Today we are going to Muse about childhood. If this is your first visit, welcome to Musings. If you have been here before, welcome back. Over time we are going to talk about many things: the past, the present, perhaps the future, travel, art, society and more. Wherever my musing takes me. I hope you will come along with me.
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On the Subject of Childhood
Last week I was listening to National Public Radio while in the car. The conversation was about modern childhood and how it has changed in the last several generations. The speaker made the point that “childhood” as a period of exploration, development and play is a recent concept, becoming the norm only in the last 70 years or so. Before that most children were expected to work in the family enterprise, be it a farm, store or trade.
Now in our time, children are often scripted with arranged activities like soccer, TaeKwonDo, ballet, T-ball, piano lessons, etc. They are supervised and protected from risk or possible harm. Gone are the days when they were shoved out the door and told to “go play” and be back by “suppertime”.
The gist of the interview was the belief that children should be given the opportunities to explore even when there is a risk of possible harm. The speaker advocated exposing children to tools to build things, even power tools. Letting them have a pocket knife. Allowing then to build a fire to roast marshmallows and such. He went on to talk about a summer camp he has run the past twenty plus years in the Bay Area of California that provides children these exposures. Apparently it is quite successful and popular.
So, to the point, this got me thinking about my early childhood and how different it was from that of kids I see today. I’ll bore you with it a bit.
When I was five my mother remarried and the family, my brother, mother and step-father, moved to Kingman, Arizona where my “Dad” was working as an engineer on the construction of the highway. It is about this time that my memories become plentiful and coherent.
The first year we were there Dad built our house. It was on a sloping hill and next to us was a large vacant property, home to cactus and mesquite. At the base of the hill was a road running along a dry wash. Along the road, were houses with chicken coops, mules and, of course, kids and dogs.
This was my playground.
I remember playing in the chicken coops (our fort) and riding the neighbor’s mule (a special treat) and running down the road as my brother raced after me on his bike with a lasso (I got to be the cattle). I had a pocket knife and Dad had tools everywhere that I could use.
Pretty much kids were left to their own. Go play. Come back for dinner.
My school was about a mile and a half from our house. I walked, age 6, by myself each day each way. The movie theater . . . same story. Every Saturday I went. 14¢. The Dairy Queen was down by the highway not quite as far. I would fish out a nickel from my piggy bank and off I would go. In the summer my mother would buy me a pass for the municipal swimming pool which was about six blocks away. I would go there by myself for the day almost everyday.
Today if a child walks to school by himself the parent is accused of being negligent, unfit. I don’t know what is right. Today there seems to be more indiscriminate violence, like drive by shootings. But whether or not the child is accompanied by a parent in that case, I don’t think would matter. I do think children should have the freedom to explore and grow without constant supervision.
A Related Observation
As a coincidence I received the following from another old fogie. You might enjoy it.
Retired Person’s Perspective
1. I’m not saying let’s go kill all the stupid people. I’m just saying let’s remove all the warning labels and let the problem work itself out.
2. You can tell a lot about a woman’s mood just by her hands. If they are holding a gun, she’s probably very unhappy.
3. You know that tingley little feeling you get when you really like someone you’ve just met? That’s common sense leaving your body.
4. I don’t like making plans for the day. Because then the word “premeditated” gets thrown around in the courtroom.
5. I didn’t make it to the gym today. That makes 1,500 days in a row.
6. I decided to change calling the bathroom the John and renamed it the Jim. I feel so much better saying I went to the Jim this morning.
7. Dear paranoid people who check behind shower curtains for murderers: If you find one, what’s your plan?
8. Everyone has a right to be stupid. Politicians just abuse the privilege.
more to come
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