Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A Loss of Innocence?

There’s something I’ve been thinking about lately that really makes me sad, so I want to talk about it. I’ve been thinking about the world that I will someday bring my children into, and more specifically, I’ve been thinking about how it is such a completely different world than the one I grew up in. My childhood was pure bliss, childish innocence through and through. My favorite memories of growing up involve wreaking havoc on the neighborhood from the moment the sun came up until well into sun down. We rode our bikes all over the neighborhood, down by the creek, up by the rail road tracks, even down the “killer hill”, as we called it. We didn’t stop until our parents called us in for lunch, or dinner, or to force us to shower before bed. We devised highly complicated and ridiculous games, and made up the most unfair teams possible, always in favor of the older kids. We set up lemonade stands at the end of the driveway, and sold friendship bracelets to anyone who would humor us. We ran over to the park and set up games of kickball. In the wintertime we built forts and had enormous snowball fights in the street.

I have absolutely amazing memories from my childhood, my neighborhood was jam packed full of children, and we enjoyed every waking hour during the summer outside, laughing and running and playing like children should do.

But it’s a different world today. Parents don’t send their kids off with a kiss after breakfast to have free reign on the neighborhood. They can’t, there’s so much to fear, so much that could happen. I’m betting most parents these days wouldn’t even let their children leave the yard without parental supervision. I mean, take a look at how much Halloween has changed. My God, we used to go out for hours, walking for blocks and blocks, and scarcely would there be a house without its light on. The neighbors we knew would make us special little goody bags with home-made popcorn balls, and invite us in for some cider. These days, by the time 7:00 rolls around, if you haven’t had any little visitors looking for candy, you probably aren’t getting any! Parents don’t even take their kids out in the dark, it isn’t safe anymore. And home-made treats? That’s a preposterous notion, as they could be laced with drugs or alcohol or be full of needles. Halloween has turned into a trip to the mall or hitting that college dorm, all while it’s still light out. It just makes me so sad. We seriously had like 5 groups of kids come to our door this Halloween, and one or two of those were groups of punk teenagers.

It’s not just the fact that we’re living in a society so focused on distrust and fear of the person next door that saddens me. On top of that, now the stores are filled with ridiculous amounts of toys and video games that completely undermine creativity and imagination and solely provide parents a way to keep their kids at bay. Distractions are what they are, not toys, not games. I’m not judging either, I know how easy it is to pop in a movie or send the kids upstairs to their video games, (I have definitely done my share of babysitting in my days). I just find it amusing that we make all these technological advances which supposedly “better” our society but really, they seem to be taking away the very essence of childhood, which to me is innocence and free and original thought.

I just hope that acknowledging these flaws in today’s society, and even more importantly, remembering what made my childhood so special, will arm me with the strength and courage to do everything in my power to make sure that my children will one day look back on their own childhoods with the same amount of nostalgic happiness as I do.

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