‘We left home on our bikes and didn’t return until the street lights came on. Growing up as a kid in the 80s totally prepared me for this.’: Mom encourages kids to have 80s-style independence

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“When I was a kid in the 80s, we lived a very different life. We often left home on our bikes and didn’t return until the street lights came on or we could hear my father’s whistling for us to come back. Whichever came first. His whistle could carry for blocks, which was important because we were usually blocks away from home.

All of us in the neighborhood would get on our bikes and meet up with other friends. Some of us were school friends, some were just friends from the neighborhood. It didn’t really matter how we knew each other ­­­­­— what mattered was we had lives our parents never really knew about.

There have been jokes about how those of us from generation X are handling the pandemic so well, in many ways because of this. There were aspects of our lives we lived fully on our own. As a child, I often spent the entire day at the country club, by myself. Yes, I understand the optics of a country club, but the point is, when I was as young as 8 years old, I would spend the day away from home, and my only real supervision came from the lifeguards and one bar tender, who happened to be my cousin. It wasn’t until the monthly snack bar bill arrived at home that I was told ordering 22 Nutty Buddy ice cream cones in one day was not a good thing to do. The point is, I have a lot of experience handling things on my own.

I turned out fine. I didn’t grow up having someone micro-managing my childhood, and I turned out absolutely fine. I navigated life, the ups and downs, and learned.

I never thought my kids would have a similar life, but here we are.

I know being on lockdown isn’t all easy and fun. For me, though, on a personal level, it brings me back to my life in the 80s – I’m doing my own thing and not exactly hating it. In many ways, growing up as a kid in the 80s has totally prepared me for this, and I’m grateful for it.

At the same time, I understand this isn’t the 80s, and things are not the same. What we are going through poses tons of logistical challenges for working families. The financial uncertainty can be terrifying. I’m a teacher, and yet, sometimes I hate homeschooling my own children. There, I said it.

But, each day I continually focus on the positive. Trying to see the good in every day. Finding gratitude in the simple things. And honestly, under the circumstances, my entire day is made up of simple things, so there’s plenty to be thankful for.

After school is done around 11 a.m., my kids head outside, and we don’t hear much from them. There’s a sign on my back door that reads:

‘Not so fast! Before you head out, did you:

Brush your teeth? Your father and I are not dentists!

Pick up your plates and cups? I’m not the housekeeper.

Turn off the TV? Turn off the lights? We don’t own stock in Louisiana Power and Light.

Be sure to close the door behind you. We don’t want to condition the air outside.

Lastly, be sure to drink plenty of water! But not out of the hose, of course.’

Courtesy of Melanie Forstall

I grew up with a lot of unstructured time and turned out just fine. They will too.

I was often left to entertain myself and turned out just fine. They will too.

Some days, I watched a ton of television, and turned out just fine. They will too.

I learned to navigate collaboration and negotiation among friends on my own and tuned out just fine. They will too.

I didn’t have my adults involved in every decision I made, or micromanaging my life, and turned out just fine. They will too.

I’m positive my kids are still learning. I’m positive they are creating in new ways they wouldn’t have done before. I’m positive the bottom of my son’s feet may be permanently discolored because he gets so incredibly dirty every day. I’m positive my daughter is learning a new sense of independence and self-determination.

I’m positive that is exactly what their souls need right now.

I’m positive the slower pace is good for my husband and I. I’m positive our house will likely be completely renovated when this is all over. The collaboration and time spent outside is good for us.

I never thought our kids would be living their best life in the same way I did when I was 10, but here we are. Have fun out there, kids! The world is your oyster. Make good decisions, be kind, have fun, and hydrate. I’ll see you at dinner.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Melanie Forstall, 45, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. You can follow her journey on Instagram here and Facebook here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories from Melanie here: 

‘My friend started her period. I was so jealous, I could barely talk with her about it. I wore my mom’s pantie liners. Somehow it made me feel better.’: Mom says she will tell her kids things

‘Well, why didn’t you?’ She stared at me blankly. Her question stuck with me for months.’: Mom learns important lesson in politeness after daughter’s candid question

‘I feel something.’ Not a single OBGYN had ever touched me above the shoulders. Now I am different.’: Woman diagnosed with thyroid cancer after switching doctors, ‘I panicked’

‘What’s that?’ I grumbled. ‘Your dad bought you things while you were in surgery.’: Woman diagnosed with thyroid cancer learns important lessons from father through poignant gifts

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