Why do things have to change? And why, sometimes, do they have to change so drastically? Good questions with not-so-simple answers.
Take how we travelled as kids. If you’re anywhere near my age, I’m sure you remember standing in the front seat (or inbetween the front seats) as your family car hurtled down the highway, your Mom holding you by the middle as you held your balance there and everybody laughed. Or maybe you took your afternoon nap in the same car up on the “back dash”–that open space behind and above the back seat where the back window met the trunk of the car–where you were bathed in warm sunlight and fell asleep to the music coming from the rear speakers that were right by your ear. Now, in the society of today’s world, the parents who let their children ride in a car like that would be called negligent, careless and irresponsible parents who don’t deserve to have children at all since they obviously don’t know how to take proper care of them in a vehicle. Interesting, don’t you think?
What about something a friend of mine recently told me? A local community had a fireworks show in the local city park on the Fourth of July–something that hadn’t been done in a long time and everyone was excited about seeing it again–only to afterwards be told by the local city officials that it won’t be happening at all anymore because “some people felt it was too loud”. Well, what do they think is going to happen with fireworks?? And, to top it off, it was a handful of people who complained about the noise level. What about the other ninety-five percent who enjoyed it and had no problem with the noise level? After all, we are talking about a highly unusual event, this having fireworks on the Fourth of July business. It just shows how we as a society have developed a habit of bowing needlessly to the wishes of a few which turns trivial matters into huge issues.
So what brings this discussion on? Well, my family and I attended a local parade in our community that is held every year around this time of July. Remember the parades you attended as a child? Lots to see and hear, especially when it comes to all of the police cars, ambulances and fire trucks with all of their flashing lights and periodic blasts of horns and sirens. Only now–at least in the surrounding communities where we are–you only see the flashing lights. No horns. No sirens. I’m not sorry to say that in my mind, hearing the horns and sirens coming from way down the street is what made a parade back in the day! What’s up with that?! Our boys even made the international honk-your-horn signal that kids give to semi-truck drivers and the firefighter in the passenger seat who saw them shook his head, apparently unable to fulfill their urgent request (and mine). It’s a parade!! You’re supposed to do that! What has our society come to? The firetrucks can’t even activate their sirens or horns in a parade anymore! So sad.
I suppose the next step will be that we won’t be able to drive 4X4 vehicles anymore due to their being too brutal on Mother Earth. Surely there’s a small handful of people out there who don’t like them and are determined to see their extinction from our society. At the rate things are going, they’ll get their way and we’ll have to revert back to snowshoes in the winter. Hey! That may not be such a bad idea after all…..
So what are your thoughts on this? I’d love to hear from you!
Got a quick story for you….
I’m pretty sure it was my Junior year of high school. Me and my best friend back then whose name was Rick were going to hang out with another friend of ours from school–Mike–whose parents owned a Volkswagen Jetta.
Mike loved to drive. In a way that was….”parent-challenged”. And Rick and I didn’t mind. Especially since it wasn’t a car that belonged to either one of us.
I had been with Mike before in a car and knew what to expect, so Rick was in the passenger seat–strapped in–and I was in the middle of the back seat–strapped in. I had the middle seatbelt around my waist; the left-hand seatbelt crossing me and attached to the right-hand seatbelt receiver by my right hip; and the right-hand seatbelt crossing me the other way and attached to the left-hand receiver by my left hip. Did I mention I also had a handle above the inside of both back doors to hold on to? I wasn’t going anywhere. And as it turned out…I needed those handles.
We were cruising through the east side of town down a road with two lanes on each side. As we were waiting at a traffic light, the guy next to us revved his engine as he glanced over at our Jetta. Mike looked at us, started to smile and revved his engine in return. Rick and I looked at each other with a “Is he really gonna do this???” expression on our faces and braced ourselves for a whole new meaning to the words “going for a drive”.
As soon as that light turned green, we were weaving through 35mph traffic at a good 50-60mph. At one time, Mike and the other driver had lost each other, then found each other, then lost each other once again….all the while weaving in and out of traffic. It was like the Toy Story movie when Woody lights the rocket on Buzz’s back and his lips are flapping in the wind as he tries to hold onto the racecar with all his might. Mike’s adrenaline was ramped up so high that by the second time he had lost the other driver, he screeched into a grocery store parking lot and came to an abrupt halt–hyperventilating with exhilaration (Rick and I were hyperventilating for other reasons).
Remember those handles I told you were above the back doors? I think I made my own finger grooves in them. And Rick–well, remember the nickname given to those big handles in the dashboard that were positioned in front of the passenger seat? The “Oh, _ _ _ _!!!” handle? Before we took this leisurely drive with that nice gentleman in the other car, he had no handle in front of his passenger seat. When we were done, he had made one. I can tell you this, though: I didn’t budge an inch that whole ride!
You know, it sure wasn’t the safest thing to do as a kid……that whole riding a bike down a hilly dirt road with no hands thing. No helmet, no pads, no protection at all–and those are some of my fondest memories!
What would those kids that were us back then have to say to the kids of today? (“You wear what? On where? Why??”) What about the parents? (“You let your kid wear that? On where? Why??”) Especially when it comes to riding in a car! I can remember moving all around our family van as my Dad was cruising down the highway. Nowadays, you just about get arrested for that. At the very least, the video someone has taken on their phone in the car behind you of your kid moving all over your van gets posted on CNBC, Fox News and any other T.V. show that will have panel after panel of so-called “experts” deliberating and arguing back and forth about the merits and pitfalls of such actions in today’s society.
So what would they say about “Yard Darts”?
Remember those? Two colored plastic circular tubes the diameter of a pencil made two big rings that were the targets (the boring part); then, four darts–two sets of two different colored 12-inch long, plastic-finned, 3-sided tops with heavy metal bases that came to a point–completed the ensemble (the exciting part). Ours were in a cardboard box with those happy 1970’s family posers throwing the darts at the other team’s target. Nothing but good, safe, family fun, right?
What did kids do with this family-fun game when the parents weren’t around? What every kid did! Throw those sharp pieces of kid-dom fun straight up into the air as high as possible and try to calculate trajectories to see if they’ve gotta run like a banshee to avoid being pinned to the ground. We had that big side yard to do it in, too! As I recall, sometimes my brother and I would spread out on the side yard and lob them into the air to see how close we could come to the other brother without him actually having to move.
Yep….not smart. But it sure was fun. And very memorable. Mostly due to the fact that neither one of us ever got hurt playing with those things (God was certainly true to my mother’s prayers for our protection growing up). So what’s available now? Maybe a Nerf version of what used to be a thrill ride for a kid–something “safe” and non-threatening. That’s like giving a kid a chocolate cake without the frosting. No thanks. Give me the real thing. We’ve become too “safe-sensitive” in today’s culture–not that I want to go out and buy a real Yard Darts game for my kids. But I do recognize a tendency in myself and my parenting to be over-protective and unwilling to just let my boys be the kids that they are…kids that want to do things that in my adult mind seem unsafe and unwise. Yet what did I do as a kid? Some of the exact same things I catch them wanting to do.
Us adults need to remember what some of the joys of being a kid are. And when you stop and think about it, those childhood experiences really all come down to this: sometimes the best teacher for a kid is the freedom to experience something for himself.