The line between free range and foolish

How many of you out there have seen this nostalgic ode to a childhood “before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives for our own good” that has been circulating on the Internet for years:

“No matter what our kids and the new generation think about us, WE ARE AWESOME !!! OUR LIFE IS LIVING PROOF !!!
To Those of Us Born 1925 – 1970 :

1930s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s!!

First, we survived being born to mothers who may have smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes.

Then, after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies
in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets, and, when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps, not helmets, on our heads.
As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes.

Riding in the back of a pick- up truck on a warm day was always a special treat.
We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter, and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And we weren’t overweight..

Because we were always outside playing…that’s why!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.
No one was able to reach us all day.
–And, we were OKAY.

We would spend hours building
our go-carts out of scraps and then ride them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes… After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Play Stations, Nintendos and X boxes. There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVDs, no surround-sound or CDs, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms…

and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits from those accidents.
We would get spankings with wooden spoons, switches, ping-pong paddles, or just a bare hand, and no one would call child services to report abuse.
We ate worms, and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls, and
-although we were told it would happen- we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them.
Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team.
Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!
The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers, and inventors ever.
The past 50 to 85 years have seen an explosion of innovation and new ideas..
We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

If YOU are one of those born between 1925-1970, CONGRATULATIONS!
You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives for our own good.
While you are at it, forward it to your kids, so they will know how brave and lucky their parents were.
Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn’t it ? ”

Well, actually, no it doesn’t.  It isn’t that I don’t think I and the rest of my generation are awesome — we are!  I played outside all the time as a child, and continue to do so as much as possible as an adult.

Yet, like many tributes to the “good old days,” this message has a very selective view of the past.  It also reminds me a bit of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man character from Saturday Night Live.

Let’s look at smoking  during pregnancy.  Prior to the 1960s, mothers didn’t know that this increased the risk of premature birth, low birthrate, and fetal and infant death (not to mention increasing maternal morbidity and mortality). Lots of people like myself survived (despite being born eight weeks early in my case), but others didn’t, or were permanently disabled.
Today, we know better.

The same can be said of other “intrusions” listed above.  Maternal and infant mortality has been reduced because of screening for gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Children no longer suffer serious brain damage from ingesting lead paint chips.  Seat belts, bike helmets, and car seats have saved countless children from death and disability.

I think there’s a lot of good ideas at the blog Free Range Kids.  However, let’s not forget that some “intrusions” are here for a reason.

2 thoughts on “The line between free range and foolish

  1. To be fair, Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids emphasizes often that she believes in safety measures like car seats, bike helmets, seat belts, etc. (It’s right there on the blog, left column, above the fold.) Some of her followers aren’t so reasonable, it’s true.

  2. Hi Penny,

    Oh, I agree entirely — she’s quite reasonable. My problem is with the original message – I’m tired of seeing it appear on FB status updates.

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