Originally published on Roses of Prose blog July 27, 2015
A few days ago I sat talking with a friend about raising kids today. We reminisced over lattes about how wonderful it was go be a kid when we were, well, kids. Imagine this setting.
Six kids ranging in age from three to seven lay in the grass on a hill and stared at puffy white clouds floating in a deep blue sky. Four bicycles and one tricycle lay scattered on the grass, along with a pair of clip-on skates. The girls wore shorts and cotton blouses with buttons, the boys tee-shirts and shorts. Each had ridden a bike or tricycle or skated over two miles from their neighborhood to hang out at a local park. They played a game of guessing what the clouds looked like.
Flash forward to today. Parents drive their kids to the park, bicycles and tricycles in the back of their mini-vans. Kids ride only on the path that weaves through the park, never out of sight of their helicopter parents. No child skates unless in a rink wearing the latest in shoe skates.
Kids no longer lie in the grass. “You might get bitten by a tick and get Lime disease.” “You might get dirty.” “All sorts of bad things live in the grass.” “You might get bitten by a snake.”
Don’t even think about picking a blade, putting it in just the right place between your thumbs and blowing through the gap to make a whistle. “You don’t know what pesticides the park groundskeepers used on the grass.”
Kids wear hats and sunscreen to the point where little of the sun’s beneficial rays ever strike skin. Heaven forbid a kid today gets a slightly crisped nose. No longer do peeling noses teach lessons about being careful.
Even at parks, the older kids don’t look at the sky. They look at images of clouds on their smart phones rather that look up and imagine.
Kids used to be able to slide down metal slides and singe the backs of their thighs. They played on swings, trying to go high enough to feel like they were flying. Old metal merry-go-rounds spun kids until they were dizzy.
I don’t know about you, but I grew up as a free-range kid. I skinned knees, got sunburned, fell off my bike and lost clip-on skates when I bumped along rough sidewalks. And I loved lying in the grass watching the clouds float by. They took me away from reality on magic carpet rides of my imagination.
Do you miss being a free-range kid? I do.