Thursday, December 31, 2009

Things I’ve noticed while watching TV shows from the late 60s

I’ve had to spend a couple of weeks in bed recovering form two surgeries. (Henry’s meeting in the emergency room with the 101 year old woman took place moments before I was whisked away to the operating room to correct a complication from the surgery I had 5 days earlier. I‘m fine now, but it was a little exciting there for a few minutes.)

In the last two weeks, I‘ve watched the entire first season for Adam 12 on I grew up watching Adam 12. As a family, once a week we would gather around the TV after dinner and watch the latest episode. At the time, my father was going through police training and later served many years as a police officer. My father would comment of how well the two fictional characters followed police procedures or related his own experiences.

For me, watching Adam 12 is almost like watching home movies. It gives a glimpse into the world of my childhood. The clothing, attitudes, and lifestyle are familiar in a surreal sort of way. In that world, it was normal for children unaccompanied by an adult to wander all over the neighborhood, even in the big city, without a cell phone. Can you even image it?

That was my world. I walked or biked to the library or the store by myself. As a boy, my husband used to ride the bus to the library in down town San Jose from his home in South San Jose. I can’t imagine my children doing that. I have just begun letting my 15 year old daughter bike to our local library and grocery store alone.

So when did we become such helicopter parent society. Even worse, as homeschoolers, it could be argued that we are the ultimate helicopter parents. Heck, we won’t even let our kids go to school.

So where’s the balance? I remember the freedom and independence of my childhood and wish my children could experience something similar. On the other hand, I remember a lot of inappropriate and dangerous things that happened that my parents never knew about either.

I find it difficult to evaluate the risk in today’s society. I read news reports of crimes I never dreamed of as a child. Are things really that different or are we just better informed?

While I’m not willing to abandon my role as protector and guide, I think I will stick my children on a bus to visit their grandparents 20 miles away……with a cell phone…….before dark………after we‘ve tried the route once or twice with them first.

Technorati Tags : Adam 12 , hippies , the sixties , homeschool , public school , helicopter parents


christinemm said...

Hi Janine, I hope your recovery is going well. I have had the same thoughts about free and independent childhood versus helicopter parenting *and* how/if that relates to our homeschooling lifestyle.

It bothered me, when reading the book The Over-Scheduled Child (formerly titled Hyper-Parenting!)---that perhaps all the bad the author/doctor was saying would happen due to hyper parenting might (gasp) apply to homeschooling families. Certainly we have only good intentions.

The only thing I've figured out is yes, bad stuff happened to me as a child and teen due to too-permissive and hands-off parenting I had myself, but also good came of it, and the person I am today is shaped by ALL that happened. At that point I began to internally let go a bit more of my kids. Who would I have been if all my playtime was a scheduled playdate with pre-screened kids and directly supervised by my mother? Who would I be if I never had free time outdoors, hanging out bored, with the neighbor kids (some not great influences to say the least). Who would I be if my parents did not let me take the public bus to downtown New Haven at age 13 to shop in the biggest mall in the county? I not only survived but lived and thrived.

I have not reconciled this in my mind yet, how I can give my kids more experiences like I had---especially because the neighborhood with its working mothers and/or too-overbooked kids in scheduled activities makes the neighborhood empty of children, despite over 20 school aged kids living right here in these less than 20 homes in our whole neighborhood. There is no network here, no bunch of kids hanging out together, like I had. We also are not close enough to walk to stores and no city busses run through my town either (this is a rural type suburb).


Janine Cate said...

>I have not reconciled this in my mind yet, how I can give my kids more experiences like I had---especially because the neighborhood with its working mothers and/or too-overbooked kids in scheduled activities makes the neighborhood empty of children, despite over 20 school aged kids living right here in these less than 20 homes in our whole neighborhood.

That fact that so few parents and their children are home is a big factor in our parenting style. We recently found out that there is a 9 year old girl (the same age as my daughter) that lives 4 houses over from ours. I think she has lived their her entire life. It just blows my mind that we never knew that she existed until recently. Even now, we've only been able to arrange one play date since the little girl is hardly ever at home.

Milehimama said...

