Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Being a Kid

I recently came across this article, Childhood: Then and Now by the fantastic blogger who calls herself V. Like V for Vendetta. Are you getting chills yet?

Anyway, she basically illustrates the differences between the carefree childhood she had back then to the joyless childhood most chilren experience now, mostly due to overprotection and fear mongering. Through her many stories, V lets readers know that as a child she fell down, she got lost, she got hurt, made friends with kids, and got humiliated, and to this day she is neither dead or too socially messed up to matter. Over the years I think parents have lost that trust that their kids are smart enough to take care of themselves—smart enough to not need them hovering over their shoulders 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

As a kid I definitely got to experience the same joys V did.
When we lived in Germany, our family would often go on trips to neighboring countries with other U.S. military families we were friends with. While our parents shopped and looked in awe at historical landmarks, us kids would run around until we saw the nearest gelato shop, only to run back and ask for a few francs or lire (no Euros back then) to buy a scoop. Let me repeat for effect: my parents allowed my sister and I to run around a foreign country with our friends. Why? Because she knew that we weren't stupid enough to get lost.

And what if we did? What about all those creepers in the world?
I remember being confronted by a sort of creeper in Italy. He was an older man selling this little light-up yoyos. At first I was interested, but said no because I didn't have money and I already had a yoyo. I left with my friends to find my parents, but the peddler kept following me, lowering his price until I said yes. I kept saying no and moved faster to our tour bus, which he followed me on until my dad angrily drove him off.

My younger sister was once lost at a water park in Belgium, and we found her holding the hand of a Belgian security guard who was desperately trying to speak to her in French. She couldn't have been more than 6 years old at the time, and she knew who to trust when she was lost.

We never fell into the hands of a rapist in a white van.
We used our inherent kid's-instinct to gauge which adults could and could not be trusted if ever we needed help.

My mom let me walk to the Shoppette (sort of a military version of a 7-11) by myself, with my I.D. proudly slung around my neck, to buy a pack of Skittles with allowance I had earned from helping her with chores. She also started leaving me home alone at 8 years old. I didn't answer the door, I didn't answer the phone until the answering machine came on and I heard my mom or dad's voice. I stayed at home, watched cartoons, didn't go outside and made simple treats for myself, like Pop-Tarts. One time I actually set the toaster on fire while toasting Pop-Tarts, and I was home alone! The first thing I did was call my mom and ask her what to do. Actually the first thing I thought was to throw water on it, but it's a good thing I knew enough to ask my mom what to do first.

As V points out in her article, kids today just don't know how to do anything without adults, even play sometimes. Adults today are so afraid of every little thing that could possibly happen and they shelter their kids from doing anything without their permission. They don't trust them. They don't trust that they'll know right from wrong, good from bad, unless mommy's there to hold their hands. And like V points out again, the same parents become so surprised when they grow up to find out that their kids are too socially retarded to do anything on their own.

We need to bring some of that back. Are there really a lot more creeps in the world, or is there just more spotlight being shed on them? With the internet, TV and radio flooding us with horrific events happening in some city or county, each little event added up leads us to believe that these things can happen every single day in every single place. While that's true, it doesn't mean we should hole ourselves up and never come out again. Just stick to some simple rules: don't let your kids out alone in the dark, make sure they know your phone numbers, how to get home, and how not to talk to strangers. If you still can't bring yourself to let your kid off its leash, then you've got some trust issues.

When I grow up and have kids, I want to model my parenting after my cousin, Kuya X (yes, we actually call him that). He, his wife and 3 kids live together in our neighborhood. Their kids play outside every day with the other neighborhood kids: skateboarding, biking, roller blading, squealing at something or another, making lines in the dirt, the things that kids are supposed to do and have fun doing. I remember when his kids were toddlers and they'd hit their heads on the coffee table, they'd get up crying and all he'd do is give their heads a once-over and go, "Ehhh, you're all right." And they'd get up and walk away, no longer crying.

They're always playing with other kids. My cousin and his wife taught them how to be social because they themselves are social, they know everybody in the neighborhood! Just the fact that they are social like that in this day and age impresses me. Oh and by the way, his twin girls, both in the 4th grade, hate Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers. They think, and I quote, that they are "lame."

Kids like these give me much hope for our future.

Again, you MUST read V's article, Childhood: Then and Now.
And then read the rest of her other articles, like I'm doing.

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