The Backwoods

Where we teeter between our love of modern convenience and the yearning for something long past; a world where neighbors knew your name and a “Friend Request” was eye contact and a smile.

Times Are A Changin’…

Posted · 10 Comments


When I was eight I years old I spent my summer shooting BB’s at everything that moved, and everything that didn’t.  When the gun ran dry, I cocked it back, aimed, and blew the crap out of ant hills with the powerful puff of air that came from the tip.  I rolled down steep grassy hills, curled inside of tires.  I battled five foot snakes on the trail to the garden, crawled through snake and poisonous spider infested grass forts and hung out on the peak of my best friends roof, two stories up.

And then I moved to Alaska where at nine, with no weapon, no jingle bells on my shoes, no pepper spray within miles, I romped the wild wilderness from one end of Kasilof to the other, only occasionally running face to face with a moose…and then I’d just turn and romp the other way.  I stepped over the bear poo and just kept walking and I rode my three-wheeler of death until the tires wore thin, no helmet, no rules, no care in the world.

At the bottom of the hill on which I grew up there was an old water well, covered haphazardly with some half rotten plywood.  An ancient garden hose stuck out from one corner where the original inhabitants of our land must have fetched the water for their cabin.  My friends and I used to flop the plywood off, gaze down into the deep, black, hole, while sucking icy water from the siphon hose. It never dawned on us there was no filter on the other end nor that if we plummeted to the bottom, our buddy would most likely just plop the plywood back into place for fear of guilt by association.

We swam in glacier water with no dry suit, rowed around a nearby lake with no life jackets, and spun donuts on the snow machine while our buddy hung onto a rope thirty feet back, bouncing across the snowy fields as if nobody had ever been skewered in such a way.

And never once did it occur to me to wonder…what the heck was my mother thinking?

Am I the only parent who could have walked a tightrope over the Grand Canyon and had a mother who would have waved and went  back to her baking, but won’t let my own kid venture down the front steps without a safety harness and a crash helmet?

I know the world has changed, people are stranger, or at least thanks to the World Wide Web, we are more aware they are out there.  I know the population has grown; there are more cars on the roads than there were thirty years ago.  Statistically, the odds are greater of something going wrong.  But are the bears thicker?  Are the moose more cranky?  Are the wolves that tread the paths outside my home any more likely now than they were a generation ago, to scare the bejeebus out of a kid? I doubt it.

And yet, I watch my kids, even when we take them up to our 40 acres of wilderness, look back in my direction as they creep further and further into the trees, wondering how long I’ll let them stretch the leash.  And even as I hammer on the roof or run the sawmill, I am aware of how many steps lie between myself and the 45 and where each child is in relation to a safe zone.

In first grade I rode my bike down paved city streets, at least ten blocks, to play with a friend.  By third grade, my husband had his own paper route in a city of a hundred thousand people.  And yet Luke…at nine…is not allowed to cross the empty dirt road that runs beside my house.

It’s the times, they say.  Things are a-changin’.  It’s not like it used to be.  The world is a different place.

All I know is it’s time to lift the wing a bit.  Let them stretch their boundaries; explore their world with less constraints and more curiosity.  Give a little slack in that leash…not take it off (just in case I need to pull them back up the cliff)…but a little more leeway to make choices.

To ride like the wind, to see what’s on the other side of the road…and to drink from the depths of the well.

10 Responses to "Times Are A Changin’…"
  1. Jennifer Ormond says:

    You should read “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv.

  2. Mlizard says:

    I think this message is more metaphorical than literal.  I think of stories this past year of the young boy in New York that was abducted after begging his parents let him walk home from school and the litte girl in Georga that was raped and killed after being sent home alone from the park and I shudder at the evil that lurks in the world.  To me, this post is not about turning your children loose into a world of harm and ill intent, but as your personal situations and circumstances warrant it, allow your children the space to experience life and to grow with the world around them.  It is a shame we don’t have the freedom or safety we once did as kids growing up, but it does not mean our children will fare any better under restriction, scrutiny and a youth filled with missed opportunities. 

    One small caveat, never stop looking for ways to try to dedicate as much of your time connected to your childrens’ lives while they are children, it goes by way to fast.  Enjoy life through them, not for them.  🙂

  3. Deborah says:

    That discussion takes place every day here. 🙂  For a moment, I thought your blog was connected. 🙂

  4. Barney5family says:

    I can completely relate to this story. I grew up in a small town.
    Felt the freedom of the country, and as the years passed the city literally grew around us
    Our once small town got swallowed up in the craziness of city life. Time passed I got married and had children of my own. I loved deeper than I thought possible and
    I felt myself start to watch closer and hover over my children more until they couldn’t be out of my sight for a second. It was exhausting and suffocating, for me and for them.
    Long story short…we moved to a small town, and I began to relax, let the leash out a little.
    I rediscovered the beauty of freedom to explore, see touch, feel and experience the world.
    It’s amazing!!
    Thanks for sharing, your stories bring back memories and I enjoy the connection.

  5. When I was a kid I could do whatever I wanted as long as I came home for dinner, or could hear her when she called out the back door.  I’d tell her where I was going and who I was with and that was enough.  Wow we did some stupid stuff.  Then I married a cop.  I heard what was going on in MY neighborhood and really how frequent awful stuff happens to kids.  My kids can do as they please as long as I know ALL the details of what they are doing, parent phone numbers, I will drive them if it’s more that a few blocks and our backyard and basement are the coolest in the neighborhood so that the kids (and the neighbor kids) want to be at our house.  And if they want to play on the mountain behind our house or go to the park, I will go with them – but mostly because they are too young to have a cell phone and call when there is trouble.

  6. Shari says:

    There are a lot of your posts that I haven’t seen, since I started following you just a few months ago. I appreciate your viewpoint, and I’m enjoying having a chance to catch up! 🙂

  7. Katrina says:

    My kids are used to me starting a sentence with….”When I was a little girl….”  (emphasis on the word “I”)  because I am always telling them the things I used to do, or had to do, when I was their age.  While I did not walk barefoot six miles to school knee deep in the snow, I did wear a chain around my neck with a house key dangling on it at the age of seven.  I would walk home from school (about 6 blocks)  and let myself into the house, and immediately call my mom at work to tell her I made it home.  If I didn’t call at exactly 3:08 my mom would FREAK OUT.  As a mom myself, I can’t blame her!  Gosh, I don’t even let my 12 year old walk two blocks to his friend’s house unless he has someone to walk with him.  Walking ALONE just does NOT happen in this family.  Maybe I’m over protective, but I don’t care.  I’d rather have the peace of mind.   When I was a little girl….I left the house after breakfast and didn’t have to come home until the street lights went on.  Those were the days of no cell phones.  How the heck did my mom stay sane, not knowing where I was all day?  She was a good mother, don’t get me wrong, but things were just different back then.   I’d come home, wash up for dinner, and then she’d ask, “So…what did you do all day?”  and I’d tell her about all my adventures.  My friends and I would climb trees in the parks, we would explore canyons near our neighborhoods, we would build forts in other kids’ backyards, we would ride our bikes to the donut shop, we would play on the playgrounds at the schools that were deserted for the weekend…. we did so much.  Things I would never allow my kids to do.  But hey, I survived it all.  And I had a great childhood, full of adventures and wonderful memories.  Sometimes I wish my kids could have that same freedom.  But it’s just a different world now.  They just can’t.  

  8. Tracerscouponaffair says:

    I always love reading your posts!

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