*Note: This photo is not of me. This girl is waaaaay younger than I was when I got my Easy Bake. I got it from Wikimedia Commons
Times have changed.
Man, even thinking about uttering that phrase makes me feel old – as old as I thought my grandparents were when I was a kid, and that’s ancient!
I was having coffee with the mother of one of Eve’s friends yesterday and somehow we got to talking about the things we fear most about having a teenage daughter. It’s hard to even begin to know what we are up against, given how different their world is from what we knew.
The two of us shared the requisite stories of summer days spent completely unsupervised by anyone other than our older siblings (who often meant us as much harm as not). Those mornings when we would dash out the door in packs, or looking for the roving packs of neighbor kids, to the familiar refrain of, “Be back in time for dinner!” were absolutely priceless. Not in small part due to the fact that if our parents had known half of the stupid stunts we pulled, their hearts would have stopped no less than a dozen times a day.
We did things I wouldn’t let my girls do one tenth of. I rode my bike barefoot or with flip-flops (and lost toenails when I crashed). I rode on the handlebars of my brother’s bike as he tore down our steep hill as fast as he could. No helmets. Only a front brake that would catapult both of us off the bike in a heartbeat if he squeezed it. Oh, and did I mention that at the end of the street was a set of train tracks running perpendicular to it? We never stopped. We never looked. Despite the fact that I lie in bed at night listening to the whistle of those trains coming through, it never occurred to me that one might come ripping down those tracks at the very moment we were bumping across them in a mad dash to get to the park that lay on the other side. Never.
I could go on, but I suspect we all have stories like that from the 1960s and 1970s. Stories of freedom and exhileration and death-defying stunts that we only realized were incredibly stupid when we became parents ourselves.
And then the car seat laws had been enacted.
And we knew about sex predators lurking and lying in wait for unattended children.
And we bought bike helmets and knee pads for our kids and made them wear them.
And the dangers became more nebulous. Like online stalking. Cyberbullying. Sexting.
At least while we were endangering ourselves, we were having fun. Real, actual, physical fun. We were playing slingshot tag (yes, someone sat in a tree with a slingshot and hurled a bb or a gravel bit or a plastic pellet at people running by and if you got hit, you were ‘it,’) or exploring construction sites or playing hide and seek in the condemned house down the road. If someone pissed you off, they did it to your face and, often, others in the group would choose sides and it would be settled right there. Generally with blood spilled or rocks being thrown, but it was settled face-to-face.
When I think about Eve turning 13 and wanting a Facebook page and her own cell phone, my head hurts. I am fully aware that I don’t know most of the things that could go wrong. Yes, we’ve talked about being careful not to share too much personal information about herself and not “connecting” to people online that she doesn’t know in person. But, just like my parents, I’m certain that most of the things she will encounter are not things that I could have anticipated, and it’s because of this that I wish I could get her to trade me her digital identity for some of those other things we had as kids.
I’d give her a woodburning set for her Facebook page. Sure, my brother used it to threaten to brand me if I didn’t do his bidding, but that’s how I learned to stand up for myself. And think creatively (it took me a while, but I finally figured out that if I broke the tip off the damn thing, he couldn’t sear his initials in my left butt cheek).
I’d give her an Easy Bake Oven for her text minutes. My sister and I kept ours in our bedroom. And lest you think we had rats or ants, let me be clear that we only baked cakes in it for the first week we had it. After that we experimented with Shrinky Dinks and our brothers’ socks and Barbie dolls. Yes, in our room. Yes, it’s a wonder that we didn’t burn the freaking house down.
Okay, maybe I wouldn’t trade her any of those things. But I do hope that someday she has a friend that she can reminisce with about all the insane stuff she and her sister pulled behind my back. And I truly, honestly, deeply hope that none of it has anything to do with the Internet or cell phones. Lawn darts maybe. Or a bb gun. Or a bungee cord.