Friday, August 15, 2008

when I was a kid.....

When I was growing up, I lived on my bicycle. There was no sitting in front of the TV, Atari hadn't come out yet, nor had PCs, so no video games to play for hours on end. Mom would throw us out of the house and told us to go play. It was good for us (and we were out of her hair). So, we would get on our bikes and take off looking for the other kids who had similarly been unceremoniously thrown out.

We would be gone for hours. We would ride up and down the street seeing who could pop a wheelie the longest. We would build ramps and pretend to be evel knievel, jumping for distance or jumping over each other. (I once jumped 6 kids. we were uncommonly stupid then, and I had scars on my elbows and knees for years to prove it). We would search the ditches for coke bottles and go to the store, redeem them and use the money to buy ourselves a coke.

We would take off to explore neighboring communities, getting ourselves lost and spending the afternoon finding our way back home. During the fall and spring we would ride our bikes to school. We would put sissy bars on them, extend the forks to make choppers, put 6-foot antenna-like poles that had flags on (That would trip us up when trying a rolling dismount). We'd put playing cards on with clothes pins so they'd flap in the spokes and pretend this was the motor and we were riding motorcycles.

Do kids do these things today? I rarely see kids out riding bikes in my neighborhood. My bike was a ticket to independence. When it was taken away for punishment, it HURT! I was trapped - all I could do was stand by and watch the others have fun. I see kids walking down the sidewalk, one or more talking on a cell phone, on their way somewhere. I don't see them on bikes.

It's a shame, really. Within weeks of moving into a new house, I knew the neighborhood like the back of my hand. I met the kids in the neighborhood 'cause they were out riding too. Our moms didn't get together and organize play-dates or stuff like that - we just rode around and found someone else who was outside and played. It seems like these days everything is so tightly organized, all of kids' time is scheduled down to the minute.

Do kids just go outside and play anymore?

18 deeply creased, dogeared comment(s):

Susanne said...

When I was a teenager my bike was my ticket to freedom too. It was the only way to go anywhere. We'd ride our bikes for miles to visit friends, and some of my friends had to ride theirs to school every day regardless of the weather. (For me going to school would have required a half hour ride each way, I didn't do that very often.)

Where I live now children start going around on their own on their bikes when they are about 10 years old. They don't play in the streets because the traffic is too dense but I see loads of them riding their bikes to school. Most of our students come by bike, their guitars on their backs.

Maggie said...

This our problem with our son. We send him out on the bike and he can't find any other kids out and about. We've noticed that most of his school friends are in summer day camps because their parents work. As two income families become more necessary it's tougher for the kids to have that summer freedom we enjoyed. That and the weekends seem to be devoted to family activities (rightly so) because it is the only time working parents have to spend with their kids.
This brought me back though to those days of feeling the wind in your hair, coasting down hills and pretending to be a world class racer as you pedal as fast as you can.

Gwen said...

What happens to Maggie happens to us, too. When your kids are the least scheduled children in the neighborhood, sometimes they're lonely. But when everyone's home, it's a glorious thing, watching all these kids run wild, making up crazy games.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I feel bad for today's kids who live in a far less safe world than the one we grew up in.

My bike was my ticket to freedom, too. Nobody cared where I went as long as I was home for dinner, and there was time to lie in the grass and watch the clouds drift by. Kids would gather without any adult arranging it and play tag or hide-and-seek or freeze, build snow forts in winter and shady huts in the woods in summer. We jumped in piles of fall leaves, climbed trees, and took picnics on our bicycles so we could stay out all day.

You've made me quite nostalgic.

Kat said...

I remember running wild in the neighborhood when I was a kid, too. Those were good times.

We live in a neighborhood now where the kids do ride their bikes and play outside in the street. I love it when I can hear them out there at night when I'm putting my little one to bed, it's summer and I'm glad they have parents that don't make them come in as soon as the streetlights come on. Hearing them out there reminds me of my own childhood and how free we were back then.

But I know it's not like this anymore in a lot of neighborhoods, and it's unfortunate.

ms chica said...

My neighborhood was a rural farming community. There weren't many kids around, but I spent many hours on bicycle looking things to get into (aka: trouble). I don't see many kids out where I live now. I guess they're indoors with cable tv and gaming consoles. I think it's a shame, but I suspect they see it as a generational gap.

Glamourpuss said...

One of the things that really attracted me to the street I now live on was that kids played out in the street. I hate the culture of fear and indolence that keeps kids under aldult supervision or in front of the Playstation.

