It’s Called Progress

I’m finding myslef just a little bit over the “my generation played outside, rode bikes without helmets, survived without mobile phones/computers’ played in the dirt, got the strap at school and drank water from the hose” judgement that’s circles around on the internet endlessly.

Doug Ross ‘How Did We Survive?” is one that most people have read.

I am one of the baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964. I sometimes wonder how we survived our childhoods. Consider:

Our mothers smoked and/or drank while pregnant.
They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can and didn’t get tested for diabetes.
Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with brightly colored, lead-based paints.
There were no childproof lids on medicine or special locks on cabinet doors.
We we rode bikes, we wore baseball caps, not specially engineered helmets.
As infants, we rode in cars without car seats or booster seats, no seat belts and no air bags. Sometimes, as tots, we rode in small moving boxes packed with blankets and toys.
We rode in the back of pickup trucks and no one was arrested or cited.
We drank water from garden hoses, not from plastic bottles.
We shared a single bottle of Coca-Cola with three friends — and no one died.
We ate cupcakes with food coloring, white bread, real butter and bacon. In fact, we drank Kool-Aid mixed with tablespoons of real sugar.
Yet we weren’t overweight, because we were always outside playing.
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when dusk fell. And no one was able to reach us all day. And: we were okay.
We’d spend hours in the forest with Daisy rifles, or building go-carts without brakes, or sledding with wooden and steel monstrosities that could sever a limb.
We did not have Playstations, Nintendo’s and X-Boxes. There were no video games, no cable television, no DVD players. There were no computers, no web, no Facebook, no Twitter.
We had friends and we went outside and found them… without cell phones or text messages.
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits resulting from these accidents. We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
We were given BB guns and knives for our birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls, played lawn darts and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out many eyes.
We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them.
Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment.
The boomers and their parents have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers, inventors and entrepreneurs ever.
The last 50 years have seen an explosion of innovation and new ideas.
We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.
We had the good fortune to grow up as kids in America, before the government regulated so much of our lives “for our own good”
Give thanks, for such an age will never occur again.

My sister and I (Gen X) lived that childhood too. We survived our mother smoking while pregnant, we lived without computers and mobile phones. We knew it was time to go inside when the streetlights came on, we had to hose ourselves down before we were allowed inside, and were asked to leave our ‘pet dogs’, bits of tee tree tied to rope, at the back door. An awesome childhood that we would not change for one second, But…

Consider this
Medical Science has come an awful long way in 70 years. We are now well aware of the dangers of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Listeria infections, Gestational Diabetes, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Lead Poising from babies teething on cots painted with lead based paints. 


Thanks to the medical professionals and scientists who spent their lives studying and researching these and other diseases, I can now make the educated choice to not drink or smoke, avoid soft cheese, take a blood test and be aware of how I put my babydown to sleep.  I’m ok with reducing the risk of these diseases.

There’s also the consideration of how many lives have been saved by inventions such as  childproof lids on medicine bottles, bike helmets, infant car seats, seat belts and airbags.
I actually like the idea that my kids have to wear a helmet to ride on the street. If I can prevent brain injury with a simple helmet I’m ok with that. No helmet = No bike.

Likewise, my kids travel in a people mover with every form of airbag known to man, in the best booster seats that money can buy. I don’t feel that I somehow hinder their experience of childhood by providing these safety precautions. Necessity is the Mother of invention.

My kids still go to birthday parties and eat too much sugar. They eat cupcakes, as well as white bread and real butter. They drink soft drinks with sugar, and they are not overweight because we teach them moderation and because……
they are always outside playing.

Kids often spend hours building go-carts out of old prams and skateboards, then ride down the hill, only to find out they forgot the brakes. Just last week my eldest two boys made a go cart from two bladeboards, a carboard box and a roll of packing tape. It fell apart half way down the hill and we had a few scraped knees as a result. Oh well.

They do build tree houses and dens and play in river beds and parklands with matchbox cars. They fall out of trees, get cut, brake bones and teeth and go out tomorrow to do it again. Last year Deflector broke both arms, at the same time, as a result of a tree climbing expedition. We have had numerous trips to the emergency department for stitches, in fact we had two in two days (Thankyou CC)….but that’s another story.

