06 June 2005
Lightning bugs, root beer floats and bare feet

A bit of a ramble, please bear with me...

Now that it's summer, I find myself thinking back to my childhood, and the long, lazy, hot summers I had then. Three months, an almost inconceivable number of days at the time, stretching out before me with nothing but adventures and explorations looming ahead.

When I was young we lived in a small town in the midwest. Most of my extended family lived nearby, so my sister and I spent a good deal of time at Grandma's with all the cousins. I have some very happy memories of those days. Playing outside until the sun went down, having to be forced to come indoors. Not wearing shoes from June through August, feeling the soft grass underfoot. We would run wild around the neighborhood, catching turtles, exploring on our bikes.

Many a night was spent "camping" in Grandma's RV parked next to her yard. We would get mason jars with holes punched in the lid and have contests to see who could catch the most lightning bugs (what midwestern child DIDN'T do that?). We played hide and seek in the neighbor's corn fields. Knee-high by the 4th of July seemed significantly taller to an 8 year old. We climbed trees, made forts in the yard's treeline, and created our own little world. On especially hot days, we would lay in the road and pop the tar bubbles gleaming on the paved surface. We planted gardens, and in one tragic accident, became surrogate mothers to a litter of baby bunnies. Sadly, they didn't live long, but it was an invaluable lesson--getting up through the night to feed the fragile little creatures with milk meted out by eye droppers. It was a magical time; a time of transistor radios, halter tops and imagination.

Those were the days when kids didn't have car seats. When we didn't have VCRs or computers or video games. When it was relatively safe to send your kids out to play in the morning and not see them all day except for meals. When we got spanked for doing something wrong. When the biggest treat imaginable was to go, hot and sticky after a long day playing outside, to the A&W root beer stand and get an ice cream float in a frosty mug. Heaven!

These are the things my children are missing out on. We live in England*** now (moved here when my oldest was 4, and my youngest was born here), and so the summers aren't nearly so hot or long. Rain and clouds are the most likely forecast no matter what time of year. Being overseas, we are no longer close to extended family--and a great shame that is! My kids barely know their cousins, for which I will always feel like a bad mother. And of course there are no great 4th of July celebrations to be had. No running around the neighborhood barefoot, sparklers and younger cousins in tow, checking out what fireworks the people down the road had. And we don't have lightning bugs.

But most of the things I miss about my own childhood have little to do with location, but with the way the world has changed. I don't feel safe letting my kids roam unsupervised. Whether there are more freaks out there than there used to be, or whether we just hear more about them now; I don't feel comfortable letting them too far out of my sight. And I certainly wouldn't feel safe letting them lie in the middle of the road! Kids today have too many attractions indoors, and it can be a chore getting them to go outside in the first place (although I assure I put my big momma foot down on that one!) . Car seats are obligatory; proof that some things have changed for the better. But for the most part, the world seems so much less full of promise than it did back then.

I wonder what childhood memories my kids will cherish? Will they remember he pure, simple pleasure of a sunny day, a big garden, and the joy of having freedom? Or will they remember the video games? I guess time will tell...

*** Don't get me wrong here--I ADORE England. And my kids are creating lots of memories that I never had the opportunity to: Bonfire Night, Boxing Day, castles galore, and of course, the Eurovision Song contest! :) I don't for a minute regret moving here, but I wish I could give them the best of both worlds...

posted by Julie at 9:43 AM 16 comments


Blogger Sue said...

Oh, I think we mums always think there are things our children miss out on! But equally as you say there are many things they have which we didn't. We moved from England to Cyprus seven-and-a-half years ago, which, as in your experience, has some positive and some negative consequences. It was easy to complain and compare since it was primarily my husband's decision to move. But seven years on I see so many benefits to my sons - we discovered and revelled in home education, we've become a lot more relaxed, it's a safe environment so they've had actually more freedom than I did as a teenager, and they've learned all kinds of things that would probably not have happened if we'd stayed in the UK. Sure they've missed out on some stuff, but if it's important they can always do it when they're older.

Mon Jun 06, 12:41:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Sheri said...

What special memories.

It's amazing what kids latch onto as special times. While I have vivid memories of playing in the creek and catching tadpoles, I also really loved coming home from school on Mondays to a spotlessly clean house, the smell of fresh baked cookies and Barry Mannilow on the record player. It wasn't something my mom did for me, but that was just "home"

Mon Jun 06, 01:43:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Karen said...

what a beautiful post - I too had a wonderful childhood filled with exciting adventures - I feel it is now my turn to help my children find the spirit of their childhood whilst re-living a bit of my own.

Eurovision song contest!!!!!! LOL

Mon Jun 06, 02:29:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Jaws said...

