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Saturday, 9 June 2012

Kids these days!


A lady asked me, not so long ago,
how different is childhood now
from when I was a boy.
I didn't need to think,
I might have rattled off a score
of points to talk about, but didn't try.
To me, one mattered more than all the rest:
that we were free.

We did stuff then they couldn't do today -
or if they did, they'd get it in the neck!

I had been sitting for a while in Greenwich Park,
near the children's playground there.
Swings, slides and roundabouts - and best of all...
a maypole  hung with chains.
And children hanging on,
excitement antidote to fear,
hands clutching frantically above their heads.
Bodies flying out,
while other children used the chains
to whirl them round at speed...

until a teacher popped up from the crowd
and ordered them to leave the pole forthwith...
before you strain your wrists.
You've handwriting tomorrow. Think of that!

No one ever said that sort of thing to us.
The war, technology, the busy roads,
the web, I shouldn't wonder, all have changed
the boundaries, have drawn them in more tightly
like a noose around the growing child.

We bobbed around like yachts at a regatta
and somehow missed the rocks we hadn't seen.
And then again, at times not yachts, but river
boats - which sometimes for a moment put to sea.
The boundaries were generous, but still
would give a bit, allow some derring-do.

Our parents would have had their forty fits
to meet some of the folk we met - or see
the situations that we'd at times confront.
(The vicar would have gone on a retreat.)

A kinder world than this, instinctively we knew.
Knowledge robbed of understanding saw us through.

18 comments:

hyperCRYPTICal said...

How true this is. In this risk averse world of ours, children are not allowed to be children and imagination is stunted and adventure destroyed.

Oh for the good old days - in this matter at least.

Anna :o]

The Elephant's Child said...

Oh yes. Agreement from here as well. On weekends we were expected home for meals unless there was a previous agreement in place. Other than that our time was our own. Some of the things we did our parents would have had forty four fits over - but we survived. And developed some independence to match the amount we were given.
Climbing down from the soap box now...

Tabor said...

I lived in the mountains behind a tourist town alive in the summer and sleepy in the winter. I would disappear to play in the rocks and shrubs for hours. No one knew where I was and no one wondered. Our of sight out of mind.

manicddaily said...

Wonderfully realized and so verytrue. K.z

Brian Miller said...

i pretty much grew up in the woods we would leave int he morning and come home when mom called us, roaming up to miles away...somehow we always heard mom though...huh...smiles...and i think that kinda play def changed who we became..

Mary said...

Yes, knowledge robbed of understanding definitely saw us through. I remember as an 8th grader one summer evening walking with 3 other girls to the yacht club. Some boaters invited us onto their boat. Made me a bit uneasy, but I went. And nothing happened. This is one story I never told my mom and dad. In today's world this story never would have happened.
The mom and dad never would have allowed the girls to walk such a distance after dusk.

And yes, I know those playgrounds too. VERY safe. Some corky substance on the ground so no one can get hurt. A lot of plastic, not metal. And parents / grandparents (me) all sitting around keeping keeping watch.

Daydreamertoo said...

The kids are all becoming so isolated now, apart from if they roam the shopping malls in gangs. We used to play out all day, especially in the summer holidays. We hardly ever came to any harm either. But now they make everything play 'safe' and it still isn't. But kids today don't really know how to play anymore. It's all about technology, hand held games, cell phone texting, computers, chatting on Facebook. and it's sad because they are becoming so isolated from real life into their virtual worlds.
This was another lovely Read Dave. We did have the 'Good old days' didn't we! :)

Susan said...

"like a noose around the growing child"

It seems this way to me too, though I was apparently controlled more than you all were. I do have scarey wonderful memories of bike rides on country roads to the swimming hole and to pop touch-me-nots and race down hills. I would leash my child close today, though, what with all of the news about random violence, negligent parents, etc. You would think the ubiquitous cell phones would do the trick, wouldn't you?

Becky Sain said...

So true. I try to give my kids freedom but Oh how I remember the bumps and bruises.
Each generation experiences the world differently.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Fair comment Dave on the days of our childhood.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

yes, the noose is subtly more tight and not only around children...

ds said...

So sadly true...

Other Mary said...

That's a very accurate observation (except that in the states NO ONE is taught handwriting!). I think losing all the time to play on their own is robbing children in ways we don't even know yet.

Elisabeth said...

A wonderful poem, Dave and so full of wisdom about how different the world is today, and at last a lament that recognizes what our children might miss out on rather than blaming them for the pace of change. They have things better and worse than did we, but the stuff of risk taking gets harder every day. At least for some, for those with parents who care.

Dave King said...

Anna
Amen to that. Thanks for.

The Elephant's Child
I can listen to a soap box for hours - especially one I'm in agreement with!

Tabor
Sounds like a different world from the one I know now.

manicddaily
Thanks for - so sad thatit's true, though.

Brian
Yes, I'm absolutely sure it would have changed who you became. Thanks for this.

Mary
Speaking of yachts and yacht clubs, I definitely sailed too close to the wind on a couple of occasions - the story of one of which I am posting tomorrow.

Yes, you have the measure of the playground, but in this case teachers keeping watch - with their eyes not so much on safety as tomorrow's lessons!

Daydreamer too
Yes, you speak another truth. Technology, too, has made the children less free. They seem mentally shackled.

We did indeed have "Good ole days". I wonder if the present generation will think the same when they are our age...

Susan
I take your point. It is the world that has changed, not us. I got my first "proper" bikewhen I was twelve, and telling mum I was going out for a ride, I took myself off to Canterbury - from South London. Must have been 120 miles + there and back. Coming back it poured. A lorry driver stopped and offered me a lift, which I refused. He called me an "old timer"! I liked that. Point is, I wouldn't have wanted my children to do something like that because of the heavy traffic these days.

Becky
That's absolutely right - I'd love to know what our kids thought of it when growing up. Why don't I just ask? Maybe part of me doesn't want to hear...Thanks for your response.

The Weaver of Grass
Thanks for this. There does seem to be a lot of agreement about how it was for us.

Tommaso
Very true. Thanks for.

ds
Indeed! Thanks again.

Other Mary
Interesting that you say this. I'm pretty sure that very few are taught handwriting in this country - though tomomorrow the government may well bring it in as one of education's main planks, compulsory for all!

Elisabeth
I agree with you absolutely. It does get harder for parents, and although there are certainly aspects that have got better, it's hard to say over-all whether they have gained or lost.

A Cuban In London said...

This is such a beauty of a poem. I hear the older generation talking about their good old days and sometimes I get the feeling that I, too, had good old days, growing up in Havana, Cuba. All that freedom, climbing up trees, crossing busy roads on my own. Learning to live, really. And yet, I, too, am guilty of denying this world to my two children. I, too, am part of the problem. My excuse? I'm an immigrant. I wasn't born here, so therefore it's all been new to me. And with that learning curve comes, inevitably, fear. Fear of the unknown. A shame, really.

Beautiful, beautiful poem. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Ygraine said...

How true.
Childhood is lost in this modern age, where a five-year-old is expected to act like an adult.
Isn't childhood meant to be a time of experimentation, of trying things out?
Hasn't that always been the way we learn?

Come back 'good old days' - all is forgiven!!!

aprille said...

Ignorance was bliss.
Sadly we know too much these days.
Contents of this are so absorbing that I had to go back to consciously enjoy the form. Now there's a compliment for you.