Dear Readers — A very merry to you and yours, and hopes that someday soon a story like the one below will just seem NORMAL again. – L
Dear Free-Range Kids: My sister from New York just sent me some photos of us growing up in the South Bronx in the late ’40s and early ’50s. One is of my sister Helen, me and Santa Claus. The story behind that photo describes perfectly the differences between child rearing 60 years ago and the present bubble wrap age.
Helen and I lived in a tenement building on 141st St. in the Bronx. As a kindness to herÂ kid brother (me!), my then 9-year-old sister took me by the hand and walked me up to 149th St and 3rd Ave, a business hub in the Bronx. We went to Hearn’s Dept. Store to seeÂ Santa. She negotiatedÂ the purchase of the photo, put us in line, and this lovely 1949/1950 photo emerged,Â a photo that we both cherish.
We had to cross many busy streets, ride the escalator (! – always an adventure) andÂ wade through Christmas crowds. No one thought it at all odd that a 9-year-old girl could do that safely or competently. You can see in the picture an injury to my face that occurred when I did some stupid unsafe kid thing…that’sÂ whyÂ theÂ eight kids in my family always had scars. It was thought to be an integral part of growing up. How times have changed! I live in Australia now and called Helen – she’s 72 and I’m 68 – this morning and thanked her again for her venturesome kindness.
Yours, John McCormick
Scone, NSW, Australia
P.S.Â Â By the way, the Santa in the photo isÂ THE REAL SANTA.Â All the others are frauds.
I’m reminded of a story that came out of Manhattan ca. 1935: these well-to-do folks had a penthouse apartment. They also had a Labrador. When the Lab wanted to go out, she would hie herself to the elevator and wait for someone to come along and press the button, go outside, do her business, then go back inside and to the elevator where she’d wait for someone to press buttons again. ***She did this all by herself.*** (And remember, bright dog is mentally equivalent to a 5 or 6 year old child.)
Can you imagine this happening today??!
[BTW this isn’t some urban legend; I was told about it by the dog’s owner’s niece.]
What a lovely memory. Thanks for sharing.
Admitting there probably was less motor traffic these days, the number of muggers roaming the city probably was a constant. You walked eight blocks, and why shouldn’t you?
I am getting harassed on a babycenter board right now because I told about leaving 4 kids aged 6,6,7 and 5 alone with a 13 year old babysitter for the night. All she had to do was stay there while they watched movies or went to sleep. People acted like a 13 year old could not handle that and it was nuts for a 13 year old to be up till 3 in the morning. This was also a girl that lived 4 doors down and her mother could be there in 1 minute if she needed her.
I know I started babysitting at 12 and much younger children and it was fine. Times and opinions really do change.
Apparently times and opinions change for the same person. I got into an argument with my mother on Christmas for saying that, if I went back to a regular job, my 8 year old could take the bus home from school and stay home alone until I got home from work – about 2.5 hours. She not only thought that I was crazy but insisted that I never stayed home alone at that age and, yet, I distinctly remember staying alone at that age. My mother is a huge leap on the historical revisionist side in many respects, but it does seem that the older generations conveniently forget that their children had far more freedom and responsibility than they think is reasonable for children today. Kinda goes back to the crazy old lady in the car a few posts down.
This is so sweet!!!!! Merry Christmas! When I was 11 I started taking my then 2-year-old brother out. Unfortunately, it was so rare that the playground mothers thought I was his teenage mom. :\ “Your son is so cute!” With an awkward smile. “Thank you.” I eventually gave up telling them otherwise.
It scares me to think of the harassment that little party would get nowadays. And my husband wonders why I want to get the heck out and settle in a country where babies nap outside in carriages while mothers get coffee, or to one where they walk to school starting at age 4, or to one where everyone walks or commutes by train, or to one where they can drink before they drive, and where a 9-year-old can be a mature young lady. 🙂 And when they visit, we’ll play the game and teach them to say “ageism!” “age discrimination!” “unwarranted harassment!” in case anyone gives them a hard time and/or denies them services.
My mother is the same way Donna! She is always being hysterical about the grandkids but when I remind her that she did the same or even more free range with me she tries to deny it or make excuses. It is maddening!
And I am way more helicopter to my kids than my mom was with me. I was a more calm capable kid just naturally. My kids are total spazzes. So I give them about as much freedom as I think they can handle or prove they can handle. But my mom freaks out about it and worry warts when she let me do that and then some when I was a kid.
It makes no sense!!! She acted concerned about the letting the 13 year old watch the kids but when I was 12 she was letting me babysit other people’s babies much younger. She does not see how that does not measure up.
Great story. I was baby sitting my three younger siblings from a young age and once left in complete charge overnight at 13. We had a blast. My daughter, now 39, was a remarkably competent person from a young age. At 11 she would come home with her brother, 6, and be in charge till about 7 a few times a week. This included stoking the wood heater in a log cabin.
Sweet story. A Facebook friend recently remarked in horror that Mike Brady would leave Cindy Brady in line ALL BY HERSELF to meet Santa in an old episode of The Brady Bunch. I pointed out that things were a bit different in the pre-helicopter days. She was unsure but admitted that I might be right! (Note: She has no kids herself.)