Saturday, March 29, 2014
Kids will never know and experience risk, failure, accomplishment and achievement like we did.
You rode around the neighborhood on your bike with a pack of kids. Not an adult in sight. No cell phone in your pocket. If you needed to call Mom, you found a pay phone or hopped into a friend’s house and dialed on a rotary phone.
After a whirl around the neighborhood, a game of kickball in the street and a climb up your neighbor’s tree, you took a swig from the toxic filled, lead-laced hose in your front yard. Why go inside the house when water was right outside in a hose?
Those were the good old days? The freedom and independence kids enjoyed were certainly exceptional.
The time spent outside running around was another huge plus. There were downsides. Kids didn’t wear bike helmets or seat belts. We didn’t know about the lead in the hoses (though we all drank from them and seemed to turn out OK).
No matter, today’s kids are growing up in a different world filled with protectionism, text messages and over protective parents. There are many things from our bygone childhoods—good and bad—that they will never experience.
Writing about my days growing up in the city made me reminisce about all the things kids use to do while growing up. Things that kids nowadays will never do or get the experience in doing.
We did so many things and most of us turned out ok.
We rode around on our bikes all around the neighborhood with your buddies. My preteen years were spent growing up in the Haight Ashbury district, half a block away from the Golden Gate park panhandle.
There use to be a playground in the panhandle at Ashbury street where we hung around. The playground had tall pipe structures that were about 20ft tall, made up from 2 to 4inch pipes. On top of the pipes were chains that held swing seats.
We would try and see who could swing the highest. We would shimmy up the pipes and sit on the top, sometimes some adult would tell us to get off of the structure so we wouldn't fall of. After a few years I remember that they dug out the ground underneath the swings and put in tree bark..I guess to cushion anyone unlucky enough to fall. That was the extent of the safety program.
We raced up and down the streets either on bikes or on flexi wagons, or if you were really inventive we would find a 18 inch wide by 4 ft piece of plywood, get a couple of 2x2 sticks where we would whittle down with a sharp knife, rounded edges where we would mount some car wheel ball bearings which we would beg from a local car repair shop or gas station. We would then mount the 2x2 in the front of the plywood with one long bolt in the center. We would get a 4 ft piece of rope and attach that next to the ball bearings which we then used to pull the ball bearing arm right or left as we would careen down the sidewalk using it to steer the almost out of control piece of plywood that we would plant ourselves on.
We would then dare each other to keep going up Clayton street since every block kept getting more incline which meant you would have more speed as you would zip down the block. I never made it more than one or two blocks because the street really got steep between Waller and Fredrick Streets.
It wouldn’t be unusual to have one of your friends hop on the back of the board as you were going down the street to kick back for more speed. It usually ended that our brakeing system that was you shoes scraping the sidewalk would fail now and then and you would run into a parked car or a trunk of a planted tree on the sidewalk. So what were a few scuffs and scrapes, occasionally someone would get their arm broken. We all had fun.
We would also occasionally fall off of our bikes, maybe because your buddy was trying to balance himself on the handlebars while you were pedaling...
After getting bored with doing that you would usually climb a few trees and dare buddies to hang upside down, or played some kick ball or perhaps shoot couple of games of marbles on the sidewalk where you scribed some lines with some chalk you stole from the blackboard gutter at school.
Sometimes you would wind up at your friends house close to dinner time and knowing that you were expected to be home, would use your friends dial up rotary phone to call home and tell you mom you would either be late or ask permission to eat at their home.
Dinner time was when all families got together and sat around the dinner table talking about the days adventures, or news of the day. Ringing phones were never answered and dinners where never interrupted unless there was someone ringing the front doorbell.
After dinner during the summer we would still have a few hours of daylight to go out and play some more in the streets. Cars wouldn’t run you down, because drivers were paying attention to kids that might dart out into the street. After all the street was for playing too. We didn’t have cell phones to distract driving with text messaging.
You know the whole idea was as you were growing up you were learning independence. The kids nowadays are not independent. Their parents have coddled them from babies to now. They have been protected by seat belts, by helmets, by knee pads, shoulder pads, on and on. We had to learn to protect ourselves, getting a skinned knee from falling off your skates or bicycle was a valuable lesson. Sometimes you would run home and show your mother the scrap. She would usually tell you to go put some Mercurochrome on it and go back and play. Nowadays, if something like that happens the parents have a good chance of being arrested for child neglect.
We didn't have tons of child molesters and abusers out there. My parents told us never to talk to strangers and never to go with anyone who said they were representing the parents or to get into strangers cars.
By protecting the kids we no longer teach them independence and the willingness to test themselves by doing stuff that will lead them to failure. If a child doesn't experience failure he cannot strive to continue to try and achieve and learn from his or her mistakes.
Parents protecting the kids also leads to self esteem issues because the child cannot understand the difference between losing and winning when they hand out trophies for just showing up for the game.
Children are not allowed to risk anymore, without children learning accomplishing something by failing and trying again has led to a whole generation of non risk takers. Being safe and being protected by their parents and later learning and enjoying the protection of the government.
But all is not lost, especially when I drive down the back streets of Patzcuaro or any other Mexican town. I still see kids playing ball in the street, using old cardboard boxes as forts and houses. I see kids on bicycles with two or more hanging on the handlebars.....hell their parents even load full families on their motor-scooters....life is still a interesting , interactive, expressive daily novella...