August 19, 2011

"I am a child of the 1970s. What that means, in short, is that my childhood summer vacations were spent..."

"... languishing in front of the TV watching Phil Donahue and eating Boo Berry until my skin turned purple. Nobody cared if I read. Nobody cared if I wore sunscreen, or pants. I was like a house cat; my parents barely even knew if I was still living with them or whether I had moved in with the old lady down the street who would put out a bowl of food for me. In the '70s, parenting was like a combination of intense crate-training and rumspringa, so I would typically spend June through September burnt to a crisp and wandering listlessly around the city, verging on scurvy."

Writes Samantha Bee, who's now got 3 little kids and is tired of today's overachieving "tiger mother" style of parenting.

I did my childhood summers in the 1950s and 60s, and I can tell you my parents did not get the slightest bit involved in my activities. There was a community pool that we had tags to get into if we felt like going. We had bikes. What we did with these things was entirely up to us, and there wasn't a word of criticism if we chose to watch TV all day or a hint of praise if we read books or went outside. My parents never made the slightest show of putting any effort into good parenting. Looking back, I can discern that they had some principles that they stuck to, but these principles were things like self-reliance and personal autonomy, so it was hard to notice, and they didn't pontificate about these principles, which I'm only inferring they had.


Synova said...

I grew up on a farm. Pre-driving I got stir crazy by the time school started, even with several neighbors close enough to do stuff with and an honest to goodness swimming hole. Post-driving I worked.

Adults weren't a big part of the first scenario.

themightypuck said...

I always thought her bits with "husband" Jason Jones were just bits but she is actually married to Jason Jones.

Do you get another Yglesias award for watching The Daily Show?

Henry said...

My brother and I and our friends spent a huge amount of time wandering through the woods near our suburban home and inventing different football or baseball variants based on the number of other kids available. Looking back, an astonishing number of kids didn't play adult-organized sports.

My mom grew up in a small town in the 30s and 40s. My grandmother's basic rule was that once breakfast was over, kids could play, but not in the house. By the time she was five or six, my mother was not only free to roam but expected to. The understanding was that the older kids would look after the younger ones, which they did well enough.

Ron said...

I went to downtown Detroit to watching rioting...because they were showing the National Guard on my TV! Soldiers! I didn't tell my mother...

SteveR said...

Born in 1957. My dad was willing when he had time to play baseball with me, and my mother, being a librarian, encouraged my sister and I to read and took us to swim. But mostly we were entirely on our own.

Henry said...

rumspringa. Had to look that up.

Just a note -- the "Writes Samantha Bee" link is broken.

bagoh20 said...

Ditto for my childhood, and it was blissful. No therapy, no child services, no Ritalin, no bitchin', and no regrets either. Both I and my parents enjoyed those years immensely. I doubt families do so as much today.

I look back at my parents lives as parents and think: Damn, that seemed like a good time, but I would not want to be a parent today. To many busy-bodies and know-betters everywhere.

profzeb said...

I grew up in '60s, out in the boonies of northeastern Ohio. My parents were very interested in my schoolwork but not so much in my play. Why would my folks come to a Little League game? But the lines of demarcation were clear. My parents demanded respect, attendance at dinner and what used to be thought of as appropriate behavior for children. I think that they were pre-Dr. Spock.

themightypuck said...

I love the fire and forget parenting style but you need to live in a place where they can get around without a car or else you are an indentured chauffeur until they turn 16 (or later with all the new rules about kids driving).

Phil 314 said...

I had mixed emotions recently when visiting DC and walking on the Mall in the early evening seeing organized (meaning leagues)games of kickball (adults)

I was heartened because as a kid it was not only a great school recess game but a good one for summer (if you didn't have enough who could play baseball)

I was disheartened because it was 1) organized and 2) adults.

(And on a similar note I wonder if kids go "play in the woods" anymore?)

fivewheels said...

Born in '68. My memory is that as younger kids, riding our bikes around was kind of the end in itself, not that we needed any destination in particular. But eventually we'd end up at the hardware store, a pretty fun place to window shop for a boy back then. Then we built bike ramps. Probably not the kind of unsupervised construction project a helicopter parent would approve of.

SunnyJ said...

Back in the 50's living in a small town just outside of Madison, WI on a lake. Up in the AM and gone until hungry from being in the water all day, and fall into bed hearing the sound of water sloshing in your ears.

I'd bring my dad a few beers and talk him into giving me money to ride my bike all the way across town to the Root Beer Stand, could be 9PM, get the root beer and bring it back and he'd make us floats. Just the two of us sitting on the screen porch.

This was a time when at 8 yrs old I could ride my bike down to the corner grocery and pick up beer and cigarettes for my dad and just charge it and ride home.

My daughter is now 19 and I've tried hard in this nanny state world to give her as much freedom and choices as possible. How will these people know how to fight for their freedom if they never have any?

Anonymous said...

Aside from the occasional trips to the feelies or the Centrifugal Bumble-puppy courts, my summers as a kid were spent taking soma or throwing dirt clods at the Alpha-Plus kid down the block.

m stone said...

