"Write about something you experienced but that your grandchildren probably won't know anything about." That was the assignment for my writing class yesterday. The first man who read his work wrote about being part of a neighborhood group of kids who played in the streets and parks, made up their own rules for games, had their own pecking order and seasonal patterns. Another woman, a retired guidance counselor who keeps up with the trends, wrote about the freedom she and her twin had to dash out of the house after breakfast and go play with their neighborhood friends, traveling dozens of backyards.
She defined her childhood and that of the first man as fitting into a new term, "free range childhood." The group spent some time talking about the regimented lives of children now, the fears parents have, the necessity to be supervised when both parents work and they often must have designated activities in non-school time because parents aren't home. Nostalgia was thick in the room, of course. I was certainly a free range child although I was on a farm and had no nearby playmates. So my free ranging was helping in the garden or in the kitchen, wandering around the farm with my little brother although he soon became big enough to spend most of his time with our father.
I understand the changes in society that have come with two working parents, latch-key kids. And I think many of the after school activities are enriching. I suppose sports will always be part of boys' lives and I'm glad girls are now playing sports too, especially soccer. But the fear of letting a child out of your sight, the fear of kidnappers and various kinds of sex predators has been greatly revved up by the media. In general, my impression is that children are in much greater danger from the bad moods, and actual violence against them by their own parents who bring frustrations home from work, the many who use alcohol and drugs and are inattentive, irresponsible, unloving parents. There have always been bad parents and child abuse. I don't think it's increased, really. And I'm glad there are counselors at schools who listen and help children.
Actually the class could have gone on and on but we had to move on to the woman who wrote about typewriters and the man who related being trapped in an outhouse at his grandfather's farm when a mean rooster stood guard outside the door waiting to attack.
(The happy kid in the photo is my middle great-grandson, Cole.)
The mid-70s are a surprise! Part of me remains in the 50s -- age, I mean, not decade of 20th century. It's a joy ride, new experiences land in my lap and I've become a better quilter, poet, writer than I expected. It's a rich life for a person never rich financially. Hey, this is what the mid-70s are like!