 They eat worms and mud pies made from dirt, and love every minute of it. The Actor recently introduced me to sour grass. Yes, my kids eat grass and they really really love it. Makes me wonder why they complain about mushrooms in their pasta.

They do have Nintendo Wii , Pay TV, dvd’s, iPods and Nintendo DS consoles,  yet they still find more joy in cardboard boxes and sheet forts.  In fact, our school has recently intalled a new piece of playground equipment called a ‘POD’. The launch of the POD was a huge big deal. There was a countdown, and a ribbon cutting ceremony that the local MP attended. No one knew what was in the POD and it was all very exciting. So the day of the launch came and the POD was opened, and inside was….
the biggest pile of junk I have ever seen. It looked like a hoarders forgotten storage shed. There were pieces of pvc pipe, foam off cuts, old tyres, hammocks and general bits of crap. The kids thought it was Christmas and now on POD days we hear nothing but the stories of the ‘spaceship’ they made from a plastic drum. Or the ‘army base’ that was a hammock tied between two trees. My kids want a POD at home, and I have to resist the urge to not throw everything in the garbage.
Kids really do still use their imaginations, they do still love unstructured play, the Play For Life POD initiative is proof of that.

Some kids these days do have and enjoy mobile phones, personal computers, Internet and Facebook……….but its really not as evil as the baby boomers would have you believe. The use of technology is not to the exclusion of friends. Real live ones that they go outside and play with. Granted some mothers stand around the school car park gossiping about what a bad mother I am for allowing my 8 year old the freedom to walk 7 houses up our street to ask his friend to play at the park across the road. I’ll get over it.

Back to technology
There’s alot to be said for the educational experience that computers provide. The concept was inconceivable in generations gone by.                                                                                  
Have a question about anything – ‘Google’ it. 
Need information for a school project – Wikipedia. 
Want to talk face to face with a relative in England? Skype 
Want to learn/see how to play that guitar chord? Youtube 
Even the ‘games’ the kids play online are educational.

I don’t lose sleep over my kids having access to the most amazing technological advancements that not only allows their every question to be answered, but encourages creativity in new and different ways.


While we’re on education I, and I’m sure other parents agree, can live with the fact that teachers no longer ‘discipline’ children with canes and rulers. It’s no surprise that kids still manage to learn without the trauma of violence. As we have seen with the POD vid above, when school is a pleasant place to be, kids want to be there, and are more open to learning.
They can now show consideration to teachers and adults through respect rather than fear.

The boomers and their parents have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers, inventors and entrepreneurs ever.
The last 50 years have seen an explosion of innovation and new ideas.
We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

Children today still do experience freedom, failure, fear, success and responsibility, and like previous generations, they learn how to deal with it all. I look forward to the innovation and new ideas that will come with the maturation of the next generation, despite the fact that I will be in my 40’s when that happens, eeek.
At the risk of sounding cliché, the children are our future, and I have no doubt that some of the worlds best risk takers, problem solvers, inventors and entrepreneurs are playing on their laptops right now.
It’s called progress. Advancements in medical science, technology and sociology are responsible for a multitude of benefits for the new generation. Children still get to experience everything that their parents and grandparents did, plus a whole lot more that wasn’t even conceivable then. It wasn’t better in the 40’s 50’s and 60’s, just different. Progress changes the world and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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2 Responses to It’s Called Progress

  1. Marianne Fryingpan says:

    Very existential of you, my dear.

  2. Val says:

    Mostly the criticisms from the ‘baby boomers’ (of which I’m one, apparently, though I hate the terms ‘baby boomer’ and ‘silver surfer’ etc) are to do with the way various governments are turning into nanny states and not allowing their citizens to do the things we used to do. Granted you and your children are able to do these things, but many aren’t. In the UK, particularly in inner cities (where I thankfully no longer live) this freedom rarely exists.

    And yes, you’re right, it’s progress. Unfortunately often at a cost, though.

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