Be home in time for dinner! That’s what parents of the boomers said on warm summer days, prior to the 1970’s. And that’s what many of us did. We’d leave early and emerge late at age 11, 12, 13! What parent in their right minds would say at 10 am, “be home for dinner at 6 pm”? Many. There was less worry about safety then, or perhaps ignorance about it. We rode bikes without helmets. We’d play in abandoned barns. Or play pick-up games in the street, making up the rules of the game whenever we could stage an advantage, ignoring bloody knees and grass stained jeans.
As an awkward 13 year-old teenager, the freedom was intoxicating.
Dee-Dee, Linda, and Michelle, were all friends with horses who generously shared their steeds with me. I would ride side by side with them through the apple orchards, along the long country roads, in the middle of the railroad tracks, clip clopping along, fantasizing that it was my horse I was riding, wishing that the day would not end.
And we took incredibly stupid risks. This one still makes me cringe.
Horse galloping at full speed across the corral at Linda’s was a thrill I remember vividly. Hanging on for dear life, completely out of control, there was a fleeting moment when I thought about how this may not have been a good idea. I couldn’t stop the enormous beast. I was not a skilled rider. There was no choice but to surrender to the horse, the goal being not to fall off. I’ll never know what possessed this animal to finally stop running at full speed. Could it sense my paralysis? Did the impending fence do the trick? I hung on and lived to tell my mom years later.
We were all reckless, risk takers, oblivious to the potential irreparable damage from our careless decisions. By the grace of some higher power, there were no serious accidents. And we all reminisce about the freedom, how lovely it was. We laugh at our idiocy.
None of my peers grew up to be parents who trusted their kids with complete abandon, including me. We were all in varying degrees protective, demanding to know where our kids were at all times when they were 11, 12 and 13. We made them wear helmets, play within the boundaries, check in with us constantly, even before the days of cell phones. And that is how it should be. I wonder, however, if we deprived our kids of the same kind of freedoms that we enjoyed during our youth just to keep them safe? My guess, that particular deprivation left no lasting deleterious effects.
Now that my girls are 19 and 22, would I parent differently? Would I extend the boundaries beyond my neighborhood for my kids in retrospect? No, I can live with my decisions, just as my parents are living with theirs.
Even though times dictated that we kept a closer eye on our children, my kids have their own stories to tell, their own secrets to confess to me when the time is right. Adventures and childhood fantasies to which I am not yet privy will one day emerge and take me by surprise.