Teen in the 60's when the sun-drenched days on Long Island were all spent outdoors playing pick-up games of baseball and later tennis. No adults, no organization, but real activity. Lord of the Flies without the violence but orderly nonetheless. My greatest memories. Bliss.

pm317 said...

to Samantha Bee, boohoo.. I was a child of the 60s growing up in India. We didn't have a TV but did have record player later in my teens. My parents were keen observers, like the kind who would give you the confidence that they will catch you if you fell, metaphorically speaking. I remember my dad taking me to the neighborhood library when I was 10. I did very well in school, so there was no need to say anything. But I was the youngest and the sixth child and I joke that they probably had lost the parenting zeal by then. No, they didn't put up my older siblings to take care of me either. They were very much there only when and if I needed them.

Anonymous said...

Born in 62, we lived in a circular subdivision in a rural area.

All large families; 13, 11, 8; just four kids in my family.

Morning chores-you're out for the day, don't come home until supper-

The only thing I needed permission for was riding our bikes to Dale's Market for candy.

Once there, the shakedown began-

Who's Ma gave who what--a nickel, dime, quarter-

It all went into a pot, then we bartered with Dale at the counter to get as much candy as possible.

Damn, I feel sorry for kids today.

The Drill SGT said...

am about ann's age. Beyond a summer around 3rd or 4th grade where my mother, a teacher was told I had a reading problem, and spent the summer reading and reading, it was pretty much bikes and the pool all summer. On the reading problem, went into a gifted program in 4th grade...

Jana said...

Grew up in the 80s, and my childhood is pretty similar to these here. My mom started a job when I was 10, and we were on our own.

Today's stressed-out tiger moms need to read Bryan Caplan's, "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids."

chuckR said...

I grew up in rural western NY in the 50s and 60s. My parents, and the parents of my friends, always knew where we were, within a six mile radius, give or take. They made sure they had enough spare kids, just in case, and were somewhat relaxed about monitoring our activities. We were the better for it.

vnjagvet said...

I grew up in the mid 40s through the early 50s

Unless it was teeming rain, we were playing outside with a core group of 10-20 neighborhood kids. Pick up softball, basketball and touch football, 50 scatter and capture the flag, scavenger hunts, bike riding, cowboys and indians, guns, war, dirtball and snowball fights, and building snow forts were just some of the activities we participated in. These activities had one thing in common. We organized all of them more or less spontaneously. No adults were involved in any way.

When it was time to eat, parents all over the neighborhood whistled, yelled, rang bells and otherwise summoned us home for a brief recess of a meal with the family. After that, we went "out to play" until dark.

When it rained too hard, we read or listened to the radio.

Our first organized sports generally began in six, seventh or eighth grade. Again, parents were not involved and you either made the team or you did something else.

Except within the house, parenting back then in our neighborhood was laissez faire. Nonetheless, most of the kids in my neighborhood graduated from college and successfully raised families of their own.

I am sure my parents would be astonished at the protectiveness, control and angst of parenting today.

Michael K said...

My childhood was much like that. I would have fainted dead away if my father had come to see me play baseball. He did come out one time and take movies of me playing golf at age 10.

We would rent a cottage, sometimes sharing with another family, for the month of August and my father would commute from Chicago. Even there, the kids were on their own and the adults partied.

The child centered parenting now is unhealthy, as far as I am concerned. I took vacations with my kids, usually taking our sailboat to Catalina Island for a week. The rest of the time, they were pretty much on their own although they played bobbysox and little league.

I did take my 16 year old son in the sailboat race to Hawaii. Most of the rest of the crew were teenagers, too. Some "helicopter parents" might consider that abuse.

Freeman Hunt said...

Do people forget that we can actually look at the results of the parenting of the 50's, 60's, and 70's?

No thanks.

Freeman Hunt said...

A huge part of our cultural problem stems from the parents of Boomers not passing on their values. Children do not raise themselves well.

Freedom, yes. Feral live-for-me-do-whatever-I-feel-like-ness, no.

Freeman Hunt said...

I listened to an interview with the "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids" author. Based on that, I think blogs have misrepresented his work. I see it summarized as "nothing parents do matters," but in the interview he noted that character, values, and love within familial relationships is very much shaped by parents. (It's thinks like achievement and IQ that aren't.)

Since you do affect the things that matter, you should care how you are affecting them.

C R Krieger said...

I suspect, from my own experience (born in '42) and the comments that the driver is the number of kids.  "chuckR" said it.  Enough extra kids.

We had a lake (with lifeguard) on the other side of town and I rode my bike there a lot during the summer, by myself.

As for Freeman Hunt's comment, I distinguish between those of us who were before the Baby Boomers and the Baby Boomers, especially the later Boomers.

Regards  —  Cliff

edutcher said...

Born in '48, my Mom would throw me out of the house in good weather because we lived in a safe place on the Main Line (but hardly upscale). She knew where I was, but I had freedom to roam around.

And, yes, my parents did work very hard to inculcate their principles (some took, others didn't) in me.

Ann Althouse said...

My parents never made the slightest show of putting any effort into good parenting. Looking back, I can discern that they had some principles that they stuck to, but these principles were things like self-reliance and personal autonomy, so it was hard to notice, and they didn't pontificate about these principles, which I'm only inferring they had.

