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summer of 12

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summer of 12

12 then and 12 now are worlds apart.

12 then was blissful ignorance.

12 now is the weight of the world.

When I was 12 my summer days were spent barefoot in my backyard, alternating between the pool and the sprinkler and the blanket on the lawn. I left the backyard only when I heard the tinny ringing of the ice-cream truck. I would run out to the street, hopping like mad from one foot to the other in an effort to not feel the full scorch of the burning blacktop. Al the ice-cream man would hurry us along in a heavy accent. Sometimes we understood him and sometimes we didn't. And sometimes Al was in a talktative mood and he would show us the numbers tattooed on his arm. We would shrug, not really knowing what the story was. We couldn't understand his accent, and even if we did, it seemed like too heavy a story to carry with our melting cones.

Today, 12 means you have read at least three historical fiction stories about the Holocaust. 12 means you would know what the numbers on Al's arm were.

When I was 12 my summer nights were spent in the street, playing kickball with my cousins. Sometimes we played kick-the-can and we would run through the neighbors yards, hiding in their shrubbery and under their porches. We played until we were too tired to run, and then we would walk down to the candy store to buy soda and snacks.

Today, 12 means you can't play in the street because there are too many cars. 12 means your neighbor's lawn is off limits because it was just sprayed with some chemical to make their grass grow greener. 12 means you can't walk to the store at night, because there are too many strangers.

When I was 12 we went to the beach and for family drives and spent leisurely days at the park. We woke up late and watched morning tv in our pajamas until we were shooed outside. Our days were long and unstructured and lazy.

Today's 12 means summer camp or summer school and getting up with the birds. It is structure and bus rides just like the rest of the year. Family drives and trips to the beach are scheduled events. Time is managed. Soccer, baseball, dance, enrichment programs, swim lessons.

When I was 12 I wasn't afraid of the world. Current events in school meant local news, fluff stories, a few science-related pieces. Health lessons centered around hygiene and grooming. Drug education was non-existent. Learning about the environment meant paying attention to don't litter signs.

Today's 12 is frightening. Current events are happening in their own backyard. War and terrorism are part of the daily venacular. Health lessons include segments on AIDS and condoms and learning how to say no. Drug education is imperative. Today's 6th graders know about ozone layers and recycling and toxins in the water.

Today's 12 is better educated than I was. They are more informed. They are better prepared. But they are not the 12 of carefree childhood and innocence. They are somehow older, wiser and a bit more cynical than I ever knew at 12.

Perhaps today's 12 is more prepared to deal with the world than the 12 year olds of my day were. But I still have to lament that their childhood is almost over at an age when it should be in its prime.


I think when I was 12, 12-year-olds were at a crossroads. Some were very, very mature for that age. Similar to the 12 of today. Some 12-year-olds, like myself, were still carefree kids as you described.

Thankfully, I'm glad 11 years ago I was still a carefree child that played with waterguns, Barbies, video games, and loved playing in the pool. Now that's a time I look to fondly.

I think I was a crossroads twelve too.

On one hand, we didn't have very much money. We didn't have our own cellphones, computers, or CD players. Our world was limited to our neighbourhood and the neighbourhoods next to it. We didn't have to worry about guns in school. We could say "Bang" after aiming a finger or a banana at a classmate without getting expelled. We could draw depressing pictures to worry our parents without being referred to a school shrink.

Yet, we clipped current events articles from the national and international section of our newspapers. We watched the wall come down in Germany. We cared about the environment. We wrote impassioned but badly put together papers on the evils of censorship and did book reports on 1984. We knew that in four years, we'd have to really start caring about our grades so we could go to college.

I dunno. Sometimes I wish I was 12 again.

Next time somebody askes me why we homeschool the kids I'll just point them here. I want my kids to have the carefree childhood I did, and I don't accept that it is impossible in this world. It's much more difficult, but it's not impossible. Mine aren't 12 yet (8 & ^), but I can see the now the lack of rigid structure, the availability of free time, etc. is having a wonderful effect on them.

Kick-the-can, I haven't heard that phrase in a long time! I think I have a project for this weekend, to teach the kids how to play it!

Strange, the other homeschooling parents I've met have used rather structured scheduling. Suppose I can't deduce a trend from such a small sample, though.

