Stupid Things I Did As a Kid by Cindy Haney
Now that Summer has finally arrived, a predictable routine of sloth-like laziness has taken over my teenagers. Since they are taking a 3-month break from anything even remotely requiring active brainwaves, they purposely sit around all day staring at various blinking techno-screens.
I was not allowed to lie on the couch all day when I was kid. Of course the difference between then and now is that my mom was home during those long summer days and she exercised her god-given parental rights daily by literally kicking my butt right out the door. We were told to “go find something to do outside” and that’s what we did. All day. Until dusk fell and we’d hear my Dad’s obnoxious whistle, which usually meant, “get home fast or else!”
I’ve been thinking about my happy, carefree childhood and all the stupid things we used to do to entertain ourselves. We had to actually use our imaginations because we didn’t have video games and smart phones to do our thinking for us. It makes me a little bit sad when I think about how my kids’ generation will never get to experience some of the things we used to do, like……
Crank Calling on Home Phones
During our slumber parties, we were always daring each other to “crank call” the “foxiest” guy in class. We’d dial the guy on our rotary room phone, whisper something like, “Owww, I love your butt!”, hang up and then laugh until we barfed up grape Kool-Aid on our lime green shag carpet. It was awesome.
But the invention of Caller I.D. and personal cell phones changed all that. You can’t dial anyone anonymously anymore. We haven’t even owned a home phone in years. As the Edward Snowden scandal proves, there ain’t no such thing as privacy anymore. Big Brother is watching you, apparently, so my girls have to find other ways of annoying guys anonymously.
Friends Right Next Door
I don’t know if I was just lucky, or if everyone had friends to play with on their street back in the day. Whenever I got bored, I just walked right next door, flopped on Helen’s bed and we’d talk for hours about The Bay City Rollers, Andy Gibb, Donny Osmond and whether or not her cousin’s best friend Kevin wanted to kiss me or what already! Back then, if you didn’t know anyone on your street, guess what… you’d go knock on someone’s door and make new friends. Pretty soon, you were eating their food, feeding their cats and having slumber parties (see above). That’s just how we rolled.
In stark contrast, when my girls were little, there weren’t a lot of kids their age living on our street. And I never, ever let them knock on a stranger’s door. Charles Manson or Edward Cullen might live there. Maybe it’s our fault, as parents, because we tend to shelter our kids more than we should. I blame it on the “too much information” age, where they scare us to death on the damn nightly news. As a result, my girls didn’t play outside very much. I regret not being there to shove them out the door like my mother used to do. Luckily, today, they have lots of great friends, but it’s an effort to go see them, especially in the summer, because they don’t live right there on our street. Isn’t it a shame that no one even knows their neighbors at all?
Loads of Freedom
The most striking contrast is the freedom I enjoyed. I was basically a Free Agent, especially in the summertime. I’d eat breakfast, and then I’d walk out the door. I would wander around the neighborhood on my bike. I’d hit the convenience store for some Pop Rocks, Hubba Bubba Bubble Gum or Candy Cigarettes, and then I would wander around some more. Aimlessly.
Sometimes we’d go hunting for “Hobos”, which my crazy aunt insisted lived in the fields behind her house. We’d catch “craw-dads” and lizards with our bare hands, way before someone invented the word “Salmonella”. Sometimes we’d climb the huge tree in my front yard, stealthifully hide in the branches, and then pelt the neighborhood boys with “chinaberries” whenever they stupidly dared to ride their bikes past my house.
Most summer days involved everyone meeting up at the neighborhood city pool, and then we’d stay the entire day. Later, when I became a lifeguard at that same pool, I realized how annoying this was to the staff. For the low, low fee of a dollar a day, these kids got babysitting services all day long. What a deal! My mom must’ve LOVED that! We’d be gone so long, sometimes we’d forget to eat lunch. Imagine that!
And then that obnoxious whistle would sound just as the crickets began to chirp and the day began to turn blue.
My daughters didn’t get to experience this level of freedom. It’s a different world now. What I wouldn’t give to go back to that kind of innocent life, where we seemingly had nothing to fear!
What’s a little danger? Back in the day, we didn’t know danger was all around us, and that’s a very good thing. There weren’t lawsuits lurking in the bushes at every turn. For instance, we didn’t even wear seatbelts in the car back then. I remember laying across the backseat, laying across my brother and sister, laying across the back window, jumping around in the backseat or possibly attempting cartwheels, but never sitting quietly and restrained.
Then, in 1984, “Buckle Up, It’s The Law” went into effect and now we restrain our kids with straight-jacket belts made for the Space Shuttle from the time they come home from the hospital until they are 30. No siree, there was no jumping around in the backseat of my car!
And what about helmets? I didn’t own a single helmet and yet I rode my shiny blue ten-speed all over that town, and I somehow survived. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for helmets. In fact, I super-glued them onto my kid’s heads when they were little. But that still didn’t stop Amanda from breaking her wrists three separate times (trampoline, bunk bed, scooter) and spraining her ankle once (swing set). I think danger is bound to happen no matter how much we try to bubblewrap them.
And how about the Militant Childproofing we do to our homes when our kids are born? I took every one of my hazardous cleaning products and stored them in the attic, protected by laser beams and titanium padlocks. I kept things like scissors, hot dogs, pennies and permanent markets far away at an undisclosed satellite location. Not so at my house when I was kid. Our policy was, if you ate poison once, you sure as hell never did it again.
Things were a lot simpler when I was a kid. If we could un-invent the computer, video games, and smart phones, would we do it? I don’t know. Maybe.
But one thing I do know for sure… today when I get home from work, I’m going to force my teenagers to strap on their helmets and ride their bikes with me to the neighborhood pool, where we are going to do some cartwheels off the diving board and into the deep end. Then we’re going to chew some Hubba Bubba Bubblegum while running with scissors. *SONG* “Highway to the Danger Zone…Gonna take it right into the Danger Zone….”