“What do you want to do?” “I don’t know. What do YOU want to do?” “You wanna’ ride bikes?”

Summer. The kids are out riding bikes and bouncing basketballs to the park a couple of blocks from my house. It’s a strange thing here in Monte Vista, Colorado,  but in winter I almost NEVER see kids. I honestly find this strange because our winters aren’t bad. The sun shines, most of the time it doesn’t snow and yeah, it’s cold, but not THAT cold. How cold is THAT cold for kids, anyway? For my brother and I (in NEBRASKA), such temperatures didn’t exist. And not just for my brother and I, but for all the kids we knew. Winter had its glories and we LOVED it. Winters were as fun as summers.

Childhood summers — in Nebraska where I became old enough to be independent — were (and this is not hazy nostalgia) great. My brother and I rode our bikes all over the small town where we lived. To the pool, to the movies, to the further woods — the ones not near our house. The parents got my brother into Little League, about which he could not have cared less, but that meant baseball practice and games. His games were great, not because he was any good (he seldom even knew when his team was at bat), but because I could stay home alone if I wanted (and did the dishes) and I could watch my favorite TV show, Lowell Thomas Presents. As time went by I began going to baseball practice with my brother because I could hit anything the coach told me to. This meant I got to hit balls for the boys’ fielding practice. When the town got a girl’s softball team, I joined but that’s another story already written here.

Many years later, after the family went darkly sour, and I was on my own, no longer a child, I read something by Dostoyevsky, more or less, “One good memory from childhood can save a man from…” let’s paraphrase that to “hell”.

He was right.

I don’t want to sound like (or be) a curmudgeonly old woman looking on her long gone childhood with rose colored graduated lenses, but my mom was right when she said to me as I was so eager to “grow up,” “You’ll never be as free as you are now.” The freedom of childhood is its magic and part of that freedom involved making some big mistakes and taking the consequences. It also involved being bored.

Kids today live different lives than we lived back in the black and white era. If we wanted to watch TV all day it was possible, but after midnight, the whole thing shut down. We had to watch what was on, too. There were no DVDs or DVRs or anything to add dimension to the choices. And, there were only three channels. The radio also went off at midnight. We might have had a record player (or two), but there were no video games or much else in the way of indoor activities that could be done without friends or imagination. We could color, draw, play with dolls, read a book, build things with Lincoln Logs or Tinker Toys or random stuff like boxes, set up battle scenes with little men (soldiers). Kids today seem, also, to have more parental involvement in their lives than my brother and I had — my mom didn’t drive, so there was no question of being taken to this or that lesson or activity anyway, even if they had existed. I think we were left on our own more and required to battle through more situations without anyone’s help.

I will say that I believe kids need freedom. In today’s culture of fear, parents are reluctant to let the kids out. I do not know if today’s world is more dangerous, or if we are just more informed about the dangers thanks to the relentless media and the slant of our culture. I tend to think the dangers have always been there and we have just become paralyzed by information. SO I’m happy to see some kids on my street running FREEEEEE! though the vast majority come through with a parent in tow.

Oh well.



4 thoughts on ““What do you want to do?” “I don’t know. What do YOU want to do?” “You wanna’ ride bikes?”

  1. Childhoods change with the times and the times influence what we did. My mum had her first job at the age of 13 and I mine when I was 19, but she did not have the chances I had. My kids also had a different childhood. I found this a bit of a repetitious theme actually, not very inspiring. Unfortunately the days of bike riding for fun disappear slowly, although here they have to use their bikes to get to school.

  2. The old adage that time changes everything is so true. Nothing remains the same as you have written. Today’s children have not much of an idea about how to entertain themselves without some sort of gizmo to mess with or watch. The great outdoors does not really beckon to many kids unless the parents lead the way. It is all so sad.

    You were quite the athlete. I think you were good at just about anything that you have come across. I wish I could say that. Even though I have always been limber and nimble I was not good at throwing or hitting a ball although, I was a pretty fair volleyball player.

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