Remembering mountains, rivers and trees with over grown paths abandoned houses and cemeteries ... Many of my playgrounds and Ideas of how I spent my free time are so very different to how I see many children growing up today in a very structured modified way of playing. Today's standards are first and foremost safe and free of liabilities cause nobody wants a lawsuit. Even though I did not have the most normal upbringing with my parents It still seems a lot of times being a child today is a bit mundane with having your free time mapped out for you and always under some sort of supervision.
Ideally the idea of keeping children from harms way is a good thing however I think back to my youth and how the element of the unknown or danger really fueled my imagination and my over all excitement for life. The thought of being caught by the mad man chasing you down with a machete and chopping you to bits was actually quite wonderful, I mean the energy jolting through you as you ran for your life and the victory you felt in having out ran him.
I see these prepackaged playground of homogeneous unimaginative structures as a forced fun that leaves one feeling listless and bored and very controlled. I can't stand the foam safety flooring and plastic tubing running amok throughout many of our neighborhoods. I want a natural landscape like the rocky dirty mountain I used to hike through weaving through vines and making up adventures with every turn. I want giant rocks that make me feel so small I am no longer a human but transformed into a woodland pixie. I remember a wonderful playground at my school as a child was in the woods a natural setting where these giant rocks set the stage for our endless scenarios. I was so sad to see as I returned recently to that playground it was over grown and covered up unable to hop freely from rock to rock though we still tried it but it was just not the same. It is now but a lost world left hidden under bushes and twigs.
I know the way I grew up with my playtime being so open had to do very much with the parenting involved and having had a very loose if not lax upbringing always out on my own never having to be concerned with summer camps and extra curricular classes or even the fact that I was a latch key kid I had no adult supervision a great deal of time. The days of baby sitters did not exist for me either.
I remember my parents would just go out leaving me and my older sister by just under 2 years alone and in charge to control the house. As a Five and Seven Year old you say, "Brilliant!" And then I go and get into some high-jinks "So your are hungry you say don't worry I know how to use the oven its easy you just stick this match in this here hole and WHHHHHAAAAAA.... BOOOMMM!!!" Huge flames leaped out with a pop and knocked me literally to the ground taking away my eyebrows and singed some of my hair as well. My sister was freaked out and I too was a bit nervous though relatively calm yet terribly scared to look in a mirror... I thought I was going to be all disfigured and my face melted I remember asking my sister Cindy in a very troubled voice " ok go on give me a mirror how bad is it." Seeing it wasn't as bad at all I felt relief and then went on to make a pact with my sister to keep this a secret. We promised to not tell mom and dad as she played nurse smearing ponds cold cream on my face.
Later that night my dad came home and my mother was still at work so Immediately seeing my dad I was all cool like hey dad what's up and cindy just couldn't hold it together, some partner in crime! She just broke down crying how the oven exploded and burned off my hair. I was like oh man great! I was like really it's no big deal... I am fine... So then my dad, me and my sister all agreed to not tell mom. So now we had a new pact which I was totally going to keep just gotta cross my fingers that cindy doesn't open her mouth.
Cindy didn't open her mouth neither did my dad and as time went on I slowly grew back my hair but not fast enough as one day I was hugging my mother goodbye as she left for work and as she released me she grabbed right back to her and pulled me close but in a more forceful concerned way... Inspecting my face and then saying WHY DON"T YOU HAVE EYEBROWS? "Ummmmmmmmmmmmmm?????? OH MAN!!!!" It was me of all people who broke the pact that time as I broke down crying telling her everything as I was more scared that she was angry and might smack me for not telling her, which she didn't she just seemed more scary to me but in reality she was actually worried.
So yes I know very well that adult supervision has it pluses... Since then I have a fear of ovens and will not light one to this day. Though once when I was 13 and once again when I was 17 I tried to get over this fear and light an oven with similar explosions so I gave up and gave into that fear. Now looking back, would I change things? No I would not I love the fact that I had a checkered past with no supervision and near misses of tragedy it felt more rewarding growing up getting through these things whether they were spooky dark wooded paths or ovens, or angry old men chasing you off their land with a shot gun...I wouldn't give that up for a squeaky clean summer camp life filled with after care and bright plastic tubes and rubber mats. Give me scrapped knees, muddy sneakers and some rocks, trees and I am set.
The bonus of growing up in a somewhat unrestricted no boundaries household left a lot up to me to shape and direct the way I wanted things to go. Lucky for me I had a creative drive that was over all positive and let me improve my life rather than others I have known that went down darker roads. It's a coin toss. You just never know so don't worry so much and enjoy all the wonderful dark frightening paths you cross as you can never be sure what lies at end of the journey be it good or bad you just have to jump in allow your imagination to take hold of you and throw away those schedules of daycare aftercare madness and allow yourself to be yourself making your own choices and really live.