Well, now we know where that Obama vote came from.

WV "ledud" An unexploded French shell.

Hanah said...

One summer when I was in middle school (this was in the early 90s), I discovered that The Flintstones was on continuously from 7 AM until midnight, but you had to change channels a number of times.

paminwi said...

My mom got a swing set one year for Mother's Day. She wanted us out of the house to play. We also had a corn field in our backyard. Tag through the summer got more and more interesting the higher the corn grew. The older we got the more we hated the field because we had to pick rocks for the farmer each year before he would plant. Unless you lived in the country you never even heard of picking rocks - but - it was a way to earn some money. That way you could go the local "drugstore" for penny candy, or ice cream bars! No allowance in my home - just do your chores, you're a member of this family, you don't get paid for being a member of the family!

Really, life was good.

rcocean said...

Favorite childhood memory: Playing till dark on a summer's day, playing till you couldn't see the ball or the opposing player.

Then, getting on my bike and bicycling home in the warm night on the empty streets.

chuckR said...


My parents may not have known where I was with less than a six mile CEP, but they expected a certain level of behavior regardless. OCD-level helicopter parenting doesn't necessarily equate to expecting good behavior.

wv - thesp - what thespians do

Freeman Hunt said...

I would also point out that the world that was doesn't exist anymore. If you let your kids go over to whoever's house, you have no idea what kind of house that is. Do the parents allow their kids to have unsupervised Internet and television in their rooms? Rather than sending them outside to play baseball are the parents at the other house fine with them sitting around play X-box 24/7? Who do they have over there? Do the other people there have any sense of propriety or is it a house full of vulgarians?

Imagine a world with no judgement. Imagine a world with no standards. It shouldn't take much. You live in it.

The Drill SGT said...

lived in a post WW2 tract home community. moved in in 55. almost all of the families had kids in the same range 4-9. Bro and I were 2 and 5.

point is that the families had a well developed intel net. you could not get out of line anywhere in 2 miles without it getting back to Mom.

Our house backed onto the elementary school where we went and my mother taught. Talk about overwatch :)

On the other hand, I won the Chem prize in HS, would have one Physics, but it was an unwritten rule....

Did a lot of things that would be called bomb making now.

loved making rocket fuel and lighter than air lifters. (first you disassemble the gas meter...)

I screwed up my knee in 11th grade, Chem year.. wanted to be a ChemE. Instructor would send home the materials so combined with my gear, I could stay with the class, while my knee healed.

Potassium Chorate is my friend....

am surprised that I still have an IQ, given all the metallic Mercury, I handled.

Anonymous said...

When I was young, we lived along the Wasatch Front in Utah.

My friends and I used to go up on the mountains with our bicycles whenever we felt like it (pushing them up, riding them down)

We never told our parents, and they didn't care.

And my friend's father when he was 13 (in southern Utah) used to be sent up on the mountain with his teenage brothers and cousins to get the sheep down after summer.

He'd be given a rifle, some food, and one of the horses, and his parents would say "See you in three days with the sheep."

Roux said...

I grew up in the 60's and my parents were always there but didn't plan a whole lot of play or activities for me and my friends. We ran the neighborhood like we owned it and we did made up our own games and rules.

In the summer I remember my Mom chasing us back outside except to eat lunch or go to the bathroom. If we were thirsty there was a hose. If we were hot there was a shade tree.

We played football, tag, baseball, hide-n-seek, threw dirt clods, shot bb guns, caught snakes, etc... and it was a wonderful childhood.

We had to be home when the street lights went on and my Dad would whistle for us to come home.

What a great childhood I and my friends had.

rcocean said...


I think many of boomer parents thought (naively) that schools would pass on the values they got from school. They also didn't understand the toxic effect of TV,drugs, and some other things on many Kids.

Too many of them didn't realize times had changed, for the worst. Also, many of them were reacting against their "Spare the rod, spoil the child" upbringing.

MadisonMan said...

There is really very little that is more tiresome than a new-ish mother who thinks she has some novel outlook on life based on her own upbringing.

Trust me Samantha Bee, it's all been said before and you are not being profound.

The Drill SGT said...

chlorate duh

chuck b. said...

I turned 11 in 1980, so I have summer memories of childhood from the 1970s and 80s--all of it very suburban California. My dad was a high school art teacher and taught summer school photography classes in the 70s. I went to class with him every day. While he taught, I wandered around doing my own pinhole photography, or stayed in his office coloring and/or making collages. After class, we'd go to Foster's Freeze, or A&W. The weekends were almost always spent camping in the Sierra (Fish Camp, in Yosemite!), or up north in the redwoods.

My favorite summer in the 1980s, and the only one that really stands out, was 1984 when I went to stay with my aunt in Sacramento, and took geometry in summer school there. She had a Victorian at 27th and S St with 8 bedrooms upstairs and a pinball machine in the basement. That was my first "independent-away-from-home" experience, between freshman and sophomore year. I devised the whole plan on my own, and didn't have to lobby very hard to get it. But I was a good kid, and usually got my way.

Anonymous said...

Suburbia in the 70's. Same here, my mom had a big bell outside the back door that she used to call us to lunch and dinner. If the sun was out, she had no idea where we were.

