As Kids In The 80s Were We Really Left To Our Own Devices?
If you ask most people my age they'll say our parents let us do a lot more than parents let their kids do today. While not a parent myself, it certainly seems that way. Yet, as the popular social media meme waxes poetically about us running around our neighborhood without parental supervision, and drinking from the garden hose. Were we really on our own that much?
That's the question an author, now a mom herself posed in an article on Scary Mommy. So from an adult perspective, were my parents and the parents of my friends completely oblivious to what we were doing?
In some respects, my parents seemed fairly permissive. For example, we lived several miles from the big mall near our house. I wasn't very old when my parents started letting me take the bus that went by our house to the mall. First, it was to ride the bus there and come home immediately. Because I liked bus rides. Yet, by sixth grade, they were fine with me riding the bus to the mall and shopping by myself.
When it came to me exploring the suburbs and Chicago, by the time I had a license no neighborhood was off limits. Not the punk teen club on the northside called Medusa's. Not the mall way out in the outer ring of suburbs with the dollar theater. Not going to blues or jazz fest or concerts in Grant Park on the lakefront.
Yet, it wasn't like I was a novice at any of this stuff by the time I did it. I had ridden the bus with my Mom plenty before I did it alone. I had shopped at that mall plenty with my Mom and or Dad before I did it alone. Plus, my Mother especially, dragged me all over Chicago as a kid, especially the north side and the lakefront, and we did go to lakefront festivals as a family. So for me anyway, most of where my friends and I were exploring weren't areas I was completely ignorant of or inexperienced in navigating.
But what about kickin' around the neighborhood when I was younger? Or walking around or cruising our own neighborhood when we were older? Well, the parental network was always pretty strong. Strong enough that all of us kids knew each other's parents. Strong enough that our parents did occasionally talk to each other, and strong enough that parents weren't afraid to scold any of us or butt in our business if they wanted to know more about something.
My friend Jeff's a parent of college-aged kids these days. We've talked a couple of times about our exploits going downtown in junior high, and he remarked that wasn't something he would have let his kids do in junior high if they had wanted to.
Yet, we even had some minimal parental supervision doing that. His mom worked downtown, and she asked him to check in once or twice throughout our day, and we'd meet up with her to ride the train back to the suburbs with her when she got off work.
The conclusion the Scarry Mommy article comes to is this: her mother generally knew what she was doing and where she was. But she didn't worry, and maybe that's a lesson today's parents could take from their parents of the 80s.
While I didn't take the time to ask my Mom about her and my Dad's experience parenting me. I'd say looking at my upbringing, I'd come to the same conclusion. We did a lot of stuff seemingly on our own, yet, some parent was generally aware of what we were doing and where we were going.