Greg likes a Facebook page called Forgotten Chicago that shows a lot of scenes of old Chicago, many of them from the time we grew up there. I imagine the Chicago I knew is long gone. But he shared one picture that reminded me of the old apartment building I grew up in. (Only mine was in worse shape!)
My apartment building had old gray back porches. They were rickety wood structures with loose boards, missing steps, and a long drop if you happened to live on the top floor like we did. Back then we used to balance on the railings and jump over the missing steps to get to the next landing.
Of course, my mother didn't know this. Any intelligent kid knew not to tell his mother about our death-defying stunts. None of us wanted to be grounded for eternity.
We had another apartment building kiddie-corner to us. We could jump on a lower flat roof of a connecting building and then onto the railings of the next building. This was our playground.
No one thought to complain to the super if we scraped our knees on the tarred roofs or stabbed ourselves with rusty nails. No one sued if a kid got hurt. If anything, we chided the kid for being clumsy.
Another strange phenomenon about our group is that no one got bullied either. Oh, occasionally a new kid would join us and try to take over the show, but it's hard to be a bully if no one pays attention to you. They either buckled down or took their bully business elsewhere.
There were leaders in our group and there were followers. The leaders (aka: the older kids) made sure no bully ever got a foothold in our group.
I'll be the first to tell you that MANY of the things we did as kids were stupid, reckless, and dangerous. And yet, I feel like I was safer then than any kid is now with all the laws, cameras, counselors, and social media watching him.
Why? I think there are two reasons.
1. Our friends. We looked after each other. One time a friend got hit by a car. He seemed fine at first but within three days he was dead. No one knew it at the time, but the accident had left him with a punctured appendix.
Patrick was one of our "leaders" so his loss was keenly felt. Yet we didn't need counselors to talk things out and understand our feelings. Even the youngest among us understood loss. We grieved and then we moved on.
2. Our selves: I have to tell you, we were a heck of a lot more self-reliant than kids today. It scares me that so many are dependent on technology and adults. I used to think I led a sheltered life (compared to my rowdier friends), but it's nothing like how today's kids are sheltered.
We learn from experience. Buffer that experience even with the best intentions and you lessen that kid's ability to solve the problem. It's a fine line to protect your child yet give him enough freedom to figure things out for himself.
A dear friend who was a generation older than me used to tell me stories of when she was a kid. She lived in the UK during WWII. One of the stories that fascinated me was when she had to go to school the next day after an overnight bombing. She and her brother would walk around the dead bodies and rubble.
Dead bodies? I asked her. Of course, she said. We had to soldier on, didn't we?
That generation was even tougher than mine. I admired their resolve.
Do you think kids are more sheltered than when you were a kid? Is being a kid today better or worse?