"If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older"
Tom Stoppard (British Playwright - b.1937)
I've just finished a discussion with my Mum about whether we, as parents 'molly-coddle' our children and over-protect them, resulting in some of the fun being sapped from their childhood. I enlightened her as to what I used to get up to as a wee girl and I don't think she was very pleased!
When I watch my wee boy riding his bike - he's still a bit wobbly but has none of the fear that seems to accompany us as adults -my heart is in my mouth most of the time (my motto is "no hands, no teeth") but I seem to have forgotten the risks I took as a youngster, during those blissful years when I felt invincible and immortal (and the days seemed longer and warmer). Evil Knevil didn't have a look in.
I was welded to my bike for most of my formative years. I had various contraptions, mostly second hand but that didn't bother me in the slightest. As long as the wheels turned, I was happy. I even had one with one white tyre and one black but then I always did like to stand out from the crowd. My Dad liked to make sure that the front brakes were always nice and tight - something which my best friend found out to her detriment when she was travelling at 30mph and pulled them on as hard as she could. The words concrete and pain spring to mind.
When I think about the stunts we pulled on our bikes it's a miracle that any of us have lived to tell the tale. Balancing on the handlebars as we raced one another, getting 'backies' and covering the driver's eyes for that extra bit of excitement, cycling and roller skating at the same time (!) cycling backwards and (my personal favourite) no hands with my jacket pulled up over my head so it acted like a parachute. All at top speed down the steepest roads and all without crash helmets and shin pads to cushion any falls. I never felt so alive as I did on my bike and I still have the scars to prove it. I don't know when I suddenly started feeling so frightened of everything. Some people never lose their fearless streak (look at my friend Caroline - her climbing adventures make my hair curl - but what a buzz she must get. I envy her lust for the dangerous side of life).
Things are very different when you become a mother. Worry and fear become your constant companion the minute you become a parent - it's the unfortunate price you pay for love. No wonder my mum cringed when I told her about my action packed childhood - she was oblivious to my antics before today. What did she think I was doing on those long, summer evenings- making daisy chains and drinking Ginger Beer? Jolly hockeysticks! Lucky I didn't tell her about all the other crazy and death defying activities that took place out of her view - lying stomach down on the frozen lake looking at the trapped insects underneath while James McDougall jumped up and down trying to crack the surface, jumping off the stacked hay bales down the (secluded) farm lane, sledging down Platt Hill, travelling at 90mph towards the main road with nothing but a flimsy fence to stop us from certain death. If I thought my son was going to attempt any of the things I tried as a young girl I would lock him up today and throw away the key! And yet what would that achieve? In this world of health and safety gone mad, helmets and harnesses and ridiculous rules are we robbing our young people of experiencing true adventure? Or are we just saving them from some serious bumps and bruises (or worse)? Who knows. All I know is that I would not have changed the freedom of my childhood for anything. However, I won't be putting fate to the test any time soon. My son's crash helmet will be tied as tight as it ever was!