When I look back on my childhood and compare it with yours, I see how much has changed in just one generation. Let’s start with elementary school.
We did so many dangerous things back then which would never be permitted today. The first example which comes to mind is our playground. We had swings, a slide, see saw, and the killer metal gym, all of which were on hard asphalt, not on cushy wooden or rubber mulch. Fortunately, I don’t recall anyone suffering serious injuries on my school playground. On the flipside, the soft crumbled rubber seen on playgrounds today may prevent a broken limb or head, but safe as they may appear, conversation on the Internet suggests the possibility of toxicity. So what’s a parent to do?
Grandma and Grandpa were not worried about allowing us to walk alone to school, twice a day no less, since we usually came home for lunch except when the weather was bad. As I mentioned previously, I began the practice of walking to school at the tender age of five or six, which none of you would consider with your children today.
As a teacher, Jamie is particularly aware that her behavior can be questioned by a parent at any time. That rarely happened during my childhood and probably never during Grandma’s youth. Teachers were second to God. That was why the toothpick punishment happened. (Third Grade Stunk) No one called to complain, and I do not believe parent-teacher conferences even existed. You just got sent to the principal’s office, your parents were sent a nasty note about your poor behavior, and then you were in big trouble!
I enjoyed gym class in elementary class, but I question whether one of my favorite games—war—would ever be permitted today. In the game of war, there were two teams and one rubber ball. The object was to throw the ball at someone on the opposite team at warp speed, and if they were hit, they were eliminated. If the targeted child caught the ball, the “thrower” was eliminated. The strategy was to give the ball to someone with a powerful arm, someone who could inflict the most pain and speed so their ball would be impossible to catch. Would children even be allowed to play such a violent game in today’s schools where parents are so quick to contact the principals, and schools are so fearful of lawsuits when it comes to school safety and their precious babies?
Several of my teachers in junior high disciplined by fear much like the nuns of Grandma’s day. Our reading teacher, Mr. Winklehofer, loved to calm the class by banging on a desk and counting (never let him reach ten!) until our united fear quieted us all down.
Our music teacher, Miss Kennedy, was another scary teacher at that school. She was a screamer, had a nasty temper and also disciplined by instilling fear. It was rumored she was later fired for hitting someone with a ruler.
I did learn about music despite my anxiety before and during her class. I recently thought of Miss Kennedy when I heard Janis Joplin singing a song called Summertime, which I first heard as a song in an opera called Porgy and Bess during Miss Kennedy’s class. So I guess if I recalled that song after all those years, then something good did come out of her class. But would the helicopter parents of today be emailing the principal if their little princes and princesses had Mr. Winklehofer or Miss Kennedy?
Miss Kennedy was also director of the chorus. I was member, and in case any of you care, I was an alto. In today’s world, every year it seems, we witness the chatter of people discussing how to properly greet the man on the street during the holiday season. Personally I don’t care what someone says to me as long as they are nice. Wish me a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Ramadan, Happy Holidays, Happy Labor Day. I won’t slug you. If your good wishes are accompanied by a bag of plain M&M’s, I am your best friend.
When I was a kid, no one cared about hurting the feelings of our non-Christian friends. I don’t even think it occurred to any of us that we may have offended our Jewish friends. During our Christmas concert, we sang The Little Drummer Boy and The Messiah. We didn’t even sing the Dreidel Song. In fact, I never heard of a dreidel, gelt, or potato latkes until way into my adulthood. Are public schools these days even allowed to sing such religious songs these days? Back then, no one seemed to care about the feelings of Jewish people. Such a different world back then! Now I realize how wrong it was.
So do I long for those carefree days when our parents didn’t have the same fears and worries that the parents of today face every day? Of course I do, because as a parent, I just want to wrap a protective cocoon around all of you. I want to protect you from crushing your skulls at the foot of all those jungle gyms, but I clearly can’t anymore. But do I want to revert back to a time of insensitivity to my neighbor, to the days of not acknowledging our Happy Hanukkahs alongside our Merry Christmases or Happy Holidays? Of course not, because I enjoy my Christmas cookies as the dessert to my dinner of potato latkes.
I guess I would just like to put my past into a blender with my present and turn the speed to high.