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Saturday, August 29, 2009
Childhood was very different when I was a child. Nowadays children are kept close to home, sports are organized and everything is supervised by an adult. I can understand this. Children are not safe in today's world. When I was a child, however, we did not have TV, computers or video games. We went OUTSIDE. Outside is where your friends were, where you could run and make noise and have fun. You rode your bike, you roller skated, you played games in the street. These games were not overseen by adults. Here is where you learned lessons from your peers that lasted a lifetime. You learned the art of mediation. You learned how to compromise. You learned to play fair. You learned that whiners and cry babies didn't get picked for the teams.
Outside activities were divided by gender. Girls skated, jumped rope, played with dolls and played jacks. Boys played cowboys and Indians, baseball and football. A girl could sometimes play baseball if a team was short a man, she was good and didn't cry if she got hurt.
There were also unisex activities. Boys and girls rode bikes, played tag and kick the can.
As kids we would disappear for hours. Our parents were not concerned. They knew we would show up when hungry. We had the usual admonitions, "Don't get in a car with a stranger, and don't take candy from strangers." Of course, we didn't know why, but we accepted that was the rule.
Talking about rules, there was this unspoken rule that you should never do anything to bring shame to the family. If you got into trouble in school you better hope no one at home heard about it because you would get into twice as much trouble. There was no point in trying to plead your case either. If an adult reported your infraction of the rules it was automatically assumed you did it and were probably lying about it. Oh, and you were expected to mind every adult whether you knew them or not. I was walking home from school one day when I spotted a piece of broken plaster on the sidewalk. I picked it up and was just about to write my name on the blank wall of the building in front of me when I heard a voice ask me what I was doing. I turned and there was a gentlemen I had never seen before. He began going on about vandalism, giving me a good scolding for an act I hadn't even committed. I was caught red handed and took my scolding. Because of this experience I will go to my grave never having defaced a building, rock or any other surface.