Back then, if your daughter didn't get pregnant and your son didn't get arrested then you were a good parent.

Today I am surrounded by super parents, helicopter moms, planned (and expensive) everything and there is a lot of pressure to keep up. In two weeks my three year old daughter is starting a pre-pre-k program that, for one year, will cost more than my entire four year undergraduate education. But it's where every 3 year old in the neighborhood is going so she has to go.

Nevertheless, I am a firm believer that this stuff is not as hard as we make it.

Carol_Herman said...

We were in Vietnam.

Young men of 18 were still being drafted.

Then, after 1972 ... Nixon walked into reprisals because J. Edgar Hoover died. And, Mark Felt wasn't going from the second spot. Up the ladder.

Woodward had attracted Mark Felt's attention. Call it what you want.

But Nixon got hit "with the pizza pie in da' eye. And, he fell down ... Just as current journalists are out to do.

They got Christine McConnell. And, they thought they got Sarah Palin. But Sarah Palin pops back up again.

The 70's also had OPEC changing the structure of America, just by hiking the cost of a barrel of oil. And, then they bought political families.

Don't think the saud's expected Americans to stop driving so much, though. $5 a gallon for gas ain't all that unusual in Europe.

Hope people listen to Trump.

Oh, yeah. In 1976 the Evangelicals through their votes to Jimmy Carter. Who said he was "born-again." Talk of labels that disappear from view!

And, Obama, if he's smart, won't get caught wearing a yellow sweater.

The 1970's were interesting times. To finance a home by the time 1981 rolled around, the price of a mortgage fixed rate was at 17%.

MadisonMan said...

Our TV got 2 channels: CBS and PBS. The neighbors across the street had cable. I spent a lot of time there in Jr. High.

I had a job, sometimes two, and I read a lot. I was the youngest, too, so my parents didn't worry about me. My sister, the oldest, who is althouse's age, really wore them out. She lost the family car once.

Milwaukee said...

I too was born in the late 50's. I remember once in a while my mom would sound the alarm for a trip to the library, where we would return grocery sacks of books. Breakfast sort of appeared, and then my mom would be busy doing something during the day. Many summers she would sign us up for some sort of rec. department fun, like tennis lessons. Those would last a week or two, and then we would forget about them. Her attitude towards school was that school was for us. She left it to us to do our homework and get decent grades. My dad needed to eat when he came home from work, so organized sports such as football, were out of the question. Thank God for that. We played games and rode our bikes in a designated area, being sure to turn up for dinner.

There is a woman who suggests we need to "take your kids to the park and leave them" on the Saturday before Memorial Day weekend. Her theory is that if a bunch of parents did that, kids would find their own games, and raise a stink if some perverted adult bothered them. Kids can make games on their own. I say "Good Idea!"

Skyler said...

The lesson to note here is that Baby Einstein doesn't get your child into Harvard.

My brother's kids have had every moment of their lives planned out and coordinated. Seems a bit much to me, but they are good kids nonetheless.

Known Unknown said...

Must Paul Zrimsek win every thread?

PackerBronco said...

We live in the country. We have 6 children. The next door neighbors have 4 kids and 11 kids. There's a nature conservancy nearby with a spring-fed swimming hole. It's like living in a Norman Rockwell painting.

Once. Just once, I put my kids (age 7) in youth soccer. My wife and spent an hour watching a bunch of kids vainly trying to kick a ball while the parents yelled encouragement. I turned to my wife and said, "I don't intend to waste my time with this again." She readily agreed and the kids thought the whole affair was pretty stupid.

TTBurnett said...

If you want to read the most gripping, unbelievably harrowing, knock-down account of spectacularly bad parenting and the lifelong effects of what it's really like to be the child of this, read Jane Devin's "Elephant Girl."

I think because it hit so close to home, this book has affected me probably more than anything I've ever read. I knew Jane Devin could write because of her blog, but this is incredible.

The Amazon reviews are unanimous in how powerfully this book has struck some people. (I even wrote one of them.) OTOH, it may not be for everybody. I think a lot of people from happy or relatively normal homes, whether they were ignored or not, would have a hard time believing, much less relating to what's in this book.

Those of us who have been through at least B-grade abusive childhoods on the edge of a desert will, however, identify with both the details of the childhood and the effects on the adult. I always used to think I wouldn't wish my childhood on my worst enemy, realizing it wasn't as physically abusive as it could have been, and that, at least until I was 13 or 14, we had a reasonable income. However, if there is a Bad Childhood event in the Hell Olympics, I think the judges would give Jane Devin a 9.2, 9.6 and a 9.7. If I'm feeling sorry for myself, I sometimes think I merit a 5.5, but my actual score would probably be a 3.3 or 3.5. It was still horrible, but a real amateur job compared to what happened to Jane.

Getting carelessly schlepped off to child pornographers at 9 and raped at 15 while in a juvenile detention camp are only some of the scene-setting my own vanilla-flavored bad childhood can't begin to match.

Also, because this is a story of a woman's struggles, including her ultimate understanding of herself as a lesbian, you might think this could get all too Women's Studies-ish. Not one bit. I'm a straight, middle-aged guy with a taste for Dryden, Addison and Swift, and I found this book lived up to its apt subtitle, "A Human Story."

