According to an article I recently read I’m lucky to be alive. Those of us who were kids in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s survived mothers who were never told to step away from the martinis or cigarette smoke when pregnant. Lead based paint was slapped on our nursery walls, childproof lids were nonexistent and we actually used to fight over who got to sprawl out on the window ledge in the backseat of the car. The first testicular cup protector was used in 1874 and it took 100 years to figure out that the brain was also worth protecting with the use of protective helmets in 1974. Our after school snacks included Twinkies, Fritos, Pop Tarts, King Dongs or anything slathered in real butter. Thankfully things have changed. We have sunscreen, car seats, and Vaseline-a petroleum based product-is no longer our go-to item for lubricating, removing makeup and making the porch door slide easier. Yes things have improved but there are some things from that “dangerous” childhood that I hope to pass on to my offspring.
Every day we were told to go out and play. Thankfully we did as we were told. The fresh air helped digest the countless baked goods, chips and pop we consumed. We got dirty and this was not only allowed but expected. As my Gram would say, “Nothing is as suspicious as a perfectly clean kid.” Thankfully I have a mother who let my kids dig for worms, plant seeds, and run through sprinklers. Although, my children never had the option of heading out solo until the street lights went on as I did, we still try to fit a lot of “ing” into our lives. We enjoy bike riding, walking, kayaking, and swimming (or as my daughter pointed out, all the activities seen in tampon commercials).
It’s so hard to keep a family “high touch” in our high tech world but I try. Growing up everyone knew your social plans. Privacy was unheard of even with the extra-long cord that allowed the phone to reach to the broom closet where you would hope no one would dip into your conversations. We had one TV, no cell phones and actually had to find information for school papers at a place called a library. Growing up our family dinners were more like comedy sketches for a Saturday Night Live skit, with my Dad always playing the straight guy. Today, I do not allow electronics to invade our kitchen table and my cherished time with my kids. A recent dinner conversation with the girls resulted in the idea that our country is more like a salad than a melting pot. Salad ingredients, unlike a melted substance, keep their identity while mixing and adding to the whole. Of course, who and what is “hot” and pondering whether dog vomit or poop is harder to clean up, are not as enlightening, but we would have missed these insights if they were “plugged in.”
It takes a village
We truly felt part of a community “back in the day.” Everyone’s parents kept an eye on you. A minor crisis such as Jimmy Davis not knowing how to skip (apparently a big problem) had the neighborhood moms looking for skipping tutors. I grew up knowing I could knock on a neighbor’s door and a cup of sugar, advice or help would be on the other side. I have tried to create this for my children by surrounding them with caring adults that are just a phone call away.
There are times when I curse my childhood and the fact that I had to walk a MILE to school unless there was a tornado siren going off, knee deep snow or a monsoon- like rain but I think it made me strong. I enjoyed freedom and the great outdoors and learned how to live through failures. Thankfully my children are now in a world of great medical advances, lead free paint and child safety products. However, I hope my kids take the positive things of my past-of course I am referring to self-reliance and fostering creativity and not Twinkies– as they head into their future.
Congratulations Mary Helen Darah!
We are happy to announce that her monthly column was presented with a Silver award in the Humor category by the Parenting Media Association. Thank you for keeping us laughing at the funny moments that come with having a family!