Funny you mention that. We've been watching Emergency on Hulu, from the early 70s. One episode, a passer by calls the paramedics because there is a baby in a car, and they think he's passed out. The paramedics break into the car and it turns out the baby is sleeping. The mother rushes out from the hair salon where she was getting her hair done - while her baby slept alone in the car- and dresses the paramedics down! And they apologize!

It is hard to find a balance. I want to have free-range kids, but I also don't want them to have confrontations with truant officers or get into trouble with others. I worry about gangs and the degeneration of culture. There aren't other SAHMs around keeping an eye on things - back then, my husband reports, if he did something half the neighborhood would call his mom!

Janine, we have the same experience. Two houses down is a boy the same age as my boys - 10ish. But I have only seen him play outside ONCE. And we've had run-ins with his dad who thinks we are too lax because we let our children walk to their friends house, hang out at the creek (which I can see from our windows!), etc. His children are scheduled and chauffered and just go out and play!

Gigi said...

I just found your blog and found this post very interesting. This topic is something I have pondered a lot about specially since I grew up in Puerto Rico where you still see children playing out in the streets.

As a child, for me in the 70's and 80's, everyone on our street came home from school and went outside to play. No one had scheduled activities during the week after school. Parents did not have sprinkler systems or gardeners so they were outside mowing, watering, and working on the yard. Most Mom's in the neighborhood were either stay at home Mom's or teacher's (they came home at the same time as the kids).

There were lots of parent's/neighbors looking out for us and people out of their homes because there was not so much TV watching, no e-mails to tend to, etc.

Janine Cate said...


That was exactly what my childhood was like too. We were always outside to play.

Janine Cate said...

I remember Emergency. We used to watch that one together as a family, like Adam 12. My father was also in the process of getting his EMT certification.

By the way, my father's first real ambulance call was for me, when I was hit by a car and critically inured on the way to school. I regained consciousness about 4 days later in intensive care.

My mother wrote about it in a letter to her parents. She said, "Janine doesn't remember the accident and Art (my poor father) will never forget.

abba12 said...

I grew up on the tail end of this, in the 90s. Thankfully I lived in the same neighborhood as many friends, and I used to be allowed to walk to the corner store. I never saw any kids on the street, but once my mum drove me to my friends houses, she would drop me off, and the others would be within walking distance. My fondest memories are of mucking around unsupervised at the park and the bush beside it, making hideouts in the frees and tunnels through the roots.

I hope to have a large family in the future, and there are many benifits of that which reflect this lifestyle. There mightn't be kids on the streets to play with, but I've seen in my husbands family, the 5 youngest children and I (9,12,14,16,18) going and playing down in the creek on their property, and the older ones, who of which were girls, enjoying themselves, even with the 9 year old tagging along! It's such a different lifestyle to the age segregated schoolkids. My husband and I, who his siblings see as equals, not authority, were able to take groups of the children places like the big city and ice skating, giving them that freedom in some ways. And when large families collide, boy let me tell you! The amount of good old fashioned fun we had, away from our computers and TVs. We had a bit of mischief too! And you know what, I don't think a bit of mischief is a bad thing. If it goes too far, rest assured there's a consequence. But I can say, for myself at least, the things we got up to as kids, both good and bad, shaped me as a person. Everyone's gotta have some bad to learn from. But parents today are trying to stop innocent mischief, and it's being replaced by drugs and armed brawls.

I want my children to have the freedom I was able to taste the end of in my childhood, but still be safe in today's world where there aren't always women at home, and children are in daycare until dark. Once thy leave daycare there's no time for play, its homework, shower, dinner, bed. There is no longer the safe knowledge that if your kids gets into trouble, or does something bad, you'll hear about it from the neighborhood. I wish that unity still existed.

I don't know whether people here realize, but in my experience, again on the tail end of freedom for kids, most parents will tell their kids intentionally that they're not to play with the kids they see mucking around on the street, because they're assumed to be troublemakers with parents who don't care. The thought is that only the poor kids and the black kids and the kids from broken homes play and muck about in town and in the park. Kids aren't allowed in the park cause only troublemakers go there. I remember how angry my mum was when she first heard that me and my friends had spent the day in town, without any specific purpose, just hanging out! That mindset is half the trouble.