Has childcare improved since the 1950s?

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I was born in the late 1950s, so I’m a baby boomer–part of one of the largest population increases ever recorded following World War II (before birth control and Women’s Lib caused the birthrate to level off and actually begin to decrease).

Life back then certainly was different, which got me to wondering: How has childcare changed over the past 50 years? Let’s take a walk down memory lane…

Back then, kids played outside from daylight to dusk when it wasn’t raining or too cold. We made forts out of old parachutes from the Army/Navy store and large cardboard boxes from construction sites.

When we got thirsty, we drank well water from the garden hose. We ate blackberries that grew down at the edge of the woods and along the dirt roads. We picked the garden vegetables every morning–always making sure to lift up the yellow squash leaves and be alert for the diamondback rattlesnakes that loved the shade of the large leaves. (This is why you often see people who were raised in the country walking with their heads and eyes looking at the ground–watching for snakes!)

We shot rifles and shotguns, learning gun safety at our fathers’ sides. I remember when Mama shot a rabid fox that was out in the road–it was like a scene out of To Kill A Mockingbird.

First aid for cuts and scrapes was Mercurochrome and a bandage, unless you were at your grandparents’ house–they used kerosene. For upset stomachs, Mama kept a bottle of paregoric and would put the dose into a little stale Coca-Cola. We took baby aspirin for fevers and pain (Tylenol was not yet on the market). Wasp stings were treated with a piece of wet tobacco from a cigar after the stinger was removed. A “shot” of Penicillin was used to treat most everything else.

We had the vaccines of the day: smallpox, DPT (1 dose) and typhoid. When the polio vaccine became available, the whole family went to the local elementary school and got our “sugar cube” doses from the county health department. Chicken pox, mumps and measles were just things that kids “had” at some point. The first vaccine–for rubella only–did not appear until 1969.

I look at the list of vaccines that are now required for my grandchildren and wonder: Were we just lucky? Or tougher back then? Or perhaps we developed a natural immunity from our environments?

One thing I know for sure: We were raised with common sense, respect for our elders and basic human survival skills (how to find water, grow or hunt food and stay strong and healthy). Our parents raised us–not the school, church or government, although we were taught to have respect for those institutions.

There are a lot of things we never would permit our own children or grandchildren to do these days, and laws have been enacted to try to save some people from their own ignorance (for example, using seat belts, child safety seats and bicycle helmets).

Were we just lucky? I think it was simply that we had parents who paid attention to what we were doing and were not afraid to be parents!

Raise up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

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