I grew up in the 1970’s (well, 1980’s for high school). As a mother, I have noticed that some things have changed since then – you know, besides the personal computer, internet, fashion, etc. I’m thinking specifically about safety. In addition to now locking our door every time we leave the house and talking to our children about a range of subjects that never occurred to our parents, we have a whole new set of safety rules for our kids.
Come to think of it, by today’s standards, it’s a wonder I’m alive! Because we did some stuff that I would never encourage my kids to do today. Here are a few I recall:
Played outside for hours without sunscreen. I don’t even remember hearing the word “sunscreen” until high school. And even then, we were far more likely to slather baby oil or Hawaiian Tropic on our bodies and lay out in our backyards, at the pool, or on the beach so we could have that sun-kissed tan. We weren’t thinking skin cancer; we were thinking of that Bain de Soleil magazine model. Remember her? I couldn’t find a photo of that browned body, but check out this 1980 Coppertone tan commercial if you want to stroll down memory lane.
Rode my bike without a helmet. Helmets were for football, not bike-riding through the neighborhood! By the time I became a mother, there were statistics about preventable head injuries, articles on how to choose a proper helmet for your child, and doctors encouraging helmet use. Back in the 1970’s, though, not only did I ride with the wind whipping through my hair, but we happily careened down a slope at our local park we kids fondly called “Suicide Hill.” I skinned knees, elbows, face, and more, but no skull fractures thankfully.
Drank from a water hose. Now apparently this is a no-no. But after all that bike-riding and hours without sunscreen, growing up in South Texas where temps could reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity was above 90% . . . well, thirsty! The easiest way to quench that thirst was to head to the nearest friend’s house and grab the hose. We’d take turns sucking down the warm water, thinking that we were health-conscious by not licking the spout. After all, there were others in line behind you.
Rode in a car without a seatbelt. We had seatbelts in our car, but they were usually buried in the seat. Moreover, these were not shoulder/lap belts, only lap. And they were like airplane seatbelts, adjustable by pulling on a metal clasp. In the winter, that wasn’t a problem. But when the July heat reached the level of Hades, I was definitely willing to take my chances that we wouldn’t be hit by another vehicle over risking second-degree burns by yanking out that lap belt and strapping it over my hips.
Ate deep-fried food. Thanks, Mom! Like many families in the South, we had a Fry Daddy, a Fry Baby, and a frying skillet. A meal served relatively often was fried chicken, fried okra and squash, and buttered corn on the cob. Or there was fried shrimp and fish, French fries, and hush puppies. Oh, man, I’m drooling just thinking of it! But I’m also imagining that my arteries were probably already clogging like rolls of toilet paper sent down the plumbing line. Where’s the Drano?! I still eat fried foods sometimes, but not nearly as often. After all, I want to outlive my cat.
Dined in restaurants filled with second-hand smoke. Speaking of eating, I recall most dining out experiences involving my parents asking for the non-smoking section, which consisted of a few tables at the back with no barrier. Smoke filled the restaurant and wafted all around. It was common for people to finish their meals and light up back then. There were no city ordinances, no stiff social mores against such behavior. As a non-smoker myself, I think cigarettes smell bad and I don’t want my kids around a bunch of smoke. But it was the way things were back then, and I didn’t question it much.
Bought candy cigarettes. Now speaking of the smoking thing, did any of you buy candy cigarettes growing up? My sister, a friend, and I took gymnastics classes for a little while. (By the way, my sister was good at it; I stunk.) After our class, we had a little time before we headed home, so we scurried over to the convenience store and purchased candy cigarettes. We held them like mini Bette Davises, sucking on the sugary cylinders and then devouring them. For some reason, I don’t think that ever made me want an actual cigarette. And none of the three of us smoke now. But do I buy my kids candy cigarettes? No. I don’t even think you can find them now anyway.
What do you recall doing as a child that you couldn’t imagine letting your kids do? Or doing now yourself? Do you think we are overly protective or just about right with today’s children? What are you amazed that you did and are still alive? (I refrained from telling about any super-crazy stunts from my past. Hi, Mom! Hi, Dad! But you are welcome to share here.) Chime in!