5 things my parents let me do that I would never let my kids do

ParenthoodSteven John

  • Parenthood is wildly different now than when I was a child.
  • There are many things my parents let me do that I would never let my own kids do today - like spend a month in Europe on my own or light fireworks.
  • Sure, wandering miles from home and staying home alone during middle school worked out for me and my brother in the 80s and 90s, but that was then.
  • Here are five things my parents let me do that I would never let my kids do.

Maybe the times have changed, or maybe I'm just not as laid back in my approach to parenting as my folks were. There are a lot of things my parents let me do that I would never allow my own kids to do.

My wife and I will encourage our kids (currently a four-year-old and an infant) to be freethinking and eager to explore the world, but