Puss

Mignon said...

Six kids?? Wow. I'm in awe. The best I ever did was four pieces of firewood. An attempt to break that record was unsuccessful, and I sit here absentmindedly scratching the scar.

No, kids don't play outside, unless it's in the tightly guarded confines of their backyard. And even then, it's only until the timer on the stove goes off and they're allowed back in to their Nintendo/IM/texting hovels.

My brother decided he was going to have the only analog house on his block (in Portland), and believe it or not, neighborhood kids are always over at my nephews' house playing stuff that doesn't require electricity. It's a great thing to see.

Bob said...

Susanne - some places where I lived if you were within a certain distance of the school you weren't allowed to ride the school bus. so - ride bike to school. I don't think schools have bike racks anymore.

maggie - I didn't think about 2-parent income families; but then - what about after work? especially during the summer when it doesn't get dark until after 9:00 PM. I'm sorry your son doesn't have anyone to bike around with.

gwen - I'm glad there is still some neighborhood play going on up there.

hearts - we too would disappear for hours at a time. I think back on when our kids were young and I think I probably would've had a heart attack if our kids had gone off like you and I used to.

sometimes it's good to remember things we've forgotten.

kat - our hotel room in Paris was across the street from a small city park where you could hear kids playing all day long. it reminded me how silent our house is with grown children in it.

I'm glad you have such a neighborhood.

ms. chica - when I lived on my grandpa's farm I traded my bike in on his jeep. (rarely with his permission, though). my brother and I would ride down the dirt road beside his fields and occasionally get it stuck in the mud. (then we'd get his tractor to get it out).

you're probably right about the gap, I expect kids today look at stuff like this as if it were in a different era. and it was, actually.

puss - it's good to live around families, people should always have a few young 'uns around to remind them what life is about.

mignon - I said I was stupid back then, didn't I? I can't imagine what I would have done had I landed on one of them. my scars have pretty much gone, replaced by those caused by untrimmed cat claws.

Franki said...

Mine get on their bikes or skateboards just to get to their friends' houses to go into the basement and play more video games. The way to hit them where it hurts these days is to take away their phones.

Bob said...

franki - or their video games.

www.startswithanx.com said...

When I was a kid I lived on my bike while wearing my swimsuit and cleats. Kids now do all that but with a joystick in-hand.

Bob said...

startswithanx - must've been tough to peddle with cleats. maybe with wii we will see them do it with swimsuits and cleats.

thanks for coming by.

Mother of Invention said...

You're right on..we were lucky to be able to just let the days evolve on our own accord....no over-scheduling as happens today. We swam at the local pool and biked there ourselves. We skipped for hours and did the bike for miles thing too and we were in great shape, all of us were pretty skinny. Where are skinny kids today?

Bob said...

MoI - I guess we were lucky, we didn't know to be scared to go off and play on our own.

emily said...

Hi, I found you thru Meno and have been reading backwards thru your entries. This one struck me so I wanted to comment...

I'm a mom of a 10 and 6 year old, and they LOVE their Wii. They do have SOME scheduled activities, but we are big proponents of "free time" and don't do sports year round. Contrary to what many seem to think on here, it's not always about loving the video games OR being over-scheduled. A huge problem for many families (mine included) is the safety of sending them off into the neighborhood. I'm laid back, no "culture of overprotection" here. It's just not the same world we grew up in, and it's just not safe in many neighborhoods for a 10 year old to wander for hours on his bike like you and I did.
My kids aren't overweight, they're not over-gamed, and I think they're happy, well-adjusted kids. They're just not doing a carbon-copy of what I did as a kid, and although nostalgia tugs at my heart for that occasionally, I'm ok with that.

emily said...

ALSO - I should have added that we ride bikes as a family (jumping curbs and skinned knees all the way around!)

Bob said...

emily - first of all, I'm not sure you noticed the tag on the post - fricken' old. Which means that I've over-generalized what is going on today. (what's a little hyperbole between grumpus's?)

I don't know if today's neighborhoods are necessarily any less safe than they were when we grew up, I expect we just hear more about the ugliness that is out there. You have obviously a well-balanced routine for your children that works for them and you. You are right to defend it, but I'm sorry that you felt I (we) had attacked it. I am glad you left your comment, it shows that things really aren't as bad as I over-generalized it to be.

Thanks so much for coming by and thanks again for commenting.