Parental Guidance Suggested

I’m extraordinarily thankful for growing up when I did.

My two siblings and I—very close in age—played outside like it was our j.o.b. The three of us, along with our neighborhood friends, ran amok nearly every day, until that moment between dusk and dark, when my mom stepped onto the front porch and yelled, “Kids! Time to come in!”

I blew through the front door nearly every night an itchy, twitchy, grassy mess. Football was the number one culprit. “Two-below” somehow always turned into tackle (I also dove for passes and fumble recoveries more often than necessary.) Freeze Tag also required a good deal of grass time, as freeing my teammates involved frantically crawling under their legs. Add in popular staples like Hide and Seek and Red Rover and well, bath time was non-negotiable.

Side Note: Red Rover was not my friend. I never found a way to even marginally succeed at this unjust game. I was fast, but I was a twig. In hindsight, I probably could have been better than I was by just looking more enthused and confident when my name was called. As it was, this: “Red Rover! Red Rover! Let Anna come over!!” … led to this:

dejected

I’m not going to claim we were geniuses who could make a lasting game out of leaves and rocks, but we definitely went through some memorable phases. Many of them could be categorized as: Ways In Which Our Parents Allowed Us To Almost Die.

Trampoline:
So yeah, we grew up with a trampoline. We had the kind pretty much no one has today—in that it was above ground (and on a somewhat un-level yard), had no padded bumper and had what was called an “Olympic mat.” This meant it was solid white and void of the little holes the black mesh mats had. In layman’s terms, it could blast you to the sky.

My dad taught all three of us how to do an array of flips and tricks. We were actually pretty good. The benefits of a trampoline were innumerable: fitness, body control, conquering fears. I’m thankful my parents looked past the multitude of dangers in allowing small children free reign of a death device.

dwight false

My brother came precariously close to ruining the whole gig one day when, due to hapless timing on his part, he soared over my mom’s head as she stepped onto the front porch. He was jumping off the roof and onto the trampoline with his hooligan friends. Now that I think about it, why DIDN’T it ruin the whole gig for us?

The trampoline wasn’t always used in its intended way—but those were, hands-down, some of my best childhood memories. I’m not sure how this ever got parental clearance, but we’d hose down the mat with water and squeeze liquid Ivory soap on it for our very own neighborhood X-Games. Liquid soap, People! Liquid soap on a solid, non-draining mat. I’m sorry, WHAT?? No really, WHAT?! Anyway, thank you Dear Parents for being out of your ever-loving minds.

Our Lasso Phase:
Those may be three words you’ve never seen together. I’m not sure how it started, but we became obsessed with lassoing things—bedposts, doorknobs, each other. You might liken the shelf life for such a phase to that of organic bananas, but you’d be wrong. The time it took to perfect our instrument and master the Honda knot, coupled with the near-impossibility of successfully lassoing a DOORKNOB proved to be overwhelmingly difficult. For kids who had never expressed interest in ranching or been to a rodeo, we sure stayed committed longer than seemed logical.

Bruce Lee Phase:
This phase was most fully embraced by my brother and me.

Side Note: My sister hadn’t felt it was necessary to bother herself with karate techniques because she’d already defended my honor by putting a big time ass-whoopin’ on the scrappy neighbor boy who called me a “Honky.”

Anyway, my brother and I lived for watching Bruce Lee movies and then spending countless hours practicing moves. Mostly, we divided our time between two prominent activities: learning how to fall like stuntmen and using nunchucks as weapons.

credit: karatemart.com

ours were a little less fancy

Side Note: We actually didn’t use them as weapons. It was more akin to performing with a baton.

My brother thought it was gravely important to learn how to jump off things and land without breaking any bones. He insisted that it was possible to leap from great heights (his dresser) and, in one smooth move, hit, drop, roll and bounce back up—nary missing a beat nor registering the impact.

Since there was no way to substantiate his assertions with Google, I let repetition, practice and blind trust be my guide. I stand before you today, alive, to tell you that his beliefs were true from dresser height and abjectly false from atop the swing set.

Our nunchuck phase is something I look back on with substantially more shock than the trampoline. My dad even helped us make them—with dowels (i.e. broomsticks), eyebolts and chains. I will admit that we got very good at using them, but the speed with which we swung them around our face and cranium should have been cause for extreme alarm by our parents. My dad wouldn’t allow us to watch “Grease” but please, by all means, enjoy a near-death experience with your brother.

I remember falling to my knees in excruciating pain numerous times when I’d smack my own elbow. Would my dad take them away? Nope. He’d just “tighten things up” so they wouldn’t swing as freely. Thanks Legal Guardian.

