Summer of '76, Rita (on left), her two little sisters, her father, and her favorite truck
I was going through some of my parent's photos of my childhood and it really gave me pause about parenting in today's world. I am also reading this excellent book, Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting. This has encouraged me
to start a little series on my experiences as a 70's kid growing up and being a woman and raising my family in today's world.
I know everyone makes a big deal about how childhood was at its best in the 50's, but I will argue that the 70's was pretty darn perfect. You can see, in my photo above, our family living the 70's lifestyle (Mom was behind the camera). Yes, my stay-at-home Mom cut our hair and those patches on my jeans (Tuff-Skins???) were actually covering holes and not just for decoration. And I loved those shoes. :-)
We were poor by today's standards. But I didn't realize it until I was an adult. I remember shopping for clothes at the resale shop and getting big boxes of worn clothing from relatives in Germany. My poor little sister had it the worst, her clothes had been through at least three kids before she got them. Sorry Heather! And I remember my mother clipping coupons and watching how much she spent on groceries. I suppose as kids we knew money was tight, but we didn't worry about it. Free-range play is free (and priceless).
My Mom, a nurse, stayed at home for 13 years to raise us full-time and my Dad was a business man. We didn't eat out, never went to any movies other than an occasional dollar movie, and only took vacations to places where we could stay free at friend's or relative's homes. Thank goodness that my Dad was able to get frequent flyer miles (from work) so we could all fly to Germany to see the relatives. :-)
We lived out in the woods in a small neighborhood on a dirt road with tons of pets (cats, dogs, birds, mice, rats, chickens, ducks, etc.) and what seemed to be unlimited free outdoor playtime. We had the real world outside our door (and not on a computer screen or cell phone).
In the 70's life was so different for middle-class kids in Texas. Technology was sparse (remember Pong?), television was limited (cartoons only on Saturday mornings), not as many toys were available, and homework was almost nonexistent (it wasn't until the mid-80's that our public schools started giving students backaches and brainaches with excess homework). Not to mention that most women in our area were stay-at-home moms.
Back then the neighborhoods were filled with kids playing out in their yards and in the streets. No adult supervision, sunscreen, helmets or antibacterial soap. ;-) Sure, there were the same dangers our children face these days, but our parents were not living in fear because they didn't have 24 hour news scaring them. Kids would get hurt of course (I broke my arm falling off a horse), but parents just fixed you up and let you climb right back on (that horse). We had to be tough back then.
When school let out I took the bus home and Mom was there and I was told to go outside and play and make sure to come home before dark. I spent my afternoons, weekends, and summers exploring the woods, bike riding, fishing, playing baseball, building tree forts, chasing snakes, swimming in the creek, playing with my pets and reading books. At times I would hang out with the neighborhood kids and my sisters, and other times I would take off alone with a good book and my fishing pole. I didn't even wear shoes during the summer if I could avoid it. And yes, I did step on a few snakes. :-)
Those were the days... No one scheduled our playtime EVER. Pretty days we were told to go outside (so our moms could get some things done), and on ugly days we were supposed to play with each other in our rooms or read a good book. Our parent's lives did not revolve around entertaining us and we had to be creative and entertain ourselves.
My free-range childhood was magical. And I want my kids to experience our own version of my 70's childhood. And so far so good.
Yes, it might be difficult at times for me to fight being a SoccerMom or TaxiMom or SuperMom or NeverSayNoMom, but I am taking it day by day and enjoying the ride.
I'd give all wealth that years have piled,
The slow result of Life's decay,
To be once more a little child
For one bright summer day.
~Lewis Carroll, "Solitude"
Back to my vintage 70's photo above. You can see our old truck had a camper top on the back. Whenever I see that photo I am brought back to the times our family and two mutts would go on car trips in the hot summers. Yes, my sisters and I were stuck in the covered back with no a/c. We would be half-deaf and the spit from the dog tongues would drip in dusty dirty tracks on our bare legs and I can still smell the reek of dogs and sweat. But I wouldn't have it any other way. :-)
I want to thank Helen Ready for inspiring my new blog series title, "I am Woman, Hear Me Purr".