If You Were Born In The ’60’s, ’70’s Or ’80’s, You Have To Read This. Wow.Posted: March 19, 2014
I’ve noticed that the web is littered with wistful paeans to the virtues of growing up in the mid to late twentieth century (here’s an example of the sort of thing I’m talking about). Sprinkled in with the praise of the way things were are thinly veiled digs at the way things are and implications that younger generations are soft because they did not have the same upbringing.
As a nostalgic product of the mid-twentieth century, I’d like to bring a different perspective. Yes, things were different for those of us in our forties and older. Is different better or is it worse?
To me, the answer is yes.
One of the arguments that I see for the idea that things were better “back when” is that kids had to try out for youth sports and that not everyone made the team. I can testify that all those who made the team did not get to play every game. This is said to be good because it taught the older generations to handle disappointment.
That point is often paired with one discussing how wonderful it was, in the way back when, that we went outside and played all day. I loved playing outside and could easily gather eighteen friends for an all day baseball game in the summer. Kids today don’t do that, and I miss it for them.
Here’s where difference comes in. In most neighborhoods today, it is almost impossible for a child to round-up even three kids for a game on most days. How can this be, when this “lazy” generation has “smart phones and Facebook that we managed to grow up without”? What we’re ignoring is that most people of our age cohort grew up in homes where only one parent had to work. Since our moms were home, we were home after school and free to get to what the business of being a kid was back then.
Most families today rely on two incomes out of necessity. Imagine yourself as a nine-year-old in your current neighborhood. Could you get together with five other nine-year-olds in that neighborhood at 4 p.m. on a week day? Probably not.
It isn’t that kids don’t want to run and play like we did. They can’t. Most kids are in an after-school program (where they are playing outside) or are getting their homework done before their folks get home. People don’t want their children wandering a neighborhood where no adults are around to keep a neighborly eye on them.
So kids knock out their home work before the folks get home. Why? Because once they’ve got a ride, they are on their way to practice for one of those youth sports leagues that don’t build character like ours did by cutting the worst players from the team.
We want all kids involved in physical activity… but we want them to be toughened up by knowing that if they aren’t good enough, they could lose the privilege to take the field? That’s not realistic today.
If I tried out for a baseball team in the early ’70’s and did not make it, I had a chance to learn from the experience. I also had the opportunity to practice the sport in neighborhood pick-up games all summer and return to try outs the following spring as a better player. That opportunity to practice doesn’t exist today
Sure, video games keep kids inside to some extent. But I’d also contend that for every child of these “lazy” generations that you could point out playing video games inside on a summer day, I could point out ten houses within eyesight of him where no one is home for him to play outside with. I’m not sure I see the harm in having a team where we can be sure that video gaming child has a chance to play in the sun AND a team that she can aspire to be chosen for if she excels.
Bike Helmets Make Kids Wimpy. Whatever. So Does A Feeding Tube.
It’s a short trip to go from mocking today’s youth for not being outside enough to questioning their toughness because they’ve grown up in an increasingly safety oriented society.
No one looks good in a bicycle helmet. And as a product of a generation that did not wear helmets, I’d rather crawl where I’m going than ride a bike if I have to wear an odd-looking helmet while I pedal. But if we want kids on bikes and we can protect them from a traumatic brain injury, why wouldn’t we?
There are certainly more safety regulations then when we were kids. Those damned bureaucrats have deprived children today of those tasty lead paint chips that we all enjoyed. I curse the soul of the regulator who took my son’s chance to inhale the powerful fumes of model airplane glue.
Many of us have fond memories of standing behind the front seat as our parents drove. A few of us remember playing with lawn darts. Do you know who doesn’t remember playing with lawn darts? The kids who got launched through windshields. Yes, the ’70’s were really great for those kids, weren’t they? Is that what we want for our children and grandchildren? It probably is. You’re right, safety regulations suck. Be sure to tell yourself that as you put your grand-daughter in her car seat.
I’ve spent a bit of time writing this, and chances are that if you’re the sort to forward the type of crap I’m talking about to my e-mail box you’ll miss my point and do it again anyhow. I’ve got a proposal for you. Instead of you forwarding some dopey email or video that insults the way I had to go about raising my son*, let’s get together and play baseball. You, me and our friends will meet down at the park and show these slack video gaming punks how it was. It’ll be fun. Are you in?
No? Too bad. Maybe you’ll forward this to your email list and post it on Facebook?
Didn’t think so. You haven’t been the same since you caught that lawn dart in your fontanelle.* My son (and the majority of young people like him) who somehow lack the entitlement mentality you ascribe to his entire generation and is brighter and more athletic than you and I put together.