Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Time Marches On

When I was a lad, lo, these many years ago, we rode our bicycles everywhere, when the weather permitted. (Of course we rode velocipedes, but still ...)

At seven, I first took my little Huffy to school. When I was nine, I got a big bike -- an "English Racer," that had three speeds and cable hand brakes. With the seat all the way up, I couldn't reach the pedal at the bottom of the stroke, so I either had to stand on the pedals, or shove hard enough so I could catch it on the inertial upswing. I had to straddle the cross bar when I came to a stop, and even then, it was on tip-toes if I want to keep the bike from falling over. I learned how to wiggle the front wheel a little at a stop to keep the bike balanced so I wouldn't have to put my feet down.

In the summers, my friends and I rode everywhere, and while the distances seem longer in memory than they actually were when I look at the map, we did cover some ground. Rode to the the local swimming pool before it was closed to prevent racial integration, about two miles round trip. A little longer than that to the Dalton Theater, for the quadruple horror movies on Saturdays. We were five miles from downtown, and ten from LSU, and we routinely made those trips a few times each summer.

Little boys, little girls, all of us pedaling all over hell and gone, and nobody thought twice about it. Don't take candy from strangers, that was pretty much our only warning against pedophiles.

It's a measure of how much things have changed to note that this morning, while walking my dogs, I came across three little girls riding their bicycles down by the duck pond. I guess the oldest might have been nine or ten, the others, a year, maybe two younger. My first reaction was to look around and wonder where the adult was -- what were these children doing out by themselves? Yeah, it's a safe and quiet neighborhood, with -- new and improved! -- sidewalks and all, but ...

A lot of things have gotten better in our world from the days when I was a tow-head, but not everything.


Anonymous said...

I'm a bit younger than you ... but, when I was kid, it was nothing for us to disappear after school and be home for dinner. We'd ride our bikes for hours... Or play pick up games of baseball, football... and a few games that can't be mentioned today without offending someone.

Today -- I don't see kids doing that. They're inside, playing video games, or they're on organized teams. Some of these kids wouldn't be able to figure out how to play a pickup game if you paid them. Especially if they were short players and had to rotate batters team to team or something like that...

But -- I also have been paid to ride a bike all day!

Mike said...

I caught a piece of an interview on the radio yesterday, a woman talking about "free range kids". Seems she's got the notion (and the crime statistics to back it up) that things ARE a whole lot safer for kids today than they were say twenty or thirty years ago. So she figures that while nothing is entirely safe, kids ought to be allowed to do the stuff they traditionally do. I wouldn't know; I grew up in a sparsely populated rural area where the nearest town was ten miles away, and the nearest kid my age was about the same distance. I got around on a bike some, but bikes and gravel roads aren't a great combination. So by thirteen, like most farm kids, I was driving a tractor. We had a 1943-vintage Jeep, too; a great toy for someone like me. Then again, all the boys at the Marshfield grade school (six grades in three rooms) carried knives in those days, an act that would get you tossed in jail for being a pre-teen terrorist today. We could all shoot; nobody I knew had a BB gun but .22s were all the rage. Entirely unsafe, I'm sure, but nobody I knew ever got shot or stuck with a knife by accident.

William Adams said...

Yeah, it's funny, shooting is the only scholastic sport in which there's never been a fatal injury --- I used to ride 52 miles round trip in the summer to purchase comic books and books (in the winter I had to wait for family trips or get kids at school who lived near the town to get them for me or trade for them), and would often ride to visit friends, the closest of whom lived 5 or 6 miles away.


Some guy said...

Mike... Thanks; it's good to hear that there might be some statistics to back that up. I've often suspected that it's not that child molesting has increased so much these days, but just that people have become aware of the possibility.

This may sound cold, but say there is a 1 in 10,000 chance of a child being molested. (No idea, I'm just making up a figure.)Is it really worth cooping our kids up inside all the time? More importantly, is it worth alienating all our children from their fellow humans by making them paranoid about the possibility of communicating with strangers? Maybe I'm naieve, but if I have kids I'm going to encourage them to talk to people, strangers or no. (I'll cover my playing-with-forks-and-electrical-outlets plan some other time...)

Steve Perry said...

No offense, SG, but come back and see me after you have children. The theories about how one is gonna raise kids tend to get shot down pretty quick when actual kids are on the scene.

The statistics on child molestation are easy to dig up and the numbers have been on the rise steadily since the 1970's. One child in five has been propositioned on the internet, a thing that didn't exist thirty years ago.

Even one in ten thousand? Way too high, if it is your kid at risk. Thing is, the studies indicate that it will be one girl in four and one boy in six.

Long way from ten thousand.

Some guy said...

No offense taken. While I was (sincerely) writing that, a dark little voice in the back of my head was actually asking "Yeah, but are you going to feel like that when you have kids?" I admit that if the chances really were one in four and one in six it would make a huge difference, but I'm pretty skeptical. I'd have to see some serious research to support that. It might be that those figures come from the same sources that propagate the popular but (just plain unsupported) figure of 1 in 3 women being raped.

The thing is that people I know well tend to talk about things like this, especially people in fandom. (Yes, for my sins.) Again, maybe I'm being naieve, but I think I would have heard more people telling me about experiences like this if it happened so often. Though, come to think about it, that would be earlier generations and so the chances would be lower if those stats are correct...

Some guy

Steve Perry said...

The studies are easy to find and pretty conclusive. The numbers have been going up. Lot of different reasons offered -- from pornography, to easier access to children by predators, to earlier adolescence. Plenty of twelve-year-old girls who can pass for sixteen or seventeen around, and who grew up in a culture where sex sells everything from cars to cigarettes to sports drinks.

Beauty contests for nine-year-olds, with make-up and sexy clothes?

Pedophiles always say the same thing: S/he wanted it. As if a nine-year-old child has the capabilities of an adult.

Don't take my word for it, do the research.

It's a more dangerous world for children in a lot of ways. Yeah, polio and smallpox are gone, but things have come to take their places. AIDS makes unprotected sex with a stranger really scary, and kids all think they will live forever.

When you don't have kids, these things tend not to impinge on your consciousness. When you do, you think about them.