When I was a kid in the seventies, the moment spring arrived we would be out enjoying every drop of sunshine.
At my daughter’s age I was riding my bike around the estate, running up to the park or out visiting friends. I’d be gone for hours, returning only when I was hungry or too exhausted to play any more.
Nowadays we ferry our kids to play dates, making sure we’re there to pick them up and drive them safely home afterwards. We need phone numbers of friend’s parents – mobile so that we can get them any time, any place.
The idea of our kids being out all day, not knowing where they are is terrifying, and yet it was just a way of life in the seventies. If we weren’t out playing, our parents would be checking our temperatures and upping our dose of cod liver oil capsules. It was a whole different world.
The frightening thing is, while of course we must worry about strangers (just as our own parents worried about the same thing), now unbelievably we also have to think about the dangers posed by other children too. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I read about ‘big kids’ taking smaller children to deserted areas and doing utterly appalling things to them. Did our parents have to think about these things too?
They worried about bullies of course, but kids sexually abusing and even murdering children? I could be wrong but I’m not sure that played heavily on their minds.
Then there is the worry that some attackers aren’t strangers at all. Look what happened in Soham 10 years ago.
Those children knew the man who took their lives so they had no reason to believe they would come to any harm when they knocked on his door that day.
The confusing thing is, how do we tell our children about the dangers of a small minority of society, without utterly terrifying them in the process?
How do we explain that if a group of big kids wants to play, they may not have their best interests at heart?
How do we stop ourselves and our children becoming completely paranoid about strangers, not-so-strangers and other children while at the same time allowing them to just be kids and have fun like we did in our day?
I don’t have the answers to that, and maybe I’m just looking back through rose-tinted specs, but I do believe the seventies were a much less paranoid place to grow up in.