Thursday, August 30, 2012

Turn the Key

One of the great things about getting older (or so I'm told) is the accumulation of wisdom. Which in turn allows you to blather on about how things were different when you were a kid. But it's true. Things were VERY different when I was the age my daughters are now (they're 8 and 10).

Specifically, the whole latchkey kid deal. Both my parents worked, so when I got home from school (to which I walked about a mile--yes, yes, backwards uphill in the snow), I had my own key to get in. I would let myself in, fix myself a snack and then either watch TV (reruns of Happy Days or Gilligan's Island or Alice) or go out and play street hockey with some friends in my driveway. My little brother would be at a babysitter's house until my parents got home from work. It all seemed to work pretty well. There were never any problems or issues with creepy adults. That's not to say there weren't any creeps in the late '70s; I just never had to deal with any.

Of course, nowadays we won't let our kids walk anywhere except maybe down our dead-end street by themselves. I can't even imagine letting them come home and stay here by themselves--even though they get dropped off by the school bus at the end of our street and I know they'd be perfectly fine on their own. That's not really the point, I suppose.

Is a society of latchkey kids better than one where parents know their kids' every movement? In some ways, yes, but it really is a different world now. My parents, who were extremely overprotective, would go hours in the summertime without knowing where I was, and it was no big deal as long as I was home for dinner. Now we're in such a paranoid society that we have to know where our kids are at all times, and even then that may not be enough. So those idyllic childhood memories will remain in the past, relics of a seemingly kindler, gentler age.

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