopt a pet, give it a name, and take care of it. Sounds innocent, right? Not quite. This App opened her up to communications from all the other users. When I found messages from someone called “Sexy Blond Looking 4 a Good Time”, the App was removed.

I haven’t even gotten to the teenage years yet! My parents had it SO EASY. Our worlds were tiny, our universes miniscule and limited. Boundaries no longer exist. The protective bubble in which we were lucky enough to develop has been popped.

So you tell me, is progress really such a great thing? Is no boundaries better than safety and protection? I would never suggest shielding our children from reality, but I’d feel a whole lot better if I could place some invisible force-field around mine. And I’d save a lot of money in hair color.

10 thoughts on “They Had It So Easy”

  1. Renee says:

    When I was in 5th grade a girl living three block away disappeared. She was never seen again. I grew up with a father in law enforcement.

    When I became a parent, I worried every time the kids went out the door. Whenever my oldest asked to walk around the block I made her go with a friend and check in each time she passed our house. Now she’s living on campus and I continuously pray she’s safe.

    Now my younger kids play their games online, definitely no boundaries there. It’s crazy!! Yeah, our parents had it much easier.

  2. TerriOsburn says:

    Renee – I always feel better as long as she’s with a friend. But I still get nervous. When I was her age, I went anywhere I wanted, often half a mile down the main road, walking with NO sidewalks, all on my own. I’d even venture to say my parents rarely knew where I was!

    Grant it, it was the neighborhood in which my mother had grown up and we knew everyone. I guess that helped. We don’t have that sense of community where I am now.

  3. Janga says:

    Terri, I think the lack of community is a big part of the difference. I grew up, and so did my nephews, in the same area where my parents and grandparents grew up. Everybody looked out for everybody else’s kids as well as their own. There were also always people around in the neighborhood–lots of stay-at-home moms, older parents living with grown children and their families, older siblings who weren’t constantly distracted with ipods and cell phones. The grands all live in “good” neighborhoods, but there are hours M-F when most of the houses are empty.

    It’s also harder to control the things that kids are exposed to now. I just had a conversation with the nine-year-old grand in which he related all the details of the breakup of a friend’s parents–the dad’s DUIs, the mom’s boyfriend, the fights about bills. The grand’s dad is a medical firefighter, and his mom is an emergency dispatcher. They are very careful about talking in front of their children about some of the things they encounter on the job. But there’s no way to protect them from the things other children pass on to them.

  4. irisheyes says:

    I feel your pain, Ter. I worry constantly. I’ve also had to change my uptight, close-mouthed ways and learn how to communicate with my kids in a way my parents NEVER communicated with me.

    Just last night my 14 year old daughter and I discussed sex, teen pregnancy and STDs. It is a totally different world. I don’t think I knew what a STD was until I was in my 20s.

    The violence and unforeseen (kidnapping and such) is definitely out of my hands and I just pray that my kids stay safe when they are away from me. But the knowledge they have and the facts they need to survive I can definitely give them. We have lots of rules and they know exactly why they are in place – to keep them safe.

    My son is into all those violent games, but he is also into very zaney humor. He can talk just like King Julian from Madagascar and have us all on the floor. He is a very sweet boy and assures me he isn’t going to end up on the Post Office roof with an oozie. As I learned from my husband – humor bridges enormous gaps.

    The only way I know to cope is by talking to both he and my daughter constantly and honestly. They both talk to me and my husband about almost everything. I’m hoping that doesn’t change as they continue through their teen years.

  5. Your childhood sounds really familiar, Terri! I’d swear you were describing mine. I didn’t stay home alone at five, but did have the run of my small town, including the creek. 🙂 I know my parents had no idea where we were.

    I think the difference for my son, even in a small town, is that his territory is reduced to his yard. I can’t imagine letting him (at eight) walk to the playground only a couple blocks away to meet his friends.

    As for the video games, even the E for Everyone rated video games will turn him into a nervous wreck if he plays too long. When that happens, it’s an extra dose of feeling guilty for using the game as a babysitter!

    So, no, it seems like progress doesn’t make things better in many ways.

    Sometimes I think the saddest part of today’s world is thinking kids grow up too fast. I know I’ve thought that the comparison to what I knew at ten and what kids today know at ten are world’s apart. Hmmm. I can’t help think of a book I just had to read for a class (I know, there’s always a school book these days…I’ve been reading Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.)…but when I read horrors of “the way it was” 100 years ago, I think maybe those parents might have thought the same thing. Back then (in a big city like Chicago anyway for the working poor), kids couldn’t be kids because of child labor. But families couldn’t live without the kids’ income and the guilt from not being able to protect their children from a world they weren’t supposed to be in must have been awful. And child predetors were as prevalent or worse than today.

    It might not be the same, but maybe we’re in another cycle of much too soon. I wish I could say the “bubble” will be back tomorrow, but probably not. I guess we’re stuck with the policing and all we can do is try to let our kids be kids in spite of all the progress. 🙂

  6. TerriOsburn says:

    Janga – It doesn’t seem like neighbors talk to each other these days. In my last apartment, I was there three years and couldn’t tell you the name of one of my neighbors. I’ve been in this apartment almost 18 months and am just now getting to know a couple neighbors.

    I don’t remember anything ever being kept from me, but I also can’t remember having any friends who went through divorce. Times sure are different.

  7. TerriOsburn says:

    Irish – Thanks to parents who were very open about sex and being the youngest in a neighborhood full of kids, there wasn’t much I didn’t know by the time I was 10. Compared to me, my daughter knows nothing. But then I realize she knows more than I think.

    Kiddo is proving to be a prude so far, I’m really hoping that holds out. The belief helps me sleep at night. 🙂

    Your kids sound like they are well on their way to being a couple pretty cool adults. Good job!

  8. TerriOsburn says:

    Melissa – I knew quite a bit by the time I was 9 or 10, and looking back, I sometimes which I could have kept my blissful ignorance a little longer. There are definitely different realities these days as compared to past centuries. I guess that’s good progress.

    I would beat yourself up about the video games. I was definitely shoved in front of the TV a lot. I think I turned out okay. Could be better, but could be worse. 🙂

  9. Quantum says:

    When under 11 I was growing up in a country village and rode a bike to school (about 2 miles) each day. The house nestled under a hill and I spent idyllic hours with friends, building camps among the bracken or sliding down slopes on bits of card board, grazing knees and elbows and burning holes in trousers.

    As others said, there is a community aspect to village life and everyone knew everyone which was a safety mechanism. I think it still exists in villages in England though city life is quite different and people in the same block of flats may never speak to each other.

    It wasn’t all a bed of roses for parents though. The conveniences of modern plumbing and heating and electrical gadgetry were just coming in. My dad was still chopping down trees for firewood and I believe my mum still used a mangle.

    I have to agree with your thoughts about the dangers of powerful technologies for children (and unwary adults) though. I don’t think the safety angle gets properly considered when knew gadgets are launched.

    Just like the current mess with ebooks and different vendors selling their own exclusive products which are incompatible with everyone else’s. The mess was predictable but no-one bothered because they were all focused on marketing their own product.

    I think it will improve though. Societies tend to over-react when dangers are recognised (just like markets) so when your daughter starts a family, I would expect all the problems that you highlight to be dealt with, possibly with overkill.

    Perhaps properly supervised play areas with scanning devices. Recognition of dangerous characters and supervisory alerts. Strict monitoring of children’s networking sights (Like the EJ/JQ BB!) and so on.

    Yep. I am an optimist on technology!

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