Childhood Revisited

I can still smell the musky scent of the tattered garage, the aromas of gasoline and mildew wafting in the summer breeze. Four children, all under the age of 12, clamored awkwardly and breathlessly through the leaf-covered ditch to surround and protect "forts" made of chicken wire and tomato planters.

We were brave and strong, yet knobby-kneed and much too young to truly fight the battles of competing clans and raiders of a distant land.

"Dinner's ready!" mother called out in a soft country accent from the side of the house. We knew what that meant - we had to hustle inside to get cleaned up before the good seats were taken.

My cousins, sister, and I were young and careless, almost reckless with our playful imaginations. We built forts out of rusty scrap metal, nibbled on juicy, unwashed figs from Granddaddy's bush, and popped soda cans with bee bee guns without the proper eye protection. We didn't care. We just lived each day to the fullest.

Our parents were satisfied that we were having fun and leaving them alone to converse, as adults tend to do after a long day of work and carpooling.

Twenty years later, the children are the adults, more distant now than ever, and with children, jobs, and responsibilities of our own to tend to. The carefree days are behind us, and we are much too saturated with parenting guilt and round the clock news tragedies to allow our children to behave in the same manner that we once lived for.

I often feel that I am robbing my daughter of the chance to truly be alive. "Wear your helmet if you want to ride your tricycle." or "Don't hang off of that tree branch. You might fall and break an arm!"

How does your parenting style differ from that of your parents? Do you take the laissez-faire approach that so many parents of the 1980s subscribed to, or are you more hands-on?