A Childhood of Risk

Little Rixx Javix with Treasure
I was born in the 1960's and grew up during the 1970's, and based on the way things have become in this country during the last twenty years, it is a wonder that I survived. It's a wonder that any of us did. Our Mothers were as likely to smoke and drink during pregnancy as they were not, fortunately mine did not. (Thanks Mom!) Although I always suspected my parents found me while driving by a field one morning, swaddled in my rocket, but that's another story. 

I never wore a helmet when I rode my bicycle. If I had, I would have been beaten up by the neighbor kids. And if I had been beaten up by the neighbor kids nothing would have happened to them, my parents wouldn't have sued them and wouldn't have had a "serious talk" with their parents. If anything I would've been the one in trouble. Most likely for being stupid enough to wear a helmet in front of anyone. And I didn't just ride my bike in the driveway, no I rode my bike down the side of mountains, over hand-made ramps and jumps, across chasms, over fallen trees, anywhere with the potential for serious harm. And I would often do this all day without adult supervision.

If I got in trouble at School, which I often did, I was likely to be beaten in front of the entire class as punishment. They wouldn't even call my parents to tell them this happened. Or I'd be sent to the Principal's office for a stern talking to, and then a beating. I once had a Gym teacher who had a plank of wood with a handle, upon which he had painted a Nazi Swastika. (Can you even imagine such a thing today?) He would make us bend over and grab out toes, before... well you know.

If we had car seats when I was an infant I don't remember them. In fact I believe our first cars didn't even have seat belts! My parents at one point had a blue Renault and we were hit from behind on the way home from a movie and I don't think I was wearing a seat belt at the time. Cool huh? Heck, the tires were probably bald at the time.

My dad would put seats in the back of his pick-up truck and my brother and I would ride back there. The seats were not bolted down or anything, and once again we didn't have seat belts. I can remember taking trips riding in the back of a pick-up truck, although this time I believe it had a "camper" top on it at least. Does that sound dangerous? Oh yes, it is. Sometimes dozens of us kids would pile into the back of a pick-up truck and ride somewhere, to a swimming hole or something. A swimming hole, for those unfamiliar with the concept, is NOT a swimming pool. Swimming holes have rocks, snakes, slippery moss and other hazards. And they are a lot of fun. Don't even get me started with rope swings!

As kids we drank water from the water hose, shared pop with each other, ate real bacon, white bread, drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar, ate dangerous pop rocks (exploding candy!), threw lawn darts (sometimes at each other!), climbed trees (I once fell from one and broke my arm clean in two!), rolled down hills, threw rocks at hornet's nests, smashed glass bottles with rocks, hit each other with sticks, played war in the woods... the list of dangerous activities could go on forever. And we did much of this outside all day without adult supervision. Sometimes I could be gone playing with my friends ALL DAY and my parents wouldn't know exactly where I was... and it was ok. As long as I was home by dark. Which was a time always open to interpretation by me. If I wasn't home my Dad would actually yell from the porch.

We had four channels on the TV. You had to get up from the couch to change the channel. Almost all new programs started in September, which was a big deal especially Saturday morning cartoons. We would spend the week before with the TVGuide planning our morning. If you missed a program or a movie odds were that you would never see it again! Imagine that.

I could walk to a friends house and walk right through the front door without knocking and yell to see if they were home. And no one would shoot me for doing it. 

We had to tryout for sports and not everyone who tried out made the team. Back in those days you had to deal with the fact that you might actually suck at something. If you made a mistake during a game your friends and their parents would let you know about it in horribly embarrassing and public ways.

I could go on. But at this point I think I've said enough. If you read the above and thought, even for a second, that my parents were bad parents, then shame on you. I have the best parents in the world and I had an amazing, wonderful childhood. I wouldn't change a thing. Not anything important anyway. No it wasn't perfect, nothing is, but it was great. But growing up when I did gave me perspective that I appreciate today. And no, I wouldn't dream of allowing my son to do some of the things that I did. Times have changed. But they always do, my childhood was a lot different than the ones my parents had. And my son's childhood is a lot different than the one I had. It'll be the same with his children.


Have we lost something? Maybe. But maybe it is the cost of growing older, that we look back with a romantic, rose colored view of the past. It was a special time to us because we lived it. As all childhoods should be. 



22 comments:

  1. I was born in the early 70's, and remember going out all day fishing, riding motorbikes, hunting rabbits and foxes, driving paddock bombs and exploring, all by myself, and all from early high school years. (Back then my Dad was overly cautious).

    While some aspects of my upbringing could have been safer (I witnessed a mate almost being crushed to death while playing in an old abandoned quarry), overall I wish I could provide half of it to my children. They would be so much more practical and balanced if I could work out how to give them some of that life, given I now live in a city. I often think of a quote I read many years ago - you can not save up life, it has to be spent to have any value. I think we focus too much now on saving up our lives.

