Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Well the big storm is gone and it left a couple of feet of snow in its wake. The news on TV was loaded with pictures of kids sledding in the aftermath. The hills were crowded with kids with at least one parent per child.
This started some talking-head conversations on how, back in the day, after a big snow all the kids would trudge to the closest hill and fly down on sleds and saucers unsupervised. The question was raised, “Would you let your children sled alone today.”
So I started thinking about “back in the day.” Yes I did go sledding without parental supervision. We were not, however unsupervised. In my neighborhood there were about 100 kids of various ages. I only saw about 10 of these kids on a regular basis, but on a snow day hundreds came out of the woodwork. The hill was either on a golf course, or before it was sanded, the street hill down the block.
Supervision for little kids was taken over by older brothers and sisters. There may have been a parent or two watching, but mostly it was older brothers and sisters. The older brothers and sisters had to answer to their parents, and if anyone got hurt doing something stupid there would be hell to pay.
I do not remember anyone ever getting seriously hurt.
So yeah, for the most part we sledded unsupervised by parents, but our older children “back in the day” were more responsible. When many families had four, five, six and even more children parents did not watch over them like hawks. There were few “Helicopter” parents, because it was simply impossible. Instead of helicopter parents, older siblings learned responsibility and we had helicopter brothers and sisters.
Little kids learned responsibility from the older teens. If little brother was being bullied, big brother dealt with it quickly. If anyone did get hurt, a brother or neighbor would race home to get help.
Most families today have one or two children both within a few years of each other. Older neighborhood kids have been taught to leave the younger kids alone and neighborhood kids are not as prolific. The helicopter parents we hear about today are watching their under teen children for a simple reason, there is no one else willing to watch them.
Yes, back in the day we raced to the hill with our sleds and saucers without parents following, but it was not because we were crazy, or parents didn’t care, or kids today are coddled. We raced to the hill on our own because in those old neighborhoods children were never alone. There were siblings and other older kids who were taught responsibility and who were instructed to “Keep an eye on your brother, and the Swartz kids down the block.”
Back in the day, mom and dad did not tag along, but we were not unsupervised, and when you heard your dinner bell ring (and every child knew the sound of their own parent’s bell) you went running home.