I was all by myself in my backyard when I decided, for some unknown reason, to see what would happen if I stuck, not just my tongue on our metal fence, but my entire mouth. I then proceeded to start crying and my tears formed a frozen seal around the circumference of my lips.
I’m not sure how long I was out there before my dad came with a teapot and steamed me free. And I can only imagine my parents’ reaction when they saw me, and how they must have laughed while they waited for the teapot to boil.
Of course, that’s not the only dumb thing I did as a kid. My brother and I built a bike race course and, in a stroke of genius, we positioned our homemade ramp directly under the entry of our garage. I’m pretty confident when we jumped that thing we were clearing the garage by mere millimeters, and I assure you no one owned helmets back then. I also remember sledding off the roof of that garage, dropping into piles of snow below.
Once, when we were over at the neighbor kids’ house, we decided to have someone stand in front of the dartboard to see if we could throw darts all around his head — you know, like those highly-trained knife-throwers. I’m talking about real metal darts here, not the plastic-tip kind. We were smart about it, though — we had the kid face the board. I remember his mom coming downstairs to see what all the fuss was about and all of us quickly spinning him around to face her so she couldn’t see the dart protruding out of the back of his head.
Then there was the time that I stood sideways with a piece of chalk in my mouth and my brother tried to hit it out with a real leather whip — don’t ask me where in the world we got it. Fortunately, he either had really good aim or a whole lot of luck because he actually broke the chalk in half.
My brother and I also used to fight over who got to sit in the hatchback. Crammed in there all twisted and bent in what basically equated to a glass trunk — man it was great. Better than sitting in the middle of the back seat on the hump with no seat belt. Seriously, what were our parents thinking?
Of course, these are the same parents who opted not to get passenger seats in our van. Why do that when you could just set up a couple of folding lawn chairs? Then, after realizing they hadn’t factored in the turns, they shoved in a couch.
Anyone else find it ironic that my mom is always telling my brother and I to be careful driving?
Ah, but it’s really not their fault. They were young parents in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The awareness of safety concerns and the technological advances to address them were years away. And think about it: They were raised by parents with the motto, “Sink or swim,” so their motto of “It seemed like a good idea at the time” was clearly better, and likely spurred our generation’s motto of “Safety first.” So, truly we should thank them.
The fact is, every generation learns lessons from the last — our parents learned from theirs, we learned from them, and our kids will learn from us.
And, truth be told, I had an awesome childhood. Sure, it’s amazing I survived without wearing a helmet, seat belt, or actually sitting in a passenger seat — but, hey, I learned a lot of stuff. Like how to be adventurous and brave, how to be tough and problem solve, how to blow on your wound to ease the sting of peroxide, how to “shake it off, pansy.” And how a shot of whiskey and honey could do wonders to help you sleep when you had a cold.
Are parents wiser and kids safer today? Absolutely! But would I change anything about my childhood? Heck no. (Well, OK, maybe that mouth on the fence part.)
— By Kelly Kalis, Tribune community columnist