Archives for posts with tag: kids

Over the Fourth of July, I was watching some of my grandchildren, ages 4 to 15,interact with each other and other kids around.  I have a friend who believes that kids make up games and rules that are always fair.  He believes it’s instinctive for them to be fair when left alone by adults.  I remember this from my childhood and watched these modern day kids who are poster children for organized sports and activities.

Guess what?  They still like to play.  First, at the swimming pool, the 14 and 15 year old made up dunking games, where they dunked each other, basketball games played with a small ball, a large beach ball, whatever they could find.  DSC_0409Then there were games on the slide with the ball, games off the diving board, and games with a sister/cousin and her friend.  They never stopped moving.DSC_0400DSC_0420DSC_0413Everything was discussed for a few minutes and then they played.  And played, moving from one part of the pool to the other with a new idea.  The next day, we added a 12 year old and a four year old cousin to the mix.  This changed it up a bit while they learned the new rules.DSC_0013DSC_0023There was no complaining about being bored, no arguments, no tears or whining.  Later, we met for dinner and I brought Pop-Its or Bang Pops, about 50 boxes of them.  They found more ways to pop them than I could imagine.  Very creative popping going on…DSC_0006DSC_0007And we ended the day with hundreds of kids waiting for the fireworks display.  Impromptu games of soccer and frisbee broke out with boys and girls of all ages playing their own version, mindful of the difference in ages and sizes, but all playing.  They didn’t ask names or wait to be introduced, they just threw a ball out there and it began.  They must have played for an hour or two without anybody stopping before they came back to the blankets at dark.  DSC_0020When I watch kids, all kids, playing like this, free of adults to hover over them or tell them what they are supposed to be doing, it gives me great hope.  If kids can figure out how to get along, shouldn’t we all be able to?  If kids can play together, shouldn’t we be able to live together, even with our differences?  Our children have wonderful imaginations when left to use them.  I’m hoping they use those imaginations plus the happy memories they have to build an even better world.

As their grandmother, all I know is that they are just so much fun to watch!

Driving to meet friend since junior high for lunch, I had visions of us when we were 12 and 13, back in the 50s, walking home from school. We had the look, the look of our friends, our school, our era. We wore skirts to school back then, below the knee, straight or pleated or full with petticoats with cute blouses or oxford cloth shirts with sweaters. Our shoes were Keds or penny loafers or “rock & rollers” (a less clunky version of saddle oxfords), or flats. We wore bobby socks. The years blur and each year had its style. We stood a certain way with our school books on top of our notebook balanced on our slung out hip. You knew how to hold them to look cool. Our hair was permed, long or short. We had to have a certain coat, a car coat it was called, with a hood edged in fur. The coolest ones were made by Thermo-Jac and we wore them pushed back off our shoulders. The minute our mothers were out of sight, we slung them back, even on the coldest days. Picture us, slouching along with our socks rolled down, our coats slung back, our hips slung out with the books. Cool. Or “Stud”…our phrase of the time.

The guys had their own look. Jeans and oxford shirts or plaid shirts. At one time, wheat jeans, a beige version of Levis, were in. Their hair was crew cut or short unless you were some kind of “hood” who wore it longer with ducktails or slicked back with some kind of grease. No longer hair until The Beatles arrived. One year, all the cool guys had red lightweight jackets that were the look. They remember.

I remember a summer when I was about 13 I hung around in very short shorts and one of my dad’s old shirts. Neat. By the time I graduated, skirts were a bit shorter, hair was puffier since we now had rollers and hairspray, and we were preppier. I’ve lived through the fifties, sixties, seventies and all the looks ever since. I can’t find a perfect illustration of junior high, but here’s one from college with several looks of 1964…babushka on my hair, round collar blouse, cutoffs, the purse of the season and thongs (flip-flops now). Carefully coordinated. What goes around, comes back…

Linda & Karen - 1965

Every age has its own style. My oldest daughter started junior high and came home almost in tears the first few days because she didn’t have “the” purse. My own youth flashed back and we rushed to the store. I was amused because “the” purse was the same one I carried in college, a wooden handled purse with different covers you could button on and off, “the” purse of my day.

When my older kids were in high school, a friend and I would sit outside the school waiting for the kids to get out and figure out the styles, laughing affectionately. Waiting for my daughter to get out of soccer practice, I would note the “styles” of each of the teams at practice. The soccer team all wore their socks pushed down without their shin guards…total show of toughness…their hair all the same. You could spot who played each sport as they came off the fields because each had it’s own distinct look.

My son went through every style there ever was. I could do a photo retrospective of his ever changing hairstyles. Always challenging the norm. Always on the front edge of the next look.

As one who lived in the 50s and 60s, I’ve tried not to freak out at every style change of my kids. You pick your battles as a parent and I held tight in my heart all my own looks. From the 60s, I learned that you don’t divide a family because your son comes home with long hair, dyed hair, no hair, no matter how much you may hate it. Hair grows out and they change it again. It’s not about you. Really.

No earth-shattering insights here. The thing I remember about kids is that they’re trying to stand out, to show they are becoming more independent and growing up. They’re also showing their desire to fit in with their own peers. Of course, there are some looks that may frighten us or be signs of some other problems, but, most kids are good, just exploring the world. Remember that this too shall pass. And sigh. And try not to snicker. And, most importantly, remember yourself at that age. And try not to laugh.

