Saturday, June 16, 2012

Childhood, Then and Now

Yesterday evening as I was driving back to my house with all my kids after dropping off something to my husband at work, I saw a car cross the intersection in front of me.  It was a convertible and the people in it appeared to be a father with his tween-age daughter and her friend.  It was early evening, around 5:30, so it was still light and warm.  I had a serious flashback to when I was about that age and I went to spend the night at a friend's house.  We went to dinner with her dad and he took us in his convertible.  The memory was so thick that I had a bit of a hard time returning my focus to the road; it took someone honking behind  me to remind me that I wasn't one of those young girls in the convertible but just a mom with a minivan full of kids trying to get home in late afternoon traffic to eat some dinner.

Lately, I've been having these types of memories of childhood.  Not all of my childhood, just the part of my childhood that I spent living in Texas.  I had some really great experiences there as a kid and then again as an early teen.  I lived there from the age of four until I was almost nine, then we moved away for almost three years (Connecticut for a little over a year and Utah for a little over a year).  We moved back the summer that I was eleven and were there until after I turned sixteen.

I yearn for those days.  Not that I want to repeat them necessarily, but I wish that my children could have the same type of childhood I had.  These days it's a huge feat if you can let your kids go to the park alone, but back then, we played outside all day, riding bikes all over the neighborhood and all the other kids were outside too.  We had a creek behind our house and we would walk the creek as a shortcut to get to the neighborhood pool.  We would spend hours every day in the summer at the neighborhood pool without our parents, playing with all our school friends and hanging out.

I loved too how the school we attended had a strong arts program--we went to art class once a week and studied influential artists from history and the elements of art.  We made pottery and painted with watercolors.  We went to music class once a week and learned about rhythm and beat and how to sing, like really sing.  We also had P.E., real P.E. where we learned the rules of the different sports and practiced skills pertaining to the sports.  Now, kids are lucky if they even have P.E. and usually it consists of games or little exercise routines.  The only way the kids can learn sports these days is by signing up and paying money to play it through a city or community program.  No more sandlot baseball games or playing soccer after school at the school field.

I think this is why I try so hard to work with my kids during the summer months.  We go outside and play soccer, baseball, basketball, and football.  I've already tried a couple of times to organize a kickball game with all the neighborhood kids (although "kickball" here in Utah now is a weird game that they play with two lines facing each other and kicking the ball back and forth, not the kickball I grew up playing).  I haven't yet succeeded in generating enough interest, but one of these days, I'll get it done.

I just wish my kids could have some of the same great experiences I had growing up.  I know they'll have some great ones of their own, but I guess I worry that because of the way the world is now, where kids are so sheltered (sheltered from the good and real experiences, but exposed to a lot of crap they shouldn't be exposed to) and lots of adults don't think kids are capable of much, that they won't have the same types of opportunities that I had.  I know I need to stop worrying about it and just let them live, but when I think back to those golden years of my childhood, I can't help but feel like they are missing out on something.

 My youngest brother and I when I was about fourteen and he was about six.

 Youth Conference in Texas, me with three friends.  (I'm the one in the orange shirt, in case you couldn't tell)

 Me with my best friend from church right before a stake youth dance.  Those dances were the best.  We had one tri-stake dance each Saturday for three Saturdays every month, rotating stake centers.  We tried to go to every single one, too.

Me with two of my friends from school--the one in the polka dots was my best friend from school (she was the one whose dad had the convertible).  This was the last week of eighth or ninth grade, I can't remember which.

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