I wasn't at the crossroads yet when I was 12, but it was getting closer I guess. I'd read "Silent Spring" at the age of 9 (I had to tell the cashier it was for my mother to get her to sell it to me) and was fairly into the issue of environmental degradation by that time and serious about that sort of thing, and I remember getting into fights with Nixon supporters during the Nixon-McGovern elections, but we also still played kick-the-can and built forts in the woods and dug holes and just ran around between breakfast and dinner, something I can't imagine my kids doing now.

When I was twelve (12 years ago) we were taking bike rides to McDonald's every day, seeing every R-rated movie we could sneak into, and doing anything we could to try to get our hands on Playboys. We also blew a lot of stuff up. I don't know if that's better than reading historical novels about the holocaust or not.

Wowee, I wish I could have had your age-12 experience Michele. I was trying to figure out if my mom was going to kill me, if I was going to kill myself, or if I was going to run away - and only bad kids ran away. But I did it anyway after a year of tries at the first two choices.
Having grown up in Catholic schools I'd already digested piles of morbid literature (no, not the Bible; happily, I had lay teachers), and had been managing household finances since I was very young, so I was almost adequately prepared. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, I guess, plus I have a back yard filled with jasmine and fruit trees to linger in now - when I probably appreciate it more.

My daughter's seven. Sounds to me like she should be twelve.

12 was really different for me, but then I was a dour little kid.

Watergate. Nixon resigned. Post-Vietnam cynicism. Energy crisis. Recession. Riots over school desegregation. That Christian group that wanted to show us a movie of an abortion in Home Ec. Movie of an abortion in Sunday school [I stayed home]. Rumors of what drunken classmates did "in front of everybody" on the weekends.

But what we did have was personal freedom. I could go anywhere alone, miles from home on my bike, the mall, long walks. That's gone. I'd be nervous letting my kids play in my front yard now.

I guess kids get older younger today. But it's all relative. In the UK, you are an adult at 16. You can marry and go to college. Here, 16 is a "kid." Someone 18 can get arrested for dating someone of that age. My great grandmother was married at 15 in the 1880s. That was a perfectly acceptible age in South Texas at that time. But nowdays it seems ludicrious to think of a girl marrying at 14 or 15. I guess everything goes in cycles.

When I was 12? I don't think I remember much from that long ago. 1973?

I was raised in the wilds of western NY State, out in the woods. I had very long red hair. My older brother had escaped to Canada by then. I got my music from an AM radio. On summer weekends, my father, so he wouldn't miss the fine weather or the Watergate hearings, took a little black-and-white television on an extension cord out into the back yard, under the trees, and yelled at Republicans almost as much as he yelled at hockey referees. Senator Sam Ervin was one of the good guys. My mother, a teacher with summers off, read stacks of fine books and sipped tea and gardened.

In school, my first girlfriend's real love was David Cassidy, or maybe Donnie Osmond. (Also in that year of my dozenness, just before Christmas, my current girlfriend was born here in what was then a Soviet Bloc country. Years vanish.) I think I had no friends outside of school until that fall, after moving to a new school, but they lived miles of ten-speed bicycling away from me and each other, so we became great bicyclers and sleepers over.

We lived out among the farms, not in the city, and that made a big difference to how safe we felt. We had no keys for our house doors; when you got home, you turned the door handle and walked in. My parents let me pedal away and come back days later. I hitchhiked, too, and they never worried about my being found with a screwdriver stuck through my temple. The bogeyman was just the bogeyman; heads weren't filled with stories of serial killers and molesters.

Your childhood sounds very much like mine. I was 12 in 1974.

We used to ride our ten-speeds to the school behind the parkway, which had a long, steep walkway that spanned the busy road. We would start at the top, pedaling hard, and then glide our way down, certain that a crash and death awaited us at some point.

Sometimes we would take the bus to Jones Beach and spend our days walking the boardwalk and getting sunburned.

I would never in a million years allow my 12 year old to get on public transportation by herself, nor I would I let her roam the beach all day long unsupervised. She can't even take her bicycle off the block we live on without taking the Motorola two-way. And then I only let her go to the store down the block. It's sad, really that our kids can't have the same kind of childhood we did, but then again, they will probably be saying the same thing twenty years from now about their kids and their childhood. Times change, people adapt, kids don't know any different from what they grow up with.

Remember when you could walk to the corner petrol station and buy a pack of cigarettes for 45 cents? Or maybe I was just a real bad little 12 year old.

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