I wonder if every generation thinks they had it better, in some capacity. But crap guys, I might actually sound like my Nan when she used to scold us and say, "In my day..." Back then, I thought she was just old and cranky and lame. Sorry Nan.
Well anyway, in MY day,
We could go out to play after breakfast and come back when the street lights turned on. Jeez, when I was a little kid (I'm talking elementary school age), this was totally the norm, and we didn't have cell phones. We were not in constant contact with our parents. The rule was that we had to go home by the time either the church bell rang (6 pm), or when the street lights came on. So basically Mom had zero clue as to where we were all day. Usually she'd ask the mailman at some point if he had seen us, and he'd tell her where we were last spotted. We did have to stay in the neighborhood though. We'd be out in the woods, (with Swiss army knives no less) cutting shit to make forts and stuff. As I recall, we also attempted to crawl through the culverts to the other side of the street as often as we could. We never did make it the whole way... THAT'S SO DANGEROUS GUYS! In my wildest dreams I can't imagine not knowing where my kids are for an entire day. Or not flipping out if I found them scurrying like rats through a filthy, grimy underground culvert pipe, MOM.
I would ride my bike to the grocery store. Sometimes even alone. The grocery store in our town was a little less than a mile from where I lived. Often times Mom would ask one of us to ride our bike to the store for milk or paper towels or something. Nine times out of ten she would give us like $2 for $5 worth of stuff. It was always so embarrassing. But yeah, we'd pedal our little selves to the store WITH NO HELMET, park our bikes and go inside and attempt to buy 5 bucks worth of stuff with two dollars.
We walked to the candy store by ourselves. The candy store was just about as far away as the grocery store, and we were totally allowed to walk there whenever we had scavenged enough money to get a baggie filled with goodies. I remember actually being shorter than the snowbanks, walking alone with a handful of change in my mitten. Oof, anything for penny candy. What was my mom thinking??
We would walk to school. God forbid. When I make my kids walk to school I am looked at as the mean mom. Which is absolutely ridiculous. Most kids have legs, so it really shouldn't be a hardship for kids to use them for all of 9/10 of a mile. My mom RARELY drove us to school. We had to walk. Every day. Rain or shine or snow (or lugging along a freaking heavy-assed tuba-like instrument). There were no parents dropping their kids off and picking them up after school. Kids were encouraged to actually walk or ride their bikes and get exercise and breathe fresh air. Go figure.
We rolled down grassy hills and played in the woods (omg ticks). These days I have a mild panic attack if one of my kids rolls down a hill or plays around in the woods. Isn't that so sad?? We live in deer tick country, and I am super paranoid about Lyme Disease. It's a real issue around here. When we were kids, that threat was a non-issue. There were no moms frantically chasing after their kids trying to squirt them with DEET to avoid death by Lyme tick. I seriously find this to be really sad... it's like just playing and being a kid is so much harder these days. No wonder all of those little a-holes sit around on their cell phones all day.
We played on merry-go-rounds. Oh jeez, there were merry-go-rounds everywhere when I was little. Who knew they were so dangerous? All I knew was how awesome it felt to be twirling around in a cloud of dusty dirt til you almost threw up. We had one at the elementary school and one at the local playground and we would get those things going so fast... I remember my one skinny little sister would literally be hanging on for dear life with her legs flailing in the air. It was really funny. We had no clue someone could easily get really hurt on those things. I don't think my kids even know what a merry-go-round looks like.
We would ride in the back of pickup trucks. Doing this was the norm out in the country. If someone had a pickup truck, it was a guarantee that there would be people riding in the back of it, end of story. I can't imagine that none of us ever fell out because we were generally idiots, misbehaving and cheating death left and right. I actually rode through the entire state of Texas ON A HIGHWAY in the back of a pickup truck filled with blankets and pillows and teenagers. WTF, MOM?! I could be dead right now! I would never let one of my kids ride in the back of a pickup truck, what am I, a moron?
Our dad took us out driving well before it was legal. I seriously learned how to drive at like 12 or 13 years old. My dad or uncle would take us driving out in the country every now and then. My uncle in particular would pick up a forty (or three), and let us drive him around for hours. That's why I am such a great (and so modest too!) driver. A week or so ago my dad mentioned taking my 14 year old out to drive and I was like, THERE'S NO WAY!
We could go to the gate at the airport. Remember the days when you didn't have to wait 45 minutes to go through a security check line fumbling through your bag removing anything that could potentially be deemed as terroristic, with your shoes off? Remember when you could bring whatever you wanted on a plane, even a jack knife or an open container of mayonnaise? Remember when you could meet your person at the gate, just like the movies... all exciting and amazing, waiting and waiting and waiting for the plane to just land. I miss that.
Everyone in the universe could blow smoke in your face. Back in the day, you could smoke anywhere, at any time, for however long you wanted. The days of everyone smelling like a god damn ash tray are over! Because now people give a crap about inhaling someone else's shitty, cancer causing, tar-filled second hand smoke. It makes me gleefully happy that I don't have to be forced to waft the smoke from my eyes when all I really want to do is chill with my friends, or watch a movie without hacking, or sit on an airplane breathing relatively decent air. I have to admit on my most recent flight, I wanted to secretly light a cigarette in the bathroom just to see what would happen. I'm such a rebel. A rebel without a cigarette.
We got some serious (and well deserved) bare hiney spankings. Oof. Kids these days have no idea of how scary it was when your Mom said, "Just wait til your Dad gets home!" Which actually meant, "Just wait til your Dad gets home and whips your ass, you little jerks!" When I grew up it was totally acceptable to get a bare hiney spanking for being a shitty little brat. When we would misbehave enough to get my Mom frazzled enough to utter those terrifying words, we would hustle upstairs and put on as many layers of underpants as we could fit on our butts, hoping that our Dad wouldn't notice the extra paddding when he smacked us good for being naughty. Apparently you're not really supposed to mention that you're not opposed to giving your kid a swat on the ass anymore as needed, or other parents will promptly report you to DSS for child abuse. There's a huge difference between abuse and a smack, in my opinion.
Your safety was definitely over-rated back in those days. Seat belts, bike helmets, sunblock? What's that? Locking the door to your house, wouldn't think of it! Letting your kid walk home from school alone to an empty house? No big deal... and while you're at it, why don't you start the noodles for dinner? Going for a Sunday drive with the fam? Don't forget to grab Dad's six-pack! The more that I think about it, the more I am shocked so many of us actually survived.