Is it possible to still have a "Huckleberry Finn" childhood?

(201 Posts)
EddieIzzardismyhero Wed 02-Jun-10 09:20:19

Have just finished reading "21st Century Boys" and found it a very interesting, if somewhat depressing read.

I have two sons, both under two at the moment so this is not something pressing. But I found myself musing on the type of childhood I would be able to offer them in comparison to the one I enjoyed myself.

I was brought up in the 70s in a small town in the west country and I remember long sunny days spent exploring the local fields and forests, hours spent playing out without adult supervision, running out of the house first thing in the morning and coming back only when you were hungry . . . Does this still exist anywhere in this country anymore?

We live in a market town in the SE of England. We live in a cul-de-sac but rarely see children playing out, partly because moronic drivers race up and down the road as if they're competing in F1 angry. We have lots of parks and open spaces but children are rarely unsupervised.

I would love to give my boys the kind of childhood I enjoyed but is it possible now? Does anyone else do it? Would I be on my own (and hence my children would be on their own too)?

Interested in your thoughts.

justaboutupright Wed 02-Jun-10 09:22:33

Well I'm sure you can find children suffering from racism casual neglect and brutal corporal punishment if you look for them.

Again Wed 02-Jun-10 09:28:06

I feel the same, having read Toxic Childhood. I live in Ireland, but again, it's rare to see kids out playing in cities on their own unless it's a disadvantaged area. I grew up in Dublin and kids were always out and about. My young cousins in the countryside though do seem to wander through the fields unsupervised at age 10ish.

EddieIzzardismyhero Wed 02-Jun-10 09:51:37

justabout, I'm not quite sure what point you're making? I wasn't talking about neglect or abuse, I was talking about whether it was possible to give our children the freedom to play and explore that we had?

confused

Again, is that in the countryside in Ireland? I get the impression that even in more rural areas in this country children do not wander unsupervised, but would be interested to know if this was true.

I haven't read Toxic Childhood - not sure I want to!

Again Wed 02-Jun-10 10:02:40

Hi Eddie, yes it's in Ireland. There certainly isn't the freedom that there used to be. I think that our lives and our children's lives are so structured now-a-days, that that is part of the issue. But my cousins do go around with bows and arrows (!!).

I didn't read it right the way through. She is very interesting though. Well worth a read. I heard her speak in Galway too recently.

EddieIzzardismyhero Wed 02-Jun-10 10:14:15

The points she made about our lives being so risk-averse, and how this is very bad for young boys really struck a chord with me.

Children, but boys especially, need the freedom to roam and explore without us making all their decisions for them.

The screen based entertainment that so many of them have access to now is not much of an alternative sad.

I know everyone harks on about the halcyon days of their childhood, but I do find it quite sad just how restricted our children are now.

I was just interested to know if the 70s still exist in some small corners of this green and pleasant land!

colditz Wed 02-Jun-10 10:21:30

It's perfectly normal for 7+ children to roam all day round here with nobody really knowing where they are.

This goes hand in hand with the high level of neglect occurring locally.

I don't want my child to have a Huckleberry Finn childhood. I don't want him to be beaten in school, fought with by unsupervised children, underfed, and forced to sit through church.

Bramshott Wed 02-Jun-10 10:25:10

We are in Hampshire and DD1 (7) spends quite a lot of time in the trees at the end of the garden and the field behind. I'm anticipating that she will start playing further afield over the next few years.

However, it's already becoming aparent that (a) other parents tend to be more cautious, and (b) there aren't so many children to play with as families with young children have by and large been 'priced out' of many houses in this village.

AKMD Wed 02-Jun-10 10:25:43

I would let my DC roam the hills unsupervised, just as I did when I was 11+ if it were not for the broken glass, needles and drunk teenagers that I find in the woods there now.

katycarr Wed 02-Jun-10 10:26:17

My dd has the positive elements of a Huckleberry Finn childhood. She roams the local area with a packed lunch and a mobile phone.

