Wednesday, August 27, 2008

free-range kids

on the radio this afternoon i heard a snippet of a segment where they were asking people to call in with things that they'd done as a kid that they'd never let their kids do.

all types rang in, but my personal favourite was the guy who said they would reverse the handle-bars on their malvern star bikes, load each with a firecracker, nick the old man's cigar cause it "wouldn't go out in the wind" and go and terrorise the neighbourhood with these mini rocket launchers.

this was the 70s, he said, when you could get firecrackers legally, and obviously could swipe a cigar here and there.

it made me think about things we did as kids that i wouldn't let my kids do.

be free-range for a start. it's a shame that we can't just let them roam around the way we did. i'm sure in the country kids do have these freedoms still. we used to be able to go out to play and be home by a certain time. and that was just after school. on the weekends, it was only mealtimes that we had to be back for - you could be gone for hours.

we'd visit friends, hang out at the park, take up residence in trees for half a day, go to the shops, buy lollies, play sport, ride bikes around the neighbourhood, play tennis on the street, hopscotch on the street. i remember being sprung outside in the gutter making a dam in the rainwater just after i'd come out from hospital with my tonsils out.

these days i have to consciously create situations where the kids go out without me, where they are pushing away from the home, and on their own learning how to handle things. this includes taking the dog for a walk, going to the milk bar and more recently, catching public transport to school and back when i'm working. but i know where they are, and what they're doing. and that's not free-ranging.

naturestrips, gutters, roofs, trees, fences, gates, garages, construction sites, parks, streets, empty schools: these were our domains.

pocket-knives, old cigarette packets, bikes, old prams/pushers, rocks, stones, wood stakes, billy-carts, roller-skates, scooters, skateboards: these were our tools.

some of the things i did when i was younger, that i wouldn't want my kids doing:

* playing hide and seek/chasey where the house roof wasn't out of bounds

* making petrol bombs and throwing them down a tunnel "to get the bats"

* buying a pack of cigarettes and then smoking them while in a tree

* stacking a scooter at the bottom of vears road hill. the end of the scooter's handle made an imprint on my stomach - a white circle that stayed there for years.

what about you?

what did you do as a kid that you wouldn't let your kid do now.


Another Outspoken Female said...

Fortunately I am child-free. I say 'fortunately' because I was a cunning kid who looked angelic but was far from it, so I would watch them like the control-freak hawk I am!

Its the teens that would scare me the most. I knew it all. While I did well at not smoking and I left drugs til I was legally an adult - its the underage sex, that when I look at the 15 year old daughters of my friends it gives me the shudders.

jo_blue said...

I was sent to buy milk at the milk bar when I was about 6 and I'd NEVER let my kids do that now. Maybe when they're 10. By the time we were 8, we were riding our bikes everywhere. My daughter has just turned 8 and she's only allowed to ride her bike around the streets if I'm with her. I just feel it's not safe. I feel terrible about it, but it's not worth the risk, should something happen.