Skip to main content

Lamenting the Loss of Childhood

Lamenting the Loss of Childhood

It's nearly Father's Day, and I'm ruminating — at a playground with my 8-year-old son — about his life compared to my own as an 8-year-old. About what it was like for the Eriks and Davids and Julies of 1975, compared to the Jeremys and Carters and Chloes of 2011.

Life has changed in the last three-and-a-half decades, and not necessarily for the better. Whether it's the fault of a fear-mongering media, an overly litigious society, or helicopter parents and their spoiled kids.

The playground where I'm sitting is a microcosm of today's society. I can remember the playground of my day, and I see a few good things, and a lot of things that make me despair.

One of the cool things? I see some Asian kids, Indian kids, African-American kids, and Latino kids, all playing with some white kids. You just didn't see that in 1975 Muncie. But that's where the cool stuff ends.

This playground is built on a thick rubber mat, guaranteed to cushion your precious snowflake should he tumble off the parent-approved recycled plastic slide. I walked on the mat, and I sank at least an inch. Little kids will just bounce.

When I was my son's age, our playground was built with two inch tubular steel, and the surface was gravel. Not the smooth, rounded river rock that's gentle on little knees. The kind that was broken from big rocks by prison chain gangs.

When I was a kid, we made the playground rules. If there was a disagreement about how to play, majority ruled, or at least the big kids did. The big kids got more votes than the little kids. But sometimes, the little kids outnumbered the big ones, and the balance of power was restored.

Here, the parents climb on the playground equipment (it is a pretty cool playground), insuring their own sense of justice is administered, that everyone has a turn, and that no one goes up the slide, because slides are only made for going down.

When I was 8, we looked out for the littlest kids. Even the bullies helped out. Now, the bullies are the helicopter parents who shoot other kids dirty looks when they cut in front of their precious snowflakes on the twisty slide.

Thirty-five years ago, kids made their own games, and if you started being a jerk, someone else's mom would tell you to knock it off. And you listened. A mom was a mom, no matter whose family she was from.

In 2011, parents tell their own kid, "some people just don't know how to play by the rules, Alexis," but say it loudly enough so the parents of the offending child — who are only six feet away — know who the comment is really meant for. But they'll pretend they didn't hear it, and leave, making their own loud passive-aggressive comments about how some people need to grow up.

When I was eight, my friends and I would jump on our bikes and disappear for hours. Our kid instincts told us when it was time to go home, and we showed up just in time to wash up for dinner.

Kids today strap on their four inch thick helmets to ride their bikes, trikes, scooters, and Big Wheels, all of which put them closer to the ground than when they're standing up, yet, parents don't feel the need to make their kids helmet up when they're running. They pedal slowly down the paved bike path, like a family of ducks heading to water, giant melon helmets creating an aerodynamic wind drag that is only seen in semi trailers.

I understand the need to protect our children. But I also understand they need to get bumps, scrapes, and bruises. What kind of kid doesn't escape childhood with scars? It's evidence that you did stuff and enjoyed yourself and learned important lessons. My own body is a veritable roadmap of life lessons.

There's the time I learned not to jump over a rope chain in the grass after it rains. And the time I learned not to play with a sharp knife, or the time I learned not to play with a dull one. The time I learned not to run into mailboxes on my bike, and the time I learned not pound a storm door window in anger. (I learned that one twice.)

Kids today will never learn any of those lessons. Instead, they're going to bounce off the rubberized ground, safe inside their puffy pillow-helmet, and think mommy will always be there to soothe the phantom boo-boos, and that daddy will make the mean kids wait their turn.

They're going to be in for a major disappointment in life when they're adults, and they meet the other now-grown kids who weren't cushioned and coddled when they were eight.

And they'll wonder why their big bubble helmets didn't save them from that.


My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

---
Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

AYFKMWTS?! FBI Creates 88 Page Twitter Slang Guide

TFBIHCAEEPTSD.

Did you get that? It's an acronym. Web slang. It's how all the teens and young people are texting with their tweeters and Facer-books on their cellular doodads.

It stands for "The FBI has created an eighty-eight page Twitter slang dictionary."

See, you would have known that if you had the FBI's 88 page Twitter slang dictionary.

Eighty-eight pages! Of slang! AYFKMWTS?! (Are you f***ing kidding me with this s***?! That's actually how they spell it in the guide, asterisks and everything. You know, in case the gun-toting agents who catch mobsters and international terrorists get offended by salty language.)

I didn't even know there were 88 Twitter acronyms, let alone enough acronyms to fill 88 pieces of paper.

The FBI needs to be good at Twitter because they're reading everyone's tweets to see if anyone is planning any illegal activities. Because that's what terrorists do — plan their terroristic activities publicly, as if they were…

Understanding 7 Different Types of Humor

One of my pet peeves is when people say they have a "dry" sense of humor, without actually understanding what it actually means.

"Dry" humor is not just any old type of humor. It's not violent, not off-color, not macabre or dark.

Basically, dry humor is that deadpan style of humor. It's the not-very-funny joke your uncle the cost analysis accountant tells. It's Bob Newhart, Steven Wright, or Jason Bateman in Arrested Development.

It is not, for the love of GOD, people, the Black Knight scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I swear, if anyone says Monty Python is "dry humor" is going to get a smack.

Here are some other types of comedy you may have heard and are just tossing around, willy-nilly.

Farce: Exaggerated comedy. Characters in a farce get themselves in an unlikely or improbable situation that takes a lot of footwork and fast talking to get out of. The play "The Foreigner" is an example of a farce, as are many of the Jeeves &…

What Are They Thinking? The Beloit College Mindset List

Every year at this time, the staff at Beloit College send out their new student Mindset List as a way to make everyone clutch their chest and feel the cold hand of death.

This list was originally created and shared with their faculty each year, so the faculty would understand what some of their own cultural touchstones might mean, or not mean, to the incoming freshmen. They also wanted the freshmen to know it was not cool to refer to '80s music as "Oldies."

This year's incoming Beloit freshmen are typically 18 years old, born in 1999. John F. Kennedy Jr. died that year, as did Stanley Kubrick and Gene Siskel. And so did my hope for a society that sought artistic and intellectual pursuits for the betterment of all humanity. Although it may have actually died when I heard about this year's Emoji Movie.

Before I throw my hands up in despair, here are a few items from the Mindset list for the class of 2021.

They're the last class to be born in the 1900s, and are t…