She also does a lot of structured activities, I would love her childhood.

cravingcroissants Wed 02-Jun-10 10:26:17

I lived in a very rural part of Ireland until recently and I wouldn't have let my DC's roam around tbh. There are still risks in the countryside...farmers and their tractors-they drive like maniacs as they don't expect people to be about iykwim, and on many lanes/roads there are no paths so is very dangerous. Also there could be nutters about wherever you live so there is a risk there.
I think all children are restricted these days regardless of where they live.

CMOTdibbler Wed 02-Jun-10 10:26:18

I just looked out of the window at the assorted children playing out on the green/woodland that we face, and they are building dens, climbing trees and racing around on their bikes. They'll go in for lunch (based on previous observation), and then be out until tea. So, it's not unheard of still.

sarah293 Wed 02-Jun-10 10:27:07

Message withdrawn

OrmRenewed Wed 02-Jun-10 10:28:17

Not sure about the Huckleberry Finn thing - iirc it was fairly grim in some ways, but from my eldest has the urban version of that - goes out to the park and the skate park with his mates, wanders from our house to someone else's, cycles to other parts of the town to see other friends. DD is 11 and beginning to want and have a bit more freedom. I had the countryside as a child but no-one to play with - know what I'd prefer.

cravingcroissants Wed 02-Jun-10 10:29:25

Mmm yes maybe Huckleberry Finn wasn't the best example, I mean where were his parents? I'm not sure he had any. And poor Tom Sawyer was forever getting battered by Aunt Polly!

EddieIzzardismyhero Wed 02-Jun-10 10:31:17

colditz, I was talking about the good bits of his childhood (the freedom, etc) not the beatings!

I take your point about the wandering unsuperivsed can go with neglect - but that certainly wasn't the case with us or, for that matter, any of our friends. We weren't allowed to roam cos my parents didn't give a crap where we were - we roamed cos that's what kids did then. It was the norm.

Bramshott, I think that's part of the problem - if you choose to give your kids more freedom they'll be on their own!

CMOT, your area sounds lovely - can I move there. I look out of my window (and bearing in mind it's half term) cannot see one child outside. We have a park at the top of our road and yet I can count on the fingers of one hand the amount of times I've seen children playing there without their parents.

Thanks for the replies. All interesting smile.

AvrilHeytch Wed 02-Jun-10 10:31:45

Message withdrawn

FiveGoMadInDorset Wed 02-Jun-10 10:33:08

Yes, pretty much down here you can do that.

CMOTdibbler Wed 02-Jun-10 10:34:52

Theres a house for sale round the corner smile. I think the advantage is that we live in a small town, and this bit is on our estate and soon to be owned by the community around it - so reasonably observable in terms of entrance, but they have 4 acres of mixed grass and wood to mess around in.

Not sure what age they start to go to the main park on their own, but I'd say by 11 they are going down to the skate park and hanging around there with friends certainly

EddieIzzardismyhero Wed 02-Jun-10 10:35:12

Lol! Ok, I get the picture - Huckleberry Finn was the wrong example! It was just the name used in the book to sum up a childhood free of adult supervision - maybe I should have said Swallows and Amazons instead but then would have been accused of being posh and elitist wink!

Orm, how old is your DS?

colditz Wed 02-Jun-10 10:41:43

I'd like an enid blyton childhood for my kids but as the 1980]s daughter of a policeman, living on a main road, I didn't have one of those either!

EddieIzzardismyhero Wed 02-Jun-10 10:43:39

See, I hate ginger beer colditz, so that doesn't appeal to me at all grin.

OrmRenewed Wed 02-Jun-10 10:43:59

13. He's been 'feral' since about 11 wink

EddieIzzardismyhero Wed 02-Jun-10 10:47:11

grin @ feral!

See, I'm sure that word didn't even exist when I was a kid - yet you can't go a day without hearing it in the media now. If I let my kids go and play in the park unsupervised are they feral?! grin

I know I'm being a romantic dreamer but it just makes me sad.

Again Wed 02-Jun-10 11:12:12

Makes me sad too. I have a 2.11 year old and I let him over a wall to run across the park to the playground while I walk around the long way. I can see him the whole time, but have several times seen people looking around frantically or giving me dirty looks.

I do worry though. I worry about him falling into dog poo or glass. Our city is very dirty. I wish it was good dirt, but it's just filth. I also worry about what other people are saying to me and know I need to be less protective.

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