I (don’t) brake for summer vacation


I was kicking around the idea of writing about all the questionable things our parents did to and with us as children and calling together a support group of sorts. But then I thought “what would we call it?”
Honestly, in order to encompass all the things we could possibly question about how we were raised, we’d just have to call it “Adult Children of Parents” and virtually everyone on the planet would belong.
Safety first. As we head into another of what we hope is a long, hot, and fun-filled summer it pays to consider that safety is, of course, our No. 1 goal. This then begs the question: however did we survive our own childhood summers?
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that so many of us have lived as long as we have. Most notably, as children we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Better yet, riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was a special treat!
It occurs to me, writing this, that today’s children have no concept of carpooling with four kids squished in the back seat and three more rolling around in the “way back.”
Way back. Do vehicles even have a “way back” anymore? That cargo area where you could stretch out and make funny faces at the people in the cars behind you? Probably not. They’ve installed DVD players instead and took all the joy out of irritating fellow drivers.
I don’t doubt for a moment that many of you can still recall the whip-quick speed of a parental arm shooting out across little chests (or for the shorties: their chins) to hold them in place during sudden stops in the days before seatbelts became mandatory, or available.
Although I certainly don’t argue with the wisdom of seatbelt and car-seat laws, I do wonder if that reflex will be lost, evolution-wise?
As a mother I have never experienced throwing my arm across a passenger to stop them from flying through the windshield. Across my low-fat latte, maybe.
Meanwhile, my own mother will probably never completely shake the habit.
No helmets. Other things that were simply the norm “back then” whether you grew up in the 1930s or the 1970s seem questionable if not downright negligent now. When we rode our bikes we had no helmets. Heck, we rarely had brakes. Knee pads? Elbow pads? Forget about it! That’s why God gave us skin.
We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle – even after the dog had licked rom the same hose first! Oddly, as far as I know, we all lived to tell about it.
We would spend hours building go-carts and wagons out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out that our obviously awesome engineering prowess didn’t extend to brakes.
After running into the bushes – or street – a few times we learned to solve the problem with a nice Fred Flintstone-esque foot drag.
Dodge ball. Most tellingly, we played dodge ball with nary a hint of ACLU involvement. Sure it was cruel. Borderline bullying even. Still – it passed the time. As did licking our wounds.
We always lost because we invariably played with much bigger kids (I think some of them drove themselves to the games).
When I got a little older, I had a bike with a banana seat that I would race up and down the sidewalks. The “brakes” were simple. All I had to do in order to stop was drag my feet.
Flintestone brakes. This worked beautifully, like a well-oiled (albeit brakeless) machine until the day I really got up some speed on a downhill run and forgot that I was barefoot.
I don’t doubt I learned invaluable problem solving skills as I instantly assessed which was liable to be more painful: scraping my toes to the bone or swerving into a tree.
I daresay today’s kids don’t get that kind of opportunity sitting in front of a video game. For the record, I chose the swerve and mildly sprained both wrists. Good times, good times.
My children have never ridden bikes without helmets. A safety consideration I applaud, even as I realized that we do allow them to hurtle down snow covered tree-lined hills on a sled without helmets.
Ours is not a perfecting parenting science I see now. Despite our precautions, our son did garner himself a nasty set of stitches from nothing more risky than a bottle that exploded upon his touch when he attempted to play with it (despite being warned about a jillion times not to).
Thus, despite our most valiant attempts, he too has known the childhood joy of self-maiming.
Have fun, be careful. So as we head into another long, hot summer. I’m going to say for the record: be careful out there. But I’m also going to add that you shouldn’t forget to have some fun.
Climb a tree. Run through a sprinkler. Ride a bike, but most importantly, please do brake for summertime fun.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt should wear a helmet at all times. She welcomes comments c/o kfs@epohi.com; http://userweb.epohi.com/~kseabolt; or P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)


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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.