How Did We Ever Survive?

Steel dashboards.  No seat belts.  Those big Mercury sedans with the power “guillotine” rear window.  Power windows in general.  Lincolns with suicide doors.  Huge finger-smashing car doors.  Hot stoves.  Blistering hot light bulbs.  Outlets without child guard caps.  Bicycles without helmets.  Drinking out of a garden hose.  Huge stainless steel slides and Mom’s box of wax paper.  See-Saws.  Monkey bars.  Skateboards.  Running down the stairs.  And—wandering the neighborhood all by yourself.

When did all that change and why? 

What has made parents so darned protective?

Have we become so overprotective as parents or has this been a logical path toward a safer world for our children?  Seems over the top, doesn’t it?  My sister went off a bicycle at age 8 on a hill, whacked her head, and walked back up the hill in tears with a huge goose egg on her forehead and a concussion.  She had to be rushed to the emergency room.  The concussion and goose egg both went away—and she has led a perfectly normal life ever since. 

Aren’t we just a bit overprotective today?


Skinned knees and elbows.  Wasn’t that standard childhood abrasion a right of passage?  Just to be a kid you had to have skinned knees and elbows.  Scar tissue is something we earn growing up.  You can review your collection of scars and remember how you got every one of them.  I look at my hands and arms—and even my face—observe the scar tissues, and remember how I managed to injure myself as a child. 

My knees are a study in how badly you can fall and hurt yourself.

Seems we’re most vulnerable when we are teenagers—especially boys—where we are inclined to demonstrate our masculinity beginning with “Hey! Watch this!!!”  I recall working in shipping and receiving at a local department store and slashing my hand to pieces with a box cutter clowning around.  As blood poured out of my right hand, I had to wonder how I could have been so foolish. 

There was the time—age 12—I thought it appropriate to startle a sleeping cat and learned quickly why you never startle a sleeping cat.  I still have a scar on my face as a reminder of why you never startle a sleeping animal.  I always tell people I got that scar in a bar fight in Bangkok when I was in the service. 

“You should have seen the other guy…”

Probably not a good idea to come down a hill at a high rate of speed standing on your bicycle seat— especially when you’re not familiar with irregularities in the pavement.  Gravity and kinetic energy prevail, and we generally get more scar tissue.

The same laws of bicycling and common sense apply to wheelies, burnouts, hand stands on the handlebars, jumping a huge hill, and just about any other act on a bicycle that can get you maimed or killed.

And then, there’s that first motorcycle…

Observing what can be flushed down a toilet may not be hazardous in itself—but can get you killed by an irate parent who had to pay for the plumber.  I think of that whenever I remember flushing popsicle sticks down the toilet at the age of 5.  My parents never forgot.  John Dorsey Plumbing had to come to the house, pull the toilet up, and retrieve the popsicle sticks. 

It was an expense my parents could have done without.

Has anyone ever been poisoned or sickened from drinking out of a garden hose or putting a discarded cigar butt in their mouth?  Perhaps—a little-known phenomenon known as “Discarded Cigar Butt Syndrome.”  Waiting for one of these law firms to come up with a class action lawsuit again garden hose manufacturers, claiming baby boomers drinking from a garden hose as children causes cancer. 


Did sitting too close to the TV in a dark living room mess up your eyesight?  At 64, seems like it did.  I can’t see anything without my glasses. 

Mom was right…

Have you ever seen anyone with their eyes permanently crossed?  I haven’t either.  Yet, Mom always told me that if I didn’t stop crossing my eyes, they’d get stuck that way.

Ever seen a broken toilet?  Me either.  Yet Mom always said if I kept slamming the seat down, we’d wind up with a broken toilet.

There were days when I hung around her feet while she was cooking, she lamented if I didn’t go away, I was going to get burned.  She was right…

I’ve always thought sticking your finger in a light socket was educational.

It was…

You never forget the intense tingle of alternating current.

Did you ever play in the heavy rain of an intense thunderstorm?  I wouldn’t know because my mother was terrified of lightning.  She had us come in the house and take our places on the foam rubber coach (yeah…she really believed you were safe on a foam rubber sofa). 

Today—I sit outside and watch lightning.

I am still here…

Growing up, I always had an overwhelming fear of being hit by a car.  As a small child, I saw cars as the enemy.  They might run over me.  Ironic is my career as an automotive writer—for four decades.

Guess I got over my fear of automobiles.

All those things parents worry about today have merit.  They’re legitimate concerns, and a whole lot of safety equipment has come to pass as a result.  However, I’ve also found you’ve got to let a kid fall and be hurt from time to time to toughen them up.  It helps them learn to cope with physical and mental anguish.

As tough old boomers who had to trudge to school uphill in the snow – both ways – we tend to laugh at snowflake millennials for such overwhelming drama over seemingly little things.  We’re guilty of the same thing our parents were guilty of—wanting them to have a better time of it than we had.

Guilty as charged…

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