Dirt Bike Phase:
My sister and I wanted no part of girly bikes. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t mind pink and we did adore the lovely shiny streamers—because we’re ladies—but they had to be dirt bikes. We rode the living daylights out of them with my brother and our neighborhood friends. We rode and rode and rode all over our streets and alley, but also on the hills and trails behind our house. Our Huffy bikes provided endless entertainment, adventure and exercise—as well as the perfect opportunity to sow our recklessness oats.

Side Note: I didn’t own reckless oats.

My sister was a fearless lunatic, so she was better than I was at popping wheelies. Oh, I could POP a wheelie, but she could RIDE a wheelie … all the way down the street while popping huge Bubble Yum bubbles. I watched from behind her in horror, imagining she’d pull back too hard or pass over a loose rock and take a layer of skin off her back. Although I was younger, I worried for her safety like a parent should, often cautioning her about the dangers of living on the edge.

Of course, we all made it out in one piece. I don’t know what made my parents courageous enough to let us loose—allowing us to explore and play—not being deterred by occasional accidents and minor injuries. But whatever it was, I’m so grateful. I wouldn’t change a single thing about when, where and how I grew up.

Oh, except being relegated to sleeping in the back dash of the car on vacations, just because I was the youngest. What’s that you say? No seat belt up there? Not very safe? Yes, yes—I know.

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.

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51 thoughts on “Parental Guidance Suggested

  1. I had the same childhood. It wasn’t a complete afternoon unless someone almost died. Best days of our lives! I’ve blogged about it many times and wonder today how did this generation of parents get like they are?

  2. Oh my gosh, you are so funny. I don’t even want to know how many times the good Lord saved your life. I’m just so grateful he did. You forgot all the obstacle courses you guys created…. and not a single broken bone!

  3. Well, you’ve gone too far this time. It was all your mother’s fault – not mine. I was just trying to do my j.o.b. as your daddy. All said and done though, it turned out pretty well – not a whining sissy in the bunch. Nothing like a little pain to teach you life’s lessons. Those were the days! The happiest time in my life was when you kids were still small enough to not know that even your parents can be idiots. Alas, then you grew up. Hey, I think I’ll go buy the grandkids some nunchucks, a dirt-bike, and a trampoline. Second (third) child-hood here I come!

  4. Bahahaha! “My dad wouldn’t allow us to watch “Grease” but please, by all means, enjoy a near-death experience with your brother.” Cracks me up:) I would also like to recreate this dishsoap on a trampoline experience…sounds awesome! Your parents rock!

    • They do so rock … I agree! For the life of me, I don’t know how we survived the trampoline years. I do not! We’d also get under it while someone was jumping HARD to see if it could knock us out. Wow.

  5. Loved this! At least you weren’t made to sleep in the floor board holding your new Holly Hobby paper dolls while your big sister got car sick and puked all over you. Thanks Jill.

    I actually don’t remember y’all’s trampoline but I do remember jumping down your stairs with you. You beat me, plus putting on makeup with Jeni was more important. Love your story today!

  6. Tedie jumping off of the roof is the action that legends are made of. I know this because I told everyone in my vast 6 year old social circle. He was so cool 🙂 Also, I loved the hills behind your house. It was like a foreign land. I remember taking hot dog weiners and a can of frozen orange juice down there one time. Was this a dream or were those our chosen rations? And finally, I still watch every Bruce Lee movie that comes on, and even force the kids to watch also. Thanks for that. With all of the technology the kids have today and the dangers that are out there, our kids really are getting the short end of the stick. Loved this blog:-)

  7. YES. To all of this. Loved every second of reading this! Growing up we also lived outside. Where would I be without by beloved Schwinn 10-speed bike? Nowhere! So many death-defying antics took place on the METAL slides, swings and monkey bars at the playground as well. And let’s not mention the local swimming pool, where I spent every spare minute of my childhood existence — probably sans sunblock. There should have been several cases of drowning but not a one! Whew!

    • You’d be exactly where you said—NOWHERE. Oh snap, how did I overlook the METAL slides. T, we had one where the side had split and was splayed open a bit and if you slid while gripping the side, it would cut the bottom of your thumb open! Were we forbidden to slide? NOPE … just told not to hold on. WHAT?!??!!? We didn’t use sunscreen either … we used baby oil. SNORT.

      • No, I haven’t at all, have only written about some of my travels. I do remember being addicted to a samurai show on tv and running around the yard in 40 degree heat in a padded jacket with the hood on and zipped up tight, pretending to shoot those Japanese star things out of my palm – think you’d have to have seen it to know what I’m talking about!! Thinking about it now makes me wonder how I actually turned out so well. lol. Anyhow, I love your blog and the fact that your folks often add their little bits as well.

