It’s a miracle my kids are here today; they missed many of the health and safety measures that shield today’s youth. But it’s not like I didn’t try to protect them.
Rather than allowing her to fling herself down the cellar stairs,I made productive use of our playpen where my daughter happily banged on pots with a wooden spoon. I suppose she could have also poked herself in the eye with that same wooden spoon, but then she could have also done this with her Fisher-Price wooden telephone if she set her mind to it.
As I cooked dinner, I would often hang a bouncer from the kitchen doorframe where my son would spring up and down, laughing and gumming arrowroot cookies, producing a cement-like paste of spit and crumbs on the wooden floor beneath him. Did I deny him the freedom of exploring the kitchen underfoot as I traveled from stove with pots of boiling water to the sink, which was a good ten feet away? Did I somehow stunt his development? At least this argument is easily exploded by the fact that he finished off at 6 foot 5 inches.
However, it does seem amazing that they survived their 1970s childhoods. I shudder when I think of the rickety infant seat that we hauled our babies around in, a fragile affair of thin plastic and spindly metal supports.
Rather than whipping out the Purell the instant our child touched a foreign door handle, we kept a running commentary going of “Don’t lick that! Don’t touch that! Leave that alone, you don’t know where that’s been!”
At the beach, pre-sunscreen, and hampered by our pasty Anglo-Saxon heritage, all I could do was jam my unwilling kids into t-shirts and slather the remaining parts with completely ineffective “sun lotion.” Our freckle harvest in those years was impressive.
I suppose that’s why life expectancy rises with each passing generation. At least, unlike me, my children weren’t raised with a jar of bacon fat as a fixture on the stove for cooking (okay, maybe that’s just a Southern thing). And they never spent each fall in the street, poking at a burning pile of leaves with a big stick.
But for me, summer still conjures up the joy of bare feet in the day and the smell of Noxema at night.