I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

- de Tocqueville 1831

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Now and Then

My daughter lacks for very little,  if anything.  She has the love of her parents.  She makes friends easily.  People in the church think she is someone special.  We are ready to take her to hang with her friends or whatever planned event she needs to get to.  We just recently bought her a laptop.  She owns a Nintendo DS.  She has the benefit of satalite tv.   If there is anything we can afford to get her (that will not harm her)  we will get it.  You could say she is spoiled (her mother's fault,  of course) and yet there are times when I feel for her.

I grew up in the sixties.  My childhood was simular to the movie, The Sandlot, except I and my freinds were not as focused on baseball.  Football was what we lived for.  The best time for football was immedietly after dinner when we would meet and play in the cooling evening for as long as we could possibly stay out.  There was a park at the end of the block,  three houses from mine.  That park is still there except somehow it seems to have shrunk.  There was a ditch that ran through the middle of the park (now it's a small culvert).  My friends and I would challenge each other into jumping across the wider parts of the ditch.  Bordering the park on the east and west were bullrushes and marsh.  We would place scrape wood in the rushes making trails and collecting cattails.  My childhood was filled with endless summer days out.  My parents weren't concerned about their children being abducted, unlike what parents fear today.  If I had no chores, they were more than happy to have me out of the house.  Gone after breakfast, not to be back before dinner and then back out for football.  If I was offered dinner by my friends parents, then even better.  My friends and I were explorers.  We wandered anywhere we could about the neighborhood.  We caught gardener snakes and frogs.  We were daredevils; riding bikes across a narrow bridge one hundred feet in the air (or so it seemed), jumping off  the top of huge gravel piles to end up sliding hundreds of feet riding a roaring avalanche of fresh gravel.  If we had any change, we would go four blocks from my house to the neighborhood grocery store where we bought licorice whips and candy bars.  We rode our bikes two miles to the nearest swimming pool.  We would futilely try to drain the pool with the best cannonballs we could muster  When in the middle of summer we became bored, we became inventors,  inventing games that Calvin and Hobbes would be proud of.                  

In the fall, when school started, we would walk or ride our bikes.  I took the school bus once and could not stand it.  Today we drive our daughter to school.

I wonder if the world was safer when I was a child or if we were just more naive.  With expanded media coverage, I think our eyes are open to the reality of how dangerous our world really is.  Or has it actually become more dangerous?  Either way, I and my wife will not risk our daughter's well being.  There are tradeoffs, of course.  My wife and I have a much closer relationship to our daughter than I had with my parents.  In time, Rachel will find her freedom as she grows into adulthood.  I asked her if she felt she had a happy childhood and she looked at me as if I was a crazy man (I thought she knew that was a given) and asked me why I would ask such an obvious question.  As parents we do what we need to do to raise our children.  My parents must have felt that it was important that I learned early how to deal with independence.  My wife and I feel that we need to shelter our child a little while longer so that she will be able to grow into the amazing woman we see peeking out of her young face.