  8. Loved this blog! We had the greatest childhoods!
    We performed MANY death defying stunts on our trampoline too and none of us dies, oddly enough. The bike tricks were pretty crazy though; none of us wore helmets back then……gasp!!!!!!
    We also drank from the water hose! Our curfew was when the street lights came on.
    I want to be a kid again now!!!

  9. We had an amazing climbing tree that we would push our trampoline up against. We challenged each other to go higher and higher before jumping off. Then, we got the grand idea of pushing our trampoline next to our above ground pool. No, we didn’t just jump from the trampoline into the pool…that’d be too simple, too wimpy. We did full on flips from the trampoline into the pool.

    Have I ever told you how we used to pump our BB guns full of air and then, shoot each other or ourselves? Well, we did. I, unfortunately, did double check the barrel one time. I have a bb lodged in my hand because of it. Of course that was the time I was able to pump the gun one more than my brother. Ouch.

    Fun read…as always! And good for your parents!

  10. Sounds to me like you were training to be the next MacGyver. And man, did I ever try to master poppin’ a wheelie. My problem was that I inherited my mom’s old Schwinn from the 60’s, and that thing was SOLID. I think it was seriously made out of two tons of steel. So every time I tried to pop of wheelie, it was so heavy that I only barely got the front wheel off the ground. But it never stopped me. I probably looked like an idiot riding around the church parking lot across the street from my house looking like I was having convulsions jerking my bike up and down.

  11. I had a very similar childhood, and I’m drop-to-my-knees grateful for it! My parents and the parents of my friends didn’t over-protect us: they never made us wear strange padded gear when we peddled our bikes down the country roads, and they encouraged us to explore the farm and the woods and the streams … often unsupervised. And they didn’t, not ever, go to our school and demand a teacher be fired for slapping a ruler against our rear ends when we were being terribly bad.

    Oh … the good old days.

    Wonderful post, Anna!

    • Thank you, Beth! Everything you said … YES. I’ll add also that, even though I love all my nifty devices today, I’m eternally GRATEFUL they didn’t exist when I was young. There are no words for how this pleases me. Not only would I have gotten myself in trouble, but I’d have never learned to WAIT (on calls, on contact, on answers, on information, etc.) I wouldn’t change it for the world—NOPE.

      Always elated when you come by … thank you!

  12. Ok, I lost track of how many times I snorted!!! Did you have the oh so safe sharp pointed Lawn Darts?? I grew up in Iowa, and we would dig tunnels through the giant piles of snow that the snow plows would make!! My mom would say…just be careful, and make sure someone is with you in case the tunnel collapses!! Hmmm…thanks mom?!?

  13. Your daddy and mine would get along great! In his seventies he was still showing the grandkids how to backflip off the pontoon in the middle of the lake. Of course you can’t wear a life jacket while doing a backflip. It will get in the way! Oh how I loved growing up “unprotected.” The back window of the vehicle was my favorite, nice and warm in the sun. Now our grown daughters are passing on the adventures to our grandchildren. I’m trying my best to be cool with that. Glad I found your blog! Thanks for the fun!

    • I bet they would get along great! I also imagine it’s pretty tough to not be fearful with the grandbabies/grandkids … is your inclination to say, “Oh, please be careful … this, this and this could happen!” or do you encourage your daughter to let’em loose? I’m glad you found my blog, too! 🙂

      • I really do my best to let’em loose as you say. =) In fact our favorite game for the toddlers is to explore the house, pulling out pots and pans and potatoes. The most fearful I’ve been so far was when the oldest granddaughter wanted to ride with my hubby on his motorcycle. We allowed that as soon as she could reach the footpegs. Oh the joys!

  14. Awesome stuff, Anna Lea! I laughed so hard. I remember a summer spent jumping off the neighbor’s roof (not onto a trampoline, just onto the ground) and my parents forbid me from seeing “Grease,” too! (The Catholic Bulletin gave it a bad review.) It was somewhat traumatizing to my seventh grade self, but I snuck out and saw it anyway (you’re not surprised, are you?). At any rate, this was a great read and I know my sibs and in-laws will all relate!

    • Hey thank you!! Y’all jumped from the roof to the GROUND? I sure hope you knew how to drop and roll like my bro and I did. Haha, you know, I saw Grease, too, just can’t remember how?? I think we’d maybe already seen it when he put his foot down. Thank you again! 🙂

  15. Pingback: Safety Is No Accident | Anna Lea West

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