I seldom enthuse about books or comment here much any more, but I had to mention this. It's something powerful and real. Millions of children have suffered what Jane Devin did, but no one I've found has had the talent, willpower, and ultimately sheer love in her soul to tell about it in anything like this way.

Teri said...

Grew up in suburbia late 60s early 70s. Rode my Schwinn banana seat bike EVERYWHERE even 8 miles to midtown. (It was all downhill, then my mom would come pick me up.) Explored the woods a mile from our house for hours on end.

Other than that, I could sit in the house and read absolutely all day. My mother used to chase me out of the house and tell me to stop reading so much and get some exercise!

caplight said...

RareLy do I disagree with Freeman but I think it was good that we made our own fun. Born in '51 we played our own games of baseball, organized our own basketball leagues, explored woods, rode bikes everwhere and still hung around our parents and neibors' parents to pick up values. Loved to hear the men tell war stories and sports stories. That world of safety doesn't exist, that I agree. But the change from the parent centered family to the child centered family in my opinion has created a generation who thinks they are the center of the universe and parents, especially mothers, who are constantly worn out from directing their kids lives.

Carol_Herman said...

Well, there are some parents who are disappointed in their children.

Winston Churchill's come to mind. He loved his wife. He and Clementine had about 4. Randolph inherited his mother's good looks. But came i low on the IQ score.

One daughter became an actress.

So Winston Churchill just clammed up.

Here? There are kids who think their parents didn't measure up. I was taught parents didn't have to. They were all too human. Just like us.

I also learned that only stupid parents made a fuss about their kids' adult choices. It was a good way never to see the grand kids. Wasn't one of those tiffs that really ever paid off.

Though my dad did acknowledge that some of his friends, who worked their fingers to the bone. To send their kids to haarvahd. Rarely got much of a thank you.

If anything, said my dad, too many of these kids were embarrassed because their parents spoke with foreign accents.

Is this a European thing?

Are Asians more protected?

Raising families isn't done the same way all over. There really are different cultural approaches.

caplight said...

And lived in a world where any parent in our neighbor hood could correct you or drag you to your mother or father. We did not live in standardless world. Even argued politics with other parents as I got older.

TTBurnett said...

I think because of our own different, but difficult childhoods, and the general tone of the times, both my wife and I hovered too much and over-scheduled and over-directed our boys' growing up.

Now that they're 14 and 17, they both have learned to be quite independent, have good friends, and can motivate and entertain themselves.

I think too much helicoptering practiced by parents of the Millennials has had nothing like the bad effects of unloving, rotten parenting, as described in the book I mentioned. I think kids will be okay as long as they are loved.

JAL said...

@ tim But it's where every 3 year old in the neighborhood is going so she has to go.


The Scythian said...

I think that the important thing to keep in mind here is that, no matter what style parents adopt, the kids will grow up into adults who wish for something different -- usually something close to the opposite. And that's what they'll give their kids.

JAL said...

That's timmaquire42, not tim.

Tari said...

In the 70s my mother in law would go to work in the summer and leave a few dollars for my husband and his brother "in case you want to take a cab to the club to swim." This in North St. Louis, starting when they were 6 and 9. My parents weren't much better - but we were in a town of 500 people, so their neglect didn't matter as much. To be honest, parents kinda sucked back then. Being raised like jackals isn't as fun as it sounds.

virgil xenophon said...


LOL "dirt-ball!" (we called them "clod-fights"--had A LOT of dirt piles from the construction across the street as EIU was building the Library) You have almost EXACTLY described my childhood. Born in 44, I grew up on a college campus (East Ill Univ) in a small farm community in East-Central Ill. In those days faculty housing was a series of WWII tar-paper barracks next to campus arranged much like WWII prisoner-of-war camps or any military installation, really. Playmates were aplenty and we had the countryside just off campus (which was at the edge of town in those days) to explore also. In the summer many was the day as I got older when I would jump on my bike in the am and ride all over town more or less as an end in itself as fivewheels, above makes note, perhaps stopping at my grand-parents house uptown (or my aunt's across the street) for lunch, then resuming my wandering and returning home at dusk. Or more usually, as we had mandatory 1/2 day summer-school at the Lab school in un-airconditioned bldgs that were blasting hot, I'd grab a quick lunch at home, then head for the City pool for the rest of the day on my bike. (And profzeb, SunnyJ, Henry are on target as well--hell, not only just them, looks like A LOT of us commenting here had similar childhoods.) Ah, memories of 50s care-free, no crime small-town mid-western life..

PS: I'm a viet vet also: USAF F-4s @DaNang 67-68.

William said...

Who knew that there were this many happy childhoods in America? It's kind of encouraging.....I spent all my days at the ballfield. We'd play catch until such time as enough kids showed up to have a game. There were never enough for full teams, but enough to play. Baseball really is the summer game. You can play it for hours and hours on a hot day.... I always thought that some day it would all come together and that I would become a fine athlete and go on to fame and fortune in the major leagues.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

As a '49er I've never felt part of my generation, in large part because my parents were half a generation older than those of most boys I hung around with. Depression and war delayed a lot of lives, including those of my parents.