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    1. Well said. I have no city perspective, having grown up in the country, but I imagine it has changed tremendously in the last few decades as well. It wasn't all roses, I was once bitten by a snake and had to rushed to the emergency room. And I had many friends seriously injured in one stupid way or another.

      But I agree, I have four boys of my own now and it isn't easy to give them even a small taste of that experience. I can only hope they have their own.

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    2. Ya'll are making me pine for the old days. Don't even get me started about the schools kids have to go to these days. My teachers would have been horrified, of course my teachers were also my parents teachers.

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  2. I missed out on the broken arm, and we had 5 channels, but yes. You must be young because you didn't mention the black & white TV you used to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.

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    1. I was three years old and it is one of my earliest memories, and yes the tv was b&w and nearly the entire neighborhood was in our living room to watch

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    2. I was born in 1968, and while I don't remmeber seeing the moon landing, I do remember watching Dark Shadows and the Creature Feature on WGN. Some of the crazy stuff we did in Northern Illinois was sledding down hills into highway culverts (which became jumps between cars) and skiing the slush on roads while holding onto my best friend's mom's Pinto bumper. Oh, and falling into frozen ponds. Everything else sounds the same. Amazing how 1 mom's call got relayed across town, eh?

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  3. The easiest way to get them a small taste of the experience is lettting them play EVE.
    EVE is a still a brutal World and you can even die by getting lost XD

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  4. Rixx,

    This is by far one of the best reads, ever. Talk about blast from the past !!!

    Wow I miss my childhood, hearing my mother call "Suppertime" from the front door, or un-freezing my mittins on the woodstove, just to get sent back outside for the rest of the day.


    Really puts life into perspective




    Spuddie

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    1. My boys are outside in the cold for thirty minutes and already whining to come back inside. We'd be outside all day, fueled by hot chocolate and warm breaks in the basement, and the fear that "once we came in, we couldnt go back" so we just stayed.

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  5. Heh.

    Anyone else get a serious talking to for being late for supper because you were at your girlfriends house? When you parents 1) didn't know you had a girlfriend at that time 2) thought you were at your buddy's house 3) didn't get all the lipstick removed?

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    1. Oh yes. Even younger I used to play Doctor with the neighbor girls, which always eventually meant one or more of us would be naked. Never got into any trouble or anything.

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  6. I was born in the sixties and totally agree with what you have said. Nice blog post and yes things were better then without a shadow of a doubt.
    Tooth

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  7. I grew up in the 90's and compared to what you did, we lived a sheltered life. I look back at how I grew up, I then look at today and things have changed exponentially. Some change has been good, some bad, and some just down right terrible. But despite the changes we're still here, we're still kicking, and by-gum we're gonna keep kicking.

    "The only thing that is constant is change." ~Heraclitus
    "Two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity; but I'm not sure about the former." ~Albert Einstein

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  8. Great Article!

    I was born in `69 and man do your points bring back good memories. We have lost something as a country...

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  9. I'm a child of the seventies/eighties and very much enjoyed the benefits of cavalier parenting and being outdoors and unsupervised.

    I'm now a new parent myself and as I start down the fatherhood road, I find myself giving a huge amount of thought to parenting choices and the butterfly effect of behaviours we establish now.

    As much as I'm ferociously protective right now (Weebooted is only 6 months old after all), I really want to find the right balance of exposing her to the world and sheltering her from its worst elements.

    I also want to resist the all-encompassing lure of electronic entertainment. Having Weebooted around has actually been hugely healthy for my wife and I, as it's made us establish rules for ourselves; TV off unless there's something specific that is being actively watched, eating at the table, no technology at the table, etc.

    In the future I hope we can get it right and encourage Weebooted's healthy development. It is my hope that those values that have been lost might be regained.

    (That's the way I see it, my wife just thinks I want to make Weebooted a tomboy.)

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  10. I wonder if someday we'll reminisce about Eve the same way. The shit we used to do that you just can't anymore.

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    1. Haha, good thinkums.

      "Do you remember when sitting at a desk wearing headphones and starting at a tiny screen to 'fly a spaceship' felt so real. You felt really connected because you had to work to join the dots. All this direct-to-retina cerebral interfacing is just turning kids today into lazy vegetables."

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    2. Do you remember the smoking ? I think our living room was always filled with smoke. Especially during birthdays. Teachers smoked in front of the entire class. It's so weird now if you see that back in some documentary or another ...

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    3. Or in an old movie when they used to smoke on planes? I actually just caught the tail-end of that, but I barely remember it.

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  11. Yeah, the past always does seem rosy, doesn't it. I too rode through the woods on my bike without a helmet and loved exploring out til dark. :)

    Yadda yadda survivorship bias. Those who died in accidents as kids rarely write blogs that present the other side of those points though, huh?

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    1. I tried to carefully walk a very fine line in that post, a line between talking about my own experiences as a child and trying not to come across as if it was somehow "better". I am aware of the traps that nostalgia presents us as writers and I am also aware of the people close to me that did not make it. I had more than my fair share of loss growing up.

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