It’s been a long time since Aunt Polly said to Tom Sawyer, “Well, go ‘long and play; but mind you get back some time in a week, or I’ll tan you.” I was thinking of the changes in the freedom children used to have and how cautious parents must be today. What I realized is that there always have been perils for children and there always will be.


A friend of mine says his grandfather remembered running away from an orphanage in Texas with his older brother at the fence telling him to keep running. He was 6 years old and was on his own from then on. That was in the late 19th century and there were many dangers for a young child, from natural dangers to human ones, but he survived to a ripe old age.

My grandparents were raised in small towns or on farms where they had the run of the place. My grandfather wondered around town because everyone knew who he was and watched out for him. I know parents have always worried about what would happen to their children, but they used to be able to let them stretch their wings and explore.

My father spent many years in the same small town his parents grew up in and played with his brother and sister and cousins. The Ohio River ran right by the town, but none of them ever drowned in it. There were few cars, but I guess you had to watch out for buggies and horses, too. They probably knew who the creepy people in town were and stayed away from them. There have been sick minds since man was created, so we didn’t invent perverted behavior in this century. I can picture these kids running around that small town with all the freedom in the world, as long as they didn’t get into trouble, which meant damaging property or bothering someone.

J.C. Hamilton, Robert?, Ed & Sara Hamilton

In 1909, Bud and Temple Abernathy, the Abernathy Boys, rode horses alone from Frederick, Oklahoma (barely a state then) to Santa Fe, New Mexico. They were nine and five years old. Alone! Of course, their father was “Catch-’em-alive Jack” Abernathy, a US Marshall whose reputation as a marshall, a hunter and a cowboy helped save them from Indians and crooks they met along the way. Still, they had to cross a lot of land with the dangers of wild animals and the terrain. After that trip, they rode from Frederick to New York City and drove a car back (when there was only 150 miles of highway in the entire country). They did it alone and they were only ten and six! Even then, that was quite a big deal and they became national celebrities. Can you imagine any kids that age being able to do something like that today? Kids should read “Bud & Me” to at least be able to know that those kind of experiences once existed.


I grew up in the city, in the suburbs. We walked everywhere and I don’t remember too many restrictions. We had to watch for cars, but we were allowed to explore and walk to our friends’ houses blocks away. The biggest dangers were falling off your bike (we had no helmets) or jumping out of a tree. I’m sure there were cautions from our mothers, but we just went out and did what we did. If there was an accident, we went home and our mothers put a bandaid or iodine on it. Most, maybe all, of my friends’ mothers were at home and the neighbors all knew who we were, so there was a safety in that. As we got older, we moved where there was a creek behind the neighbors’ houses and we played in that, especially when the water was rising. We played on construction sites, we played with matches, we played after dark and we snuck out to play in the moonlight. We got scratched and banged up from time to time, but that was just part of it.

When I was a teenager, we drove everywhere. There were no cell phones or GPS, so our parents just had to trust us to get home safely. We explored all parts of the city and did crazy stupid things. We weren’t always smart, but we learned how to use our freedom the best we could. I’m sure my parents worried some, but they let us experience what was out there and find our own limits. We were lucky in that drugs weren’t common until I was in college and the worst that happened was that kids got into their parents liquor or drank too many beers.

By the time my children were growing up, it was a little scarier. There were so many more cars and we had television to tell us of kidnappings and other evil things. Some mothers were working and there wasn’t always the safety of knowing that there were other moms to let you know what was going on. We had creeks by both of the houses my kids grew up in and they played around them. I didn’t know until they were much older that they used to follow the creek all the way to the busy street and under the street to the other side. There were snakes and critters and all kinds of exciting things in the creek, but it didn’t bother me. That was part of childhood. I did caution them when we had a big rain and the creek rose and could have carried them away, but I’m sure they watched that rushing water with the same fascination I did. They also were free to walk around the neighborhood as long as I knew where they were headed. There were a lot of other kids around.

When my children were teens, insurance rates were rising for their age group for drivers, drugs were more common and alcohol was a bigger factor. City-wide curfews were coming into being and kids had to move from place to place to gather when they were out. The fun was getting harder to find.

Now, I’ve watched my grandkids grow up playing mostly inside with television and video games. They ride their bikes, but not with the same freedoms we enjoyed when we could ride for miles alone. There is the fear of having the bikes stolen, the heavier traffic, the crazies we all know are out there. It’s just not as safe as it used to be. They don’t ride to the park for a quick game of ball or to climb rocks or explore creeks or make new friends in random places. They have helmets and padding and cell phones to check in and every protection there can be. It’s dangerous out there.

Today, it’s all organized for kids with parents swarming over everything they do. I’m not saying they’re over-protected, because I’m well aware of the dangers. I just don’t know how far we have come. We’ve conquered many of the childhood diseases that killed so many in the past, but we’ve taken away the ability to explore and learn what you can do by yourself. There’s a certain pride in knowing that you’re able to walk to the store by yourself or ride your bike to a far away place and return without anyone helping you. You gain confidence in your own abilities and skills.

This weekend, I watched a news story on the new plague of heroin users among our teens across the country. Heroin in the suburbs. What can you say?

Sigh…I guess we can’t go backwards. I wish I had answers other than turning back the clock. How can we find ways to let our kids be kids and explore this world safely? Something to think about…