Free Range Kids

It is hard for kids today to imagine what life was like when their grandparents were growing up. The breadth of freedom enjoyed by Boomers would today probably be illegal. Wow, was it ever fun to be a kid way back then!

No, we didn’t have smart phones, 100 channels on 72-inch HD TV’s, or electronic games, but that didn’t matter because we weren’t expected to be in the house anyway. If Mom could see us, she had a chore ready. If Dad found us lying around in front of the TV during daylight . . . well, just forget about that one. Suffice it to say, we never wanted Dad finding us lying around anywhere.

So, what did we do? Rode our bicycles far and wide. No helmets and no riding on the sidewalk either. It was out into the traffic and peddling as far from home as our sturdy little legs could take us. We were rarely alone. Every kid in the neighborhood could be riding with us, up to the park for a picnic, down to the beach for a swim, out for ice cream, or just to see how much distance we could make and still get home before supper. My gang’s favorite was riding across town to a huge hill. We’d walk our bikes up and then shoot down, traveling so fast the bikes would shake and our eyes would water.

Then there was playing cowboys. (Very politically incorrect now, but not back then.) We had toy guns and the more they looked like real guns the better. We shot each other, pretending to be gunslingers or on a cattle drive. We went out into the canyons and roamed like wild coyotes. We’d take a lunch and be outside from after breakfast to just before dinner.

So, how could our parents let us disappear for so many hours? Didn’t they care about our safety? Not enough to wreck our fun. Running wild was what people thought kids were supposed to do. Yes, sometimes one of us came home with a broken something or a bad bite. That was really no big deal. Just part of the risks of being a normal kid. Safety took a backseat in the priorities of our lives.

Speaking of backseats, that is not where we always rode. The front seat was prime real estate and crawling over the back of the bench seat to get up there wasn’t unheard of. What about air bags? There were no air bags, no seat belts either. The only safety device cars came with was Dad’s arm, which he would slam into you as he slammed on the brakes. If you were lying up in the back window, you went flying and bounced off the front seatbacks. If you were smart, you didn’t cry or complain, because it could cost you that treasured spot.

We were left free to encounter problems and people that we had to learn how to negotiate on our own. We lived in a world of kids, filled with adventure and personal responsibility. If something went wrong, we knew we would be blamed and that could put our liberty at risk. So, mostly we behaved ourselves and survived. We learned to solve our problems and grew stronger for the experiences.

Those children are still inside us even as we have grown older and slower. Staying connected with those adventurous souls can help us Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident.

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About the author

Scott Funk has specialized in Home Equity Conversion Mortgage reverse mortgages for over a decade. He is a recognized Aging in Place advocate in his home state of Vermont. His monthly newspaper column Aging in Place has run for 7 years in 24 papers around the state. Scott is brings a lighthearted approach to his talks on Boomers, retirement and aging on purpose.