Consequently they inculcated values not shared by the parents of my friends. The issue is not that of freedom, it is -- as today -- that of values.

My friends' parents taught them "use freedom for yourself." My parents taught me "use freedom for others." In a phrase, I was taught to be self-reliant, but not self-referential.

Half a century later I still treasure it.

JAL said...

So what happened?

You read the descriptions here, and granted this is a self selected group -- but you / we all had relatively unsupervised summers, lots of freedoms, parents who practiced benign neglect, many fond memories, lots of outdoor self directed and often random activities ...

And what did we get?

Intense super parents who drive. me. crazy.

(Or people who should have to apply for a license before they even think about having a kid.)

Now we video monitor the kid while he is sleeping.

We have huge stores completely dedicated to providing clothes and furniture which the child will use maybe for 2 months to 3 years and we spend more than our parents spent on all the furniture in their house even at inflation adjusted prices.

The kids have to play an instrument and participate in organized sports throughout the whole year and run for student government and take at least 5 AP classes which means mom and dad have to turn themselves into pretzels so Johnny and Jane can get into Chapel Hill or Duke.

I think we became so materially able to provide we upended the values becasue we thought we had to provide whatever and more.

I have had mothers tell me that it was really important that their kids like them.

I cannot fathom where that comes from. But I will observe that these are the mothers (clients) who are going through hell with their daughters.

As for the push to over educate early? My take? You can go to school the rest of your life.

You only get to be a kid once.

Ralph L said...

My 10 y.o. niece seems to enjoy annoying her middle-aged parents, especially at meals. I think if they'd had more kids, she might have turned out better. She reminds me of what my grandmother (born 1898) remembered her grandmother (born 1839) saying to her mother, "Why don't you whip her, Jennie Bet?"

I remember getting my training wheels off at 5 and immediately riding down the hill into a telephone pole, bloodying my nose. I don't think my parents worried about me wandering too far after that.

Anonymous said...

One other thing I remember, and now miss, was the fruit we'd have during the summer. There were orchards all along the foothills; now all converted to housing tracts.

Each year the first fruit would be apricots, and we'd gorge ourselves on them.

Then came the cherries, and the peaches. We were allowed to take from the bushels my parent's bought (my mom bottled fruit) and eat as many as we wanted.

Later the pares would come, then the apples.

And I remember sitting in my friend's cherry tree and eating everything we could reach.

I also remember having fruit fights with the kids that each year would visit their grandparents in the yard behind my friends.

Each summer, for a few years, we'd be hanging around my friend's back yard when a peach would come whizzing past us.

We knew the kids had arrived to visit their grandparents, and the week-long war was on.

We'd spend mornings building fortifications, and afternoons throwing fruit and dirt clods at each other.

We didn't know anything about torts or personal injury lawyers.

If there was a rock in the dirt clod and you hit someone with it, the most harm it caused was a complaint or a baby-cry.

TTBurnett said...

JAL: From what I've seen at my youngest's former school, where I will be teaching next year, the over-directed, over-protected, etc. Millennials are more passive and respectful of authority than older generations. I've read that there is good sociometric data supporting this observation.

I have no idea what this means, ultimately. But as a minority of one (so far) around here who admits to a bad childhood, I think over-direction and over-protection are not as bad as their opposites, with which I've had a more than passing acquaintance.

JAL said...

@ Youngblood

I don't wish for something different than what I had. (Which included setting fire to a field behind the neighborhood and have the mother of a freind tower over us with soul piercing eyes saying "You started the fire. I can see it in your eyes.")

Scared me to death.

But here I am.

My mother went out with a broom and had the whole thing beat out by the time the volunteer fire department arrived.

I should ask my kids if they would have wanted their childhood different. I kind of think not so much.

We live in a fabulous place and my Army kid grew up swinging off the side of the mountain on grapevines and building a hut up there with a friend that they would camp out overnight in all the time. Well, there was the time they started assembling PVC mini pipe bombs ...
Hubby had a meeting with the other dad and that ended.

One daughter had her horse in the front yard and another doctored the doll and the dog in the dirt. Now she doctors people. Usually not in the dirt, but sometimes.

The one who became the flaming liberal ordered an invisible suit and it arrived in the mail not too long after. He's 40 now so I expect his kind words in the last year are a sign that he is realizing it doesn't work. The suit or the politics.

I told them if they could read they would never be bored.

wv notion
How's that for a novel notion?

bagoh20 said...

"I am sure my parents would be astonished at the protectiveness, control and angst of parenting today."

Mine would laugh and think today's parents have a mental illness. They may be right.

Freeman: "Do people forget that we can actually look at the results of the parenting of the 50's, 60's, and 70's?
No thanks."

I don't think there was much different parenting style prior to the 50s either. The difference, I believe, was TV and Radio. This media quickly dominated kids input of the culture.

I know I got most of my values from those TV and movies rather than my parents. Your parents don't spend much time showing who are the heroes and who are the villains compared to all the ones you see on the screen. In the beginning this matched our parents values, but quickly evolved.

The media began to show us mostly the dysfunctional, and indulgent in our village, and like it or not, it does take a village.

