Flashback: My 10 year old self

With the days of summer having come to a close for my kids, I feel the need to look back on the summer experiences of my early years.

Back when I was 10 years old, I lived with my parents and my brother in an apartment building. It was a three bedroom apartment on the sixth floor. My brother was much younger than I (he was all of three then). My mother, who decided to quit her job to raise us after she had my brother, would usually send me on my way as I would drive her crazy roaming back and forth in the apartment. “On my way” meant to go outside and play in the park or in the woods right next to the park either by myself or with friends.

The park had the usual dark brown wood play structure with a wooden bridge in the middle of two “castles” (that’s what I called them anyway). It also had a baseball diamond, a soccer field and a basketball court.

The “woods” were essentially a ravine, with a stream at the bottom. Trees grew on either side of the stream, up the slopes, for probably a couple hundred feet. There were always houses nearby, with the exception of the park, where the woods got deeper. ­­

While I enjoyed playing at the play structure, I spent the vast majority of my time in the woods. There were all sorts of hiding places in there where you could build a fort to fight off imaginary armies. Knowing the hiding spots was important not only for fun, but also for, at times, personal safety. A gang of kids had been put together by Jean, a huge kid a few years older than me and my friends. He basically forced kids to join his gang, otherwise you were in for a beating. Also, there was this huge dog, a St. Bernard, that had dug a hole under the fence of the yard he was kept in. You always had to tread carefully in that part of the woods, just in case Cujo, as my friends and I called him, came running at you. Trees were our friends then.

The stream was also a huge draw. Early spring was the best, when the melting snows would swell the usually sedate stream into a raging torrent of white water. The summer was also good, as we would build some boats out of branches of wood, with a leaf as a sail, and watch them float down the stream, all the way to the culvert.

Those were my usual spots to spend the lazy days of summer. Mind you, we also rode our bikes all over the place. I remember taking my bike to abandoned fields were there was still old farm equipment rusting away and old buildings falling apart. I loved exploring those areas and making up stories about why they had been abandoned.

I suppose I had a lucky childhood. Sure I have a number of scars that remind me of painful times, but all in all, it was a good time. Which leads me to my own children. My son, who is in grade 5 now, and my daughter, in grade 3, spent the summer mostly tethered at home. Either in the back or front yard, in front of a screen or at a friend’s place.

I have a hard time with this. I feel like they won’t have the opportunities to explore and take risks as I did as a kid. I’m really trying lately to give them more freedom, but it’s difficult. I want to protect them, but to do so, I have to let them go. That, as a parent, is the hardest thing to do.

See what Jen has to say bout her flashback.

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2 Responses to “Flashback: My 10 year old self”

  1. So totally, totally hear you on this one. I had a similar childhood – we lived on the edge of a huge undeveloped field, with a hill that sloped down to a pond where there were tadpoles and muck and rocks of all sizes. We had so much freedom in the summer to just roam freely – the rule was, you came home when the streetlights came on.

    Now I wonder how my mother stood it – didn’t she fret? Didn’t she worry and panic about where we might be, what might be happening to us? I know I do, and as a result, my kids are tethered, too. But I also feel, more and more, that that’s bad for them – that they deserve more freedom, and will never learn to handle themselves if they aren’t given more chances to explore their limits and learn some self-confidence. I’m trying to force myself into new places, like letting our 8 year old bike to a friend’s house by herself, or letting our 10 year old take some spending money of his own to the corner store by himself. It’s tough letting go, though – you really have to make yourself do it.

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