When I was 20 my boyfriend at the time told me that I had a “sheltered” life. I never really asked what he meant exactly but I assumed it meant that I didn’t come from a broken family like he did. When I think of a sheltered life, I think of someone who is overprotected from outside exposures, unpleasant situations, and every day dangers.
I don’t think that was me.
I was raised by two loving parents who guided and were there for me, but I’m pretty sure I was encouraged to play outside every day until the sun went down. I had a pink bike that I would use to escape into the “wilderness” and not return until it was dark. I was also the youngest of three girls so as you can imagine, my parents didn’t have much time to dot on me. As a matter of fact, I was rarely given anything new, I always got the last pick in everything, I never got shotgun (plus I had to endure long rides without snacks and juices), I had to endure hours of pleading just to be able to “hang” with my older sisters and their friends, and I was often picked on just for being the youngest (and cutest, mind you). I had to figure out a lot of things on my own.
That isn’t very sheltered is it?
Also my childhood included moving several times from the U.S. to Argentina, the last time fleeing the Falklands War in Argentina in the 80s. The culture and language shock I experienced as a young kid was disorienting and marked me for life. Having to leave friends behind and start a new system, a new school with kids who had been attending school together since Kinder was certainly not a walk in the park for me. I didn’t fit in here nor there. I didn’t like change but I was forced to do it. Looking back, I had more global experience than most kids (good and bad), so sheltered I wasn’t.
I got to thinking a bit more about this, and our generation as a whole (compared to today’s generation of youth) was anything but sheltered, as a matter of fact, it’s pretty amazing we’re still around.
We did things back then that would horrify us today – no seatbelts (ever), no baby-proofing to protect us from consuming toxic cleaners, no sunscreen, no helmets, no knee pads, no medication childproof lids, secondhand smoke everywhere, frequent rides on the flatbed of pick-up trucks, drinking water from the hose, eating unwrapped Halloween candy, fearlessly climbing fences and sitting on rooftops, sugary cupcakes, cereal and soda, playing with fireworks, eating the seeds of plants that smelled yummy, tying a rope to the back of the car to roller skate as older cousin drove down the street, playing in deathly playgrounds with metal that burned you and slides that were probably not up to code, geez, I could go on and on.
Yet, we survived, even with all the odds against us. Truth be told, kids are very adaptable and this made us more resilient as adults.
Gosh, what can I say, we rocked then and we rock now!
As I relive childhood through my kids’ eyes and their actions today, it often strikes me how different mine was vs. theirs. I don’t necessarily think ours was better or worse but possibly more exciting…shhh! So next time you tell your kids a story, take one step back in time and dare to tell them a little about your way of life back in the day, the freedom, the risks, the challenges we all faced. I can assure you they will enjoy it as much as you enjoyed living through it.
What do you miss most about your childhood?