Parenting didn't change in the 50's and 60's, the culture did. The less responsible people in our village got a much bigger voice in those decades and it's been getting worse ever since. Now the parents are trying to enforce their values in opposition to the media messages. It's a battle, and for the most part, the modern media is the enemy.

bagoh20 said...

So parents may be simply adapting to the threat they see that is the modern general culture. It may be both unfortunately overbearing,but also necessary. Once again, I blame the left. I think I can find a link to leftism with all of our present-day problems. Not liberalism, which was once a good thing, but leftism, which has never been a plus.

JAL said...

Sorry tim -- I was actually quoting timmaquire42. :-P

I can appreciate the pain of having absent and / or bad parents as I work in the mental health field and have heard some pretty sad and horrifc tales.

I am sorry you missed much of what the good was which is being shared here.

I appreciate your book suggestion and will make a point to locate a copy of Devin's book. Thank you.

I was questioning the other tim's this: In two weeks my three year old daughter is starting a pre-pre-k program that, for one year, will cost more than my entire four year undergraduate education. But it's where every 3 year old in the neighborhood is going so she has to go.


pm317 said...

@Quayle And I remember sitting in my friend's cherry tree and eating everything we could reach.


We had a fabulous guava tree in the front yard of my parent's home. Once my friend ate some 15 of them at once and I don't remember her falling sick. Good times.

JAL said...

@ bago
The thing which has bothered me over the years and in raising my kids is the way the narrative had to be skewed so that heroes were not longer heroes with integrity who did the right thing at sometimes great sacrifice.

Those were supposed to be fake people and only two dimensional. There really weren't any people like that....

So the "heroes" became "flawed" in order to be more "realistic."

And kids grew up without heroes.

The funny thing is that in recent years my husband and I have been struck by how many amazing stories of huge heroism we are readiung about from World War II, Vietnam, and in our present conflicts.

Men and women did heroic things which changed the world which followed them.

Devaluing, marginalizing and trivializing the ordinary heroes who did extraordinary things ... by even just ignoring them or telling us these people are not "real" -- that has served our children and ourselves poorly.

Carol_Herman said...

I loved Montessori. First my son had to stop shitting in his diaper. But once he got the idea, the next thing he knew I took him up to the top of Altadena Drive. I'd drive up, again, around noontime. School let out. And, lots of the kids stayed to play.

He'd wave me off. He wanted to know why I had to come and get him. Since he like the play as much as he liked the classroom stuff.

Montessori just let's kids go at their own pace. Peers who get the hang of things, teach another kid. Everything they play with goes down on a little rug. And, the only rule I could see, is that they had to put things back into place. Before they could start another activity.

I don't remember it being outrageously expensive, either.

vnjagvet said...


I suspect I heard you taking off and landing while trying to find a ride on my way to Hue, Dong Ha, or Camp Carroll.

I even may have seen you at the AF Officer's club knocking down beers or other adult beverages and grilling steaks your cohorts flew in from Japan on huge charcoal grates. I took advantage of that any chance I got.

I was in country from May 1967 to May 1968.

Carol_Herman said...

I remember something else about Montessori. She broke chores down into steps.

She said if you told a kid to clean a table, they'd be at a loss. But if you broke table cleaning down into 17 steps, even the youngest among her pupils pitched in.

"17 steps" means you put the task in order. You don't vary the order. But the kid learns to clean a table because its easy for a kid to "follow steps." Like a well laid out map.

These things are not intuitive.

Good parenting is taught.

And, the best of lessons comes when kids begin to trust others with the same intensity they trust their moms. It also lets them feel safe.

Carol_Herman said...

Back in the 1960's ... there was a book that followed Cinderella into her marriage.

More like Princess Diana's marriage, than anything else.

The Scythian said...


I probably phrased what I was thinking incorrectly.

What I have observed, both directly and indirectly, is that adults tend to carry all of this baggage with them about the things that they wish they had (or didn't have) when they were younger.

For example, my mother grew up in a very strict household with an overbearing mother. If you cornered her, she'd certainly say that she had a happy childhood.

When she looked back on her childhood, she remembered lots of good things, but she also remembered a lot of stuff like the kids she was forbidden to hang out with, the lack of freedom that came with an intrusive mother, and so on.

As a parent, she adopted a very laissez faire approach.

My dad grew up dirt poor with a lot of brothers and sisters, so there was never enough of anything to go around. To hear him tell it, he loved his childhood.

As a parent, he was never happy unless we had more material things than we needed -- an overflowing cupboard, new clothes, etc.

I was born in the mid-1970s, so I did the bulk of my growing up in the 1980s. For the most part, my friends and I had little supervision and few meaningful limits. It was pretty crazy.

I don't have kids, but a lot of my friends do, and all of them have this big thing about being really involved in their childrens' lives in an overbearing way. As a general rule, their relationships with their kids are all about structure and limits...

Except my best friend.

See, he grew up in a strict house with overbearing parents who vetted everything -- his friends, the movies he watched, the food he ate, everything.

He and his wife are adopting a really laissez faire approach with their kids.

Now me, I loved my childhood. I had so much fun running free like a "red Indian" (politically incorrect, I know).

