by David Todd McCarty | Monday, November 2, 2015
“Our kids don’t really know how to play independently, seldom get lost in their imaginations, and are always two feet away from us. It drives us nuts. You’d think we spoiled them rotten but it sure doesn’t seem like we did. I’ve written about this as a cultural phenomenon of “narrowing worlds and great expectations” for parents but I can’t believe everyone struggles with this to the same extent as us. If you do, let me know! I don’t remember needing my parents so much in order to play. We didn’t access our parents so much when we were kids. We went outside and played and didn’t want to come in. Shouldn’t kids want to be away from their parents to not be watched so closely? It doesn’t make any sense to me. I can’t help but think we are blind to something we are doing to perpetuate this.”
My brother wrote this a few weeks ago and I’ve thought a lot about it since then and I’ve come up with one very simple truth that defines the difference between parents today and our parents a generation ago. We were afraid of our parents. Your kids aren’t.
I’m not talking about an abusive relationship, but there was a distance. They were adults. We were children. We didn’t expect them to come play with us. They had different lives that frankly, we weren’t invited to be a part of. If we weren’t outright afraid of them, we were at least a little intimidated by them. Now everyone tries to be their kid’s best friend.
There are other factors of course. We grew up in a time where it was perfectly acceptable to leave the house and be gone all day with zero supervision. I’m talking like 6-12 years of age. Try doing that today. Even if you wanted to, you’d probably get locked up.
When I was in the first grade, we lived in Edmond, Oklahoma. I would go play on the playground at the elementary school a few doors down. Sometimes, me and a friend would walk the two blocks to the local grocery store, and if we had money, buy a candy bar. I had to wait at the light and cross the street. This wasn’t a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. It was a typical suburban neighborhood.
I also remember being able to ride my bike to the local Five and Dime, a Woolworths. I honestly don’t remember how far it was, but far enough. At least part of it involved a trail between two houses. I would go buy BB’s for my Wrist Rocket, a high powered sling shot that was strong enough to break bottles. I would bring money, and buy bb’s, which even then the clerk had to get out of a locked case.
I was six.