It was always better in our day. The music was better, the football was better…even the sweets were better.
This blog post from Speccy Woo has got me all nostalgic for the good old days. He makes some good points about modern parenting paranoia; our parents did rather let us get on with it and write the consequences off to experience. Those were more innocent times, before the culture of accountability and ambulance chasing no win no fee lawyers.
Somewhere between our parents and us something changed…someone had to take the blame if it went wrong. Someone was accountable and therefore responsible. The council, the school, police, shop owners, bus drivers….everything could have been prevented, someone was at fault.
We can’t deny this shift as it partially informs all the parenting decisions we make. That and environment.
I liked Speccy’s sepia tinged image of children running amok, kicking cans and climbing trees. My childhood wasn’t quite the same as I grew up in a London suburb and there wasn’t much greenery around. It was more cars and concrete than cows and conifers; hence some of the freedoms that were enjoyed by those away from London weren’t really available to me.
The nostalgia trip has made me think about parenting concerns as children move into their teens.
My son is growing up in a desirable London suburb, fairly central (Zone 2 for those who know these things) and hence has been similarly denied some freedoms. He’s 16 now, but over the last few years we’ve had to balance a desire to give him latitude with more practical safety concerns – within a three mile radius of home 5 or 6 boys his age have been stabbed over the last couple of years, you can often find police at 3.30 in the main road nearby heading off fights between two rival local schools, and if he comes home late at night on his own he has to change buses at a place that I always try to avoid.
So I’ll try and join the dots between younger abandonment and teenage knowing.
Some decisions are now made slightly easier for us; there is a loose infrastructure in place which may take away some of the innocence but also provides for something a little safer.
When I was 10 I was at a friend’s house for the day. We were bored so his mother gave us some money to go out to the park for the afternoon. We didn’t go. Cycling past the local tube station we decided to leave our bikes there and ride the tubes around London for the afternoon. We saw a group of men going to football at West Ham. My friend had never been to a football match (my dad had taken me to Arsenal a few times) so we decided to go. The men told us how to get to the ground and when we got there a policeman told us where the juniors entrance was. We queued, paid (surprisingly, by today’s standards, the small amount of money we were given covered all of this) and watched the game. OK, we left half hour before the end as it was a long way back and if we were late we may have been rumbled. We never told anyone where we’d been, and to this day I’ve never told my mother! (oh, and our bikes were still where we left them)
I don’t believe this could happen nowadays, which is quite possibly a good thing. I suspect that two 10 year olds on that kind of journey would at some stage alert the interest and concern of an authority figure…part of the loose infrastructure I mentioned earlier. Additionally, the cost would be prohibitive and we would have needed to have arranged tickets in advance.
An unnecessary curtailment of a child’s sense of adventure or a necessary check to ensure safety? I’d love to get your view.
But first consider this. On 25th August my son will collect his GCSE results and head straight off with some friends to the Reading Festival for 4 nights of camping, music and, no doubt, mud.
It’s now become a traditional rites of passage for 16 year olds all over the South East of England. GCSE results and Reading Festival….always happens the same day.
My parents would never have let me do that and unlike my football experience it’s hard to explain 4 nights away. But it’s more of a no brainer for me as improvements in organisation have meant that this should be a relatively safe few days. And a more enlightened education syllabus means he knows more about the good and bad of sex and drugs and rock n roll than I could ever teach him!
So, have we stripped away our kids’ chances to experiment or have we given them a wider choice and safer environment?
Let me know what you think….
Punk Rock and Spangles?? Well, the music and sweets were better in our day…or were they??