I am a father who has hit and passed the half century mark. I remember when I was child, my mother-who was not my biological mother-was a very doting mother. I could do no wrong and was sheltered from quite bit for a long time. But, even so, she never thought twice about letting me go outside and play. I would go out and play by myself or with any number of the other foster children for which she cared. At one point, I had ten ‘brothers and sisters’ to play with. We lived in an old, two story house sitting on a major thoroughfare in Richmond, Virginia.
We played with matches. We shot off model rockets. Rode our bikes through the woods behind the house. She even let the teenagers walk us across the street to the Minit-Mart to buy ‘penny candy’. We were each given two dollars and, with that, could buy about 100 pieces of candy AND get a soda with change left over. Sometimes, we would pool all of the candy use it as prizes in some stupid playing card game we made up.
We did much of this unsupervised.
And, that’s just the way it was, in the early to mid 1970’s.
Fast forward to 1997. I’m married, fat and have a child. I was probably starting to lose my hair too. I was a far cry that skinny, pasty, lanky and nerdy kid. Well, I was still pasty.
In holding my newborn, I remember all of the things I got away with, wondering how in hell I survived. If you believe everything you read then or now, I never should have it through puberty, let alone become a fat, middle aged father. But, I did. And so did many others.
Of course, all of the reminiscing I did at the time, led me and my late wife to shelter our child, much like my mother did to me. But, the difference, this time, was that we never let Chase go out and play unsupervised. Not that he really ever wanted to, unless he was with his cousins. We lived in a nice neighborhood in Chesterfield County, but it was one that did not have many children, especially those his age.
Even if it had, I don’t know that we would have changed.
As time went on, we loosened our parental grips and allowed him to do more. To our delight or dismay, I’m not sure which, the worst thing he ever wanted to do was watch the TV show COPS. Otherwise, he wanted to immerse himself in video games, the Weather Channel and Nickelodeon. Spongebob and ‘All That’. Yeah, we raised quite the rebel, we did.
Fast forward a few more years and I now have two more children. I live in a neighborhood full of kids of many age groups. April and I aren’t quite as stringent, but…yeah, we still don’t like the kids being out by themselves, we do keep an eye on them. We are very careful about whose homes that they are allowed in (for some reason, other parents are that way toward us…) but, we don’t shelter them quite as much.
I don’t want them to watch COPS. I don’t want them walking up and down the road without us. Did I say ‘i’? I meant ‘we’. Anyway, WE don’t want them seeing most of the crap WE watch. I don’t explain everthing to them…they don’t need to know. Right? Right?
I walk around a local theme park and see all of these kids with out parental units and bemuse ‘I would never let MY kids do that.’ Truth is, if we felt comfortable with the friends they hang with AND there are adults with them SOMEWHERE is that park, I probably would. I see those same kids with smartphones and think ‘I’m NOT spending that kind of money for phones for them’ when, in fact, we probably would. I see the young guys acting all dumb and goofy when the girls are around and think ‘MY son won’t be THAT way’, when, yeah, he will be.
No matter how much we protest ‘well, I did that and look at me’ the truth is you won’t know until it is that time.
Chase is a fine young man. Yes, I probably should have loosened up a bit before I did. But, I think he is who he is because, in part, of how he was raised. We weren’t perfect. We made a lot of mistakes and, I really wish a few things were different. And, while I made a point to spend an hour or two every night with only him, there are times I question whether or not I spent enough time with him. Once in a while, I feel the same now. Am I spending enough time with my kids? Probably not. But, what is ‘enough time’? With my four year old, it seems to vary on a minute by minute basis. With my nine year old, playing a game now and then and having that nightly bed time talk seems to be right.
Still, I wonder…if we were as care free about parenting today and our parents seem to have been, how would our kids turn out? Are we too protective? Should we give them more latitude as the ‘experts’ say?
I don’t know, but I think they will be fine either way.