Being a kid today ain’t what it used to be

Published 11:07 am Thursday, June 20, 2019

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Summer vacation ain’t what it used to be.

Better? You decide.

One thing has remained the same, however; summer vacation is on the minds of students – and teachers – well before that final day of the school year is over.

Back in my day – and that’s way back – summer vacation was most looked forward to because of baseball. That’s right, the youth baseball leagues played games in the summer, as did the recreation and church softball leagues. I understand the problem of out-of-town vacations making it difficult to field teams, but baseball is a summer sport. And played in the summer, it doesn’t interfere with school nights. Now, the only kids playing in the summer are the all-stars, or maybe even the “travel” teams, but that’s another story.

We also had a summer recreation program in Mocksville, which was kind enough to allow us out-of-town kids to participate – if we could find a ride.

But mostly, summer vacation was spent at home. If both of your parents worked, either you took care of yourself, had older siblings to handle that chore, or were looked after by a relative or neighbor. A pretty simple process. The bad part for the kids, all of the above had the authority to issue discipline – including spanking. I had older brothers and sisters who put up with my demands and whining. No spanking, but I’d bet they wanted to more times than one.

Television? Nope. It was there, but what 10 year old wants to be as quiet as a mouse as their grandmother watches “As The World Turns” every day. Say just one word and you learned about discipline.

Video games? Hadn’t been invented yet. The internet? Not even a pipe dream.

Playing outdoors? You betcha.

I spent hour after hour shooting a basketball at a hoop, with a backboard made from an old highway sign. I played in the rain, in the snow, in the mud, in the heat, in the cold. It didn’t matter. I can’t tell you how many times I won a national championship for Davidson College with a last-second fade-away from 30 feet out at the buzzer. I was a hero.

Although I only took the mound in one ill-fated instance in Pony League baseball, I also pitched my way to quite a few World Series championships for the Atlanta Braves. We had drawn a square on the old smoke house (That’s another story, youngsters.). Using a tennis ball (It comes back to you.), I fired fastballs and curves, changeups and sliders. Not a Yankee alive could touch them. I was a hero. A pretty good hitter, too. I practiced with an old bat, picking up rocks from the driveway, tossing them into the air and then belting them over the fence for a game-winning home run.

I should be in the make believe hall of fame. I was that good.

Kids today probably still dream about being a sports hero, but they’re either doing it on a video game or joining one of those travel teams. Even if travel teams had been around back then, the cost would have been prohibitive for most families.

We were ahead of our time, as well. Using a small creek, or branch as we called it, we made our own splash pad. Dam up enough water to get in and splash around was the goal, and it worked.

Tarzan was a popular movie, and yes, I dreamed of being the hero of the jungle as well. There were always big vines in the woods, and we would cut them and swing from place to place while letting out our best Tarzan yells. I’d print it but I don’t know how to spell that yell.

We did have Bible school, as do kids today. Ours was spent playing Red Rover and other such games, drinking Kool Aid and eating cheap cookies. At least the Bible stories haven’t changed.

I’m not one of those to say that kids today have it made, that they spend too much time online and not enough outside, that they’re not even being kids any more.

Just like summer vacations, being a kid today ain’t what it used to be.

– Mike Barnhardt