Slice of Life Story Day 23 -Childhood Should Not Be Beige!

Today I heard a group of teachers lamenting that the kids they teach have limited life experiences mainly because their lives are so controlled. They don’t connect readily with the outside world. The message that danger lurks everywhere results in their experiences being restricted, monitored, and sometimes timetabled. Helicopter parents smother a sense of independent spirit.   Many parents are time poor because they are working hard to provide necessities and sadly this diminishes the time and energy for family matters.Time for doing new and exciting things. Time for talking and discussing.  The discussion otuched on regret for opportunities lost.

Kids indulging in a variety of screen technologies gain questionable experiences with warped realities and so teachers find themselves working harder to compensate for an increasingly apparent lack of world knowledge. Kids seem to know an awful lot about trivial pop culture matters, but little about the immediate world outside their front door. Materially they possess, so much more, experientially they often appear impoverished. The difference, as I see it is that my generation grew up mainly in small houses with large backyards and many of the children of this current generation are growing up in big houses with small backyards. Backyards they rarely spend time playing in. The siren of technology constantly lures them inside. 'Try making yourself more interesting than an Ipad app today,' added one teacher.

As the discussion unfolded,  I began to reflect on my own childhood and how fortunate my generation has been, generally speaking…

I think I was a lucky kid. I grew up surrounded by so many wonderful experiences. Not much money, not many material possessions,  but a truck load of great experiences. Kids clearly had more freedom then, simply because the world was perceived as a safer place. My parents were around if I needed them -and I did.

For a start, It was okay to go to the park on your own, Apart from playing on the monkey bars or the swing, you could also play hide and seek in the park. Almost every neighbourhood had it own corner shop. Kids drew hopscotch squares on the footpath and played for hours on one leg. We frequently spent the day running until we were literally out of breath. We were never far a ball. Football, cricket ball, tennis ball. We always had a ball. We rode our bicycles everywhere, exploring new places; avoiding snarling dogs.  On other occasions we would laugh so hard that our stomachs hurt. We loved nothing better than pitching a tent in the back/front yard and imagining what it would be like to sleep overnight. We remained brave until nightfall.  Inside, we loved jumping on the bed or sharing ghosts stories with the next door neighbours, or when our cousins came to stay. Pillow fights, spinning round, getting dizzy and falling down was also cause for the giggles. Our days were filled with activity.

Decisions were made by going, ‘Tip Top Taxi, One Two Three, Tip Top Taxi, You’re Not He’ or ‘Dib, Dib, Dob.’  At other times, we used ‘Scissors, Paper, Rock.’ Money issues were handled by whoever was the banker in Monopoly.

The word terrorism meant that the older kids were lurking at the end of your street waiting to ambush you.

The worst thing you could catch from the opposite sex were boy or girl germs, and the worst thing in your day was having to sit next to one. Asking a girl out meant, writing a 'polite' note and getting them to tick 'yes' or 'no'.  Writing 'I love....?' on your pencil case, really did mean it was true love. Games like Kiss Chasey were as  risky as things got because attempting to kiss the object of your desire could mean rejection and ultimately, depression.

One of your biggest dangers at school was accidentally walking through the middle of someone else’s game.  You could get throttled by a skipping rope, belted by a bat, or branded by a tennis ball- and if that wasn’t enough, you ran the risk of being monstered by the entire playing group.

Scrapes and bruises were kissed and made better. -And at some stage we all ate dirt or made mud pies. Taking drugs meant scoffing orange-flavoured chewable vitamin C's, or swallowing a disgusting concoction called Hypol. It was meant to ward of colds and flu.
Abilities were discovered because someone would say ‘Okay, I double-dare you."  Our siblings were the worst tormentors, but also our fiercest protectors. Adults seemed to be mostly in the background.

These recollections bring forth those heady days. I remain grateful for a childhood spent mostly in a good place. There are kids out there right now who are just as fortunate to enjoy a wide range of experiences that brings with them enduring memories. However, there seems to be an increasing number of children who are growing up without opportunities to experience the wonder and joy that comes from discovery and challenge.  Childhood should not be beige! It should involve rainbows. Rainbows you can catch in a jar…


  1. I love a slice that brings back my own personal memories and that is exactly what your slice did. I grew up in the 90s, but pre-internet 90s, so many of your childhood memories are similar to mine. As a parent, one of my struggles is to find a balance between real experiences and tech for my daughter. I believe that giving children opportunities for those real experiences, like the ones you described, are crucial. They will eventually (and easily) get the tech stuff since it has become a norm in our society today.

    Thank you for an enjoyable and thought-provoking slice today.

    Mandy @ The Chockboard

  2. Things are different. Whether for the better or worse, I think it is till difficult to say. I wish my boys would run outside for hours at a time, like I used, but the world is a different place. (or is it?)
    While I am an advocate of technology for creating and learning, I am also an advocate for putting that thing down and get outside and do something. Play ball. Build a fort. Invent an imaginary world.
    Great post. Thanks.
    PS -- Need to remember this one for later use: 'Try making yourself more interesting than an Ipad app today.'

  3. "Childhood should not be beige! It should involve rainbows. Rainbows you can catch in a jar… " Love this line. It says everything. I think children can still have rainbow childhoods, but parents have to help make it so. Parents need to be more interesting than an ipad app and get out and find those experiences. Camping, small trips to near by wild life areas...

    But I live in small town in rural northeast Iowa. Many of my kids are farm kids. The nearest mall is 70 miles away. It is easier here for kids to ride their bikes to a friends, or to the fitness center, or the local ball park for pick up games. My grandkids have parents who play outside with them and help them build forts over the clothesline.

    I guess I wear rainbow glasses and hope that parents still see the value of unscheduled play...

  4. Your post is so real and meaningful to me today. At parent-teacher conference, several parents were sure their third graders should have extra prep during recess time...or perhaps I could start an afternoon group...or perhaps a Saturday morning group....they need more time on task I heard...but I agree that more "beige" is not better...and more test practice booklets will not equal need to chase rainbows and order to have the energy to learn..thanks for a timely post

  5. Your slice brings memories and questions. We have had several talks about freedom and independence in our family. It seems that things have changed not just over generations but even in a decade. Ten years ago when our older girls were in primary grades we had no problem letting them come home alone after school, cook, and go outside play with their friend when we were still at work. Now that our third daughter is starting school i can not imagine letting her to be unsupervised. Is it because I have heard/read too many sad stories? Is it because I work in international school where lids are constantly guarded?
    I think this slice could/should be published for a bigger audience for a discussion.


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