It’s a wonder we baby boomers made it out of childhood alive. Practically all of us were allowed—no, expected—to walk to school on our own, or go off and play for the entire day unsupervised.
But recent news reports would have you believe that our parents were derelict in their duty for allowing us to do so.
For example, a Canadian mom got a visit from the Winnipeg Department of Child and Family Services because she was letting her 10-, 5- and 2-year old play in the family’s own fenced-in backyard without her. Seriously?
Evidently, some “concerned” neighbor thought the children were in imminent danger and called CFS, which sent out a social worker who interrogated the mom about her parenting. While the family home checked out just fine, the family now lives with a permanent record of the CFS investigation.
Then there’s the 2015 story about parents in Maryland who were investigated for neglect because they allowed their “free-range” kids, ages 10 and 6, to walk home from a park unsupervised. Are you kidding me? Most of my contemporaries and I walked to and from school every day when we were those ages, and we lived to tell the tale.
These anecdotes make me wonder what Child Protective Services would think of some other experiences fellow boomers and I had as kids—and if they would have come after our parents. To wit:
A high school classmate recalls (and has the photographic evidence to prove) that when he was a toddler, his mother tied him with a length of rope to a steel rod set in a granite post (likely an old hitching post for horses) in the yard of their home, which was built in the 1700s. There was a small river running into a tidal cove on the property, and the road was less than 20 feet from the front door.
“My mother was pregnant with my sister, and my brother was almost four,” he recalls. “I’m sure she was terrified that I would meet my demise if I slipped out of her sight for only a moment. So she tied me up.”
He could still run and play, just within a safe radius of the hitching post. Sounds like an eminently practical solution to me.
In fact, my mother devised a similar solution when I was a toddler. She put me in a leather harness, then attached it/me to a length of rope tied to the clothes line in the back yard—like a dog cable run.
It worked like a charm until the day I managed to untie myself and hightail it for the neighborhood IGA store, seeking candy. Mom noticed I was missing and spotted me at the end of the next street over. By the time she caught up with me, I’d made it to the store where they kept an eye on me until she arrived. For the record, I didn’t get any candy.
Hubs, too, was restrained as a toddler. When his parents entertained in the evening, Hubs would refuse to stay in bed; instead, he wanted to join the adults. So rather than spend the evening repeatedly marching him back to his room, or spanking him as a deterrent, his parents tied the bedroom door shut until he went to sleep. Problem solved. And I’m happy to report that, based on his social skills today, the experience didn’t damage him in the least.
and ropes. Fifty shades of gray?
And speaking of “dirty,” as kids we were allowed to play in dirt. Some of us even ate it (remember the old saying that you’ll eat a peck of dirt in your lifetime?). Science says this was a good thing because it exposed us to healthy bacteria, parasites and viruses that help create a healthy immune system.
In contrast, many kids today live in uber-clean environments, with parents using antibacterial soaps and wipes at every turn. As a result, these kids have a greater chance of suffering from allergies, asthma and other autoimmune diseases. In other words, getting dirty is good for you.
And being tied up isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either.
Now I don’t mean to minimize the real neglect and abuse that some kids tragically experience. And I realize that the world is a different place today than it was when most of us grew up.
But can’t we just use a little common sense? Letting kids play unsupervised in their own backyard isn’t a crime. Under the right circumstances, neither is allowing kids to walk home on their own. And tying a toddler to a hitching post where he can play in the fresh air (vs. plunking him down in front of the TV) is a damn sight more humane (and healthy) than risking him wandering off because you’re distracted tending to other children.
By today’s standards, however, our parents might have been investigated by CPS for some of their childrearing tactics. Yet we turned out okay, thank you very much. Or, as the title of The Who’s 1966 song says, “The Kids are Alright.”
So what do you think? Were you allowed to do certain things considered “normal” back in the day that might get your parents brought up on charges today? What do you think of how kids are raised these days compared to when we were young? Please share!