But, if I did have kids a few years ago, my relationship with them would probably be all about rules, structure, and involvement. Because those were the things that I didn't get, and there's a part of me that regrets that.

It's not a question of happiness, as even a lot of people with bad childhoods remember them fondly. But we want those things that our parents didn't (or couldn't) give us.

Does that make more sense?

virgil xenophon said...


LOL. Well, they most undoubtedly did cross, as my tour was Oct 67-Oct68. Good ole Kevin Bacon "six-degrees of separation" stuff and we didn't even know it! :)

TTBurnett said...

JAL: I'm not complaining or self-pitying. It's just that whether kids go to an exclusive summer camp in Carmel or the Berkshires, or if they splash around at the "Y" or with a hose in the backyard, it's the parents' love that counts.

Whether they get into Harvard or Fitchburg State or join the Army, or become a clerk at Stop & Shop, it's the parents' love that matters.

That's all we have. You can build a life with love, no matter what, but without it, all the success and material advantages in the world will not make up for its lack.

Of course, real love means paying attention to your child, knowing your child, and knowing when to get out of the way.

vnjagvet said...

Do I remember the Da Nang AFOC correctly, Virgil or was it just a dream?

Billiam said...

I grew up in the late 60's, early 70's. As profzeb said, no dr. Spock at our house. Mom worked, and I didn't meet dad until my 14th birthday. Mom insisted on homework getting done, and proper comportment. When I crossed the line, either she would meet out punishment, or she'd call my uncle. Then things would get a little ugly for me.

I remember we were poor, but I still had the one thing a kid should have. A bike. The rule in summer, be home when the street lights come on. Dinner was always at the table, and you were expected to talk and share your day.

I was also given permission at an early age to use the lawnmower to make some spending money for myself. I'd make $2.50 for a double lot. That bought a burger, fries and a malted at the Woolworth's lunch counter, and a Monogram model plane. Good times, though hard. It made for a closeness that continues today.

IceCreamMan said...

My childhood in a small town outside of Milwaukee was idyllic. A lake, bikes, a hundred acre wood (referred to simply as "The Woods"), and lots of other children. Our free time was our own, and there was lots of free time. Particularly in the summer. We would take off in the morning, maybe come home for lunch, and were home for supper (or else!). Some of the families even had bells to call the kids home.

There were tragedies though. My brother, when I was eight and he was ten, was killed playing baseball (a ball to the chest). It was an impromptu game in a vacant lot we regularly used for such purposes. I never heard anyone say, and the thought never occurred to me, that his death was the result of our childhood freedom.

Yet today, such an occurrence would probably raise questions of whether children should be able to play such games with out proper equipment and adult supervision. There would probably even be questions about whether we had adequate supervision all around.

The following year, one of my close friends, also ten years old, was accidentally killed with a pellet gun. The boy wielding the gun was an older boy being utterly stupid. While there was talk that such "toys" should be banned, most people seemed to recognize that it was the stupid actions that killed my friend, not the inanimate object, or our childhood freedom.

I do not believe these tragedies are representative in any way, but certainly, the freedom we enjoyed as children had its risks. However seeing the life children lead today, we have lost something by trying to protect and control our children 24 hours a day. Without freedom, liberty, and a modicum of risk taking, life has to suck.

virgil xenophon said...


If you've come back, sorry I had to break & run, but I'll just say this: In many ways it ALL seems like a dream in retrospect, but on other days it seems like just yesterday--funny how the mind works..

lemondog said...

(And on a similar note I wonder if kids go "play in the woods" anymore?)

Oooooh.......... ticks.....bad men lurking.......polluted water.......wild rabid things.......

Used to walk up the gravel paved road leading onto an unpaved dirt make-shift road then over a creek with 2 log bridge and down to the creek bed to wade in greenish water and catch frogs under towering sequoia trees.

Daniel Fielding said...

@ PM317: where in India did you grow up? It was the Northeastern State of Meghalaya for me, during the later part of the 1970s. All I remember is spending long days playing soccer or cricket, or sitting in mango or guava and jackfruit trees!!!! :):)

paminwi said...

We also had "summer school" but it wasn't really for special classes. The school was just open for us to come and play checkers, chess (if you were really "smart", monopoly, etc.

I also remember kids coloring on the mimeographed paper with the purple ink. Remember how that paper smelled?

They also showed movies of either Zorro or Sky King. You could buy 2 cent bags of popcorn for those movies.

The school library was always open. You could check out books by signing that little card that was in the pocket inside the book. No bar codes then, baby!

The little town was Kohler, WI and I don't know if the Kohler Company paid for some of this stuff or not.

I do know the Kohler Company always paid for the Barnum & Bailey Circus to come to the high school auditorium every Christmas and put on a show. Elephants on the stage - it took your breath away when you were a kid!

I loved my childhood.

Will Cate said...

Link no worky. Should be:

dreams said...

Althouse is about my age, she is a little bit younger. I've read that our generation is the last generation that parents allowed their children to do whatever they wanted to when it came to playing or spending their time.

vnjagvet said...

Those F-4s were impressive, Virgil. I know I remember that. Welcome home, bro.