I remember being able to ride my bike 20 miles from the house to go to the store for a ice cream cone with friends.

Kids just can't do that any more. I send mine out to play and I have them check in ever 20 minutes and they have to stay with in eye site of the house.

Mon Jun 06, 02:41:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Lora said...

Some of the best things that children experience when they grow up just weren't in the lesson plan. While your childhood experiences were similar to many of those of our generation you children will have a childhood similar to those of their generation, with a few unique twist of course.

"Times they are a changing..."

Mon Jun 06, 03:33:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger lchan said...

Fabulous post. I remember catching fireflies when I'd visit my cousins in Missouri (I don't remember them in Minnesota). The hot days in bare feet, wandering - you captured all of it beautifully.

Your kids will have cherished memories - they'll just be different memories. And, thankfully, safe memories.

Mon Jun 06, 05:15:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Bossy♥'s YOU said...

sounds like mot of my childhood..good times..good times...my kids are away form our family as well..we moved from one midwest to state to another...lots of lighting bugs and sprinklers to be had...your kids will have good summer time memories...just difffenrt from what you had..thats all

Mon Jun 06, 05:40:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger mrsmogul said...

Hi, your husband Scott told me to come visit you. It's nice that you adore England, cause I don't. It's okay but not for me. HE told me to come look at the AGA? Where is that?

Mon Jun 06, 09:56:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Julie said...

Sue, I checked out your site. Your kids have certainly got some great experiences from the look of it. Need an american/british family to come visit? We'll bring gifts! :)

Sheri, record player, eh? You must be about my age. :) It's funny how everyone has those memories...

Karen, LOVE the eurovision! My daughter's now hooked on bollywood too! :)

Jaws--20 miles?! You're a stud!

Lora, I know I just need to get over it. She does have some shared memories--we like a lot of the same books...

Laura, thanks! Yes, I think it may be too cold in MN; same reason we don't have them here.

Christina--Damn! I can't believe I forgot sprinklers! Sprinklers rock!

Mrsmogul--I'll find the link and send it to you... thanks for coming to visit and I hope you enjoy the rest of your time here.

Mon Jun 06, 11:50:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Jen said...

Julie, that was really cool. How do you remember all that stuff?

Your kids will have a bunch of neat stuff to remember, and you probably don't even think about whatever it is on a day to day basis. Plus, they have a lot of benefits we didn't. I'll leave it at that, because I know you know what I mean.

Tue Jun 07, 12:12:00 AM GMT+1  
Blogger Lora said...

God, I hope I didn't sound that! If I did I didn't mean to, I swear.

My mother passed on to me her love of books to, and when I was young I read lots of books that she had liked at my age.

Tue Jun 07, 03:57:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Julie said...

Lora, NO! You didn't sound bad at all. I was just pointing out to myself that I need to get over the fact that their childhood (s?) will be different from mine (you so want them to have a "great" childhood and most of the time "great" = whatever you thought was great at their age), but can still be good.
BTW--I think if I ever saw you make a comment that was even remotely rude I'd assume someone hijacked your password!! You always say really nice things, and have the knack of knowing the right thing to say. :)

Tue Jun 07, 04:05:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Lightning Bug's Butt said...

Yeah, England doesn't seem as enthusiastic about the 4th of July as we in America. You'd think they'd join in the fun.

And hey, that was my sister you locked up in a masonry jar back in 1981!

I forgive you.

Tue Jun 07, 05:53:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Lightning Bug's Butt said...

Great post, BTW.

Tue Jun 07, 05:53:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Lora said...

Thanks Julie
No I didn't take offense at all, but I was worried that my tone might have been off. It must be an INFJ thing.

Wed Jun 08, 12:19:00 AM GMT+1  
Blogger mommyguilt said...

Oh I do so remember my childhood summers - climbing up on the giant rock in my front yard and pretending it was my throne, walking to the park 4 blocks away at 7years old and playing there with no adult supervision, playing in the streets, riding around in the back of a pick up truck, coming home FULL of mosquito bites and not once having my mother freak about West Nile virus. Summers as a child were wonderful and I, too, wonder what memories my children will take with them into their adult lives. I know my daughter's will be full of softball - that's all she does in the summer, but the boys....they're video geeks at 15 & 8, so I have to push them outside, and supervise the 8 year old when he goes to the park that is within eye sight of my house. Things sure have changed. I hope that society doesn't become more paranoid or,on the other hand, painfully aware, of the things that make us so insecure with our children and I hope that video games cease to become all consuming so that our children and our grandchildren can enjoy their youth. Summers are short. Let's ALL enjoy them!

Wed Jun 08, 02:14:00 PM GMT+1  

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