The conversation took place last night during class. One of the book talks had prompted a discussion about how things were different now than they were when we were kids. And because of the terrible things you hear about happening to kids today, you just couldn’t be careful enough about who your kids hang out with and where they go without adult supervision. One of my classmates told a story about how her and a friend’s son were walking home early one evening, and were approached by a man in a car. The man rolled down his window and asked the boys, “You guys live around here?” The boys froze in their tracks at the question. The man went on, “Do ya’ll like sports?” When the boys still didn’t respond, the man drove on. The boys ran home and told Leslie what had happened. She immediately emailed all of her friends to warn them that this guy was driving through the neighborhood, looking for little boys. Not long after the email went out, she got a response from one of her friends saying that her husband had read the email and thought he might be the person the boys were talking about. See, he’s a coach, and was looking for kids to play on his team and when he saw the boys, he approached them without thinking about how it would look to the boys (man in car, doesn’t introduce himself, asks weird questions, etc.). It was all a mistake, and everybody laughed about it afterwards (albeit nervously), and everything was fine. But the whole point of the story was that you never know what is going to happen to your kids in this day and age.
Well, I’m sitting there thinking of the times Sister and I stayed gone all day in the woods, all the times we would just knock on some neighbor’s door to be let in so that we could get a snack cause it was too far to walk home for food, all the times I spent the night at my strange neighbor’s house (a house that I recall as being creepy for a lot of reasons, reasons that I really don’t want to talk about right now because I may creep my parents out for ever having allowed me to spend the night with those folks). Why, I’m surprised that I survived to be this age, and I looked at my classmate Greg and said such. I mentioned to him that when my family would spend our summer vacation visiting my grandmother in Kentucky, I would disappear on my own most afternoons because I was about a mile away in the neighbor’s field riding the pony that I had been forbidden to ride (oh, I wasn’t going to be stopped by a simple, “No, you might break your neck.”), or looking for stills in the blackberry brambles. I would return at nightfall, legs bleeding from either working my way through the blackberry stickers, or from the pony having tried to rub me off his back by running me into the barbed-wire fence, or both. Yes, I could’ve easily broken my neck while riding that pony, and I could’ve easily been shot for sneaking around a still (especially considering that one of the stills I was sneaking around belonged to my Uncle Roder who was a mean drunk. Such a mean drunk in fact, he would later beat my Aunt Sarah to death in a drunkin rage and then come get me and my grandmother to show us how he had “done her up right.” They weren’t my real Aunt and Uncle, but that didn’t matter, and that’s a whole other story.).
My parents were (and still are) good parents, kept us fed and clothed, taught us about manners, a good work ethic and that we were no better than anyone else (we’d just better behave better than other people). They encouraged us to be realistic dreamers, allowed us to be independent and think for ourselves, but to always be on the lookout for stupid behavior. And they trusted us that we wouldn’t be the ones behaving stupidly. But I did behave stupidly, and quite often, because I was a kid and I didn’t think anything would happen to me. And luckily it didn’t. Just dumb luck.
So I’m thinking again how it’s a good thing that I don’t have children. I’d probably not allow them out of the house until they were twenty-one if I did. Because I’d be worried that they’d pull some kind of crap like I pulled when I was young. And I wouldn’t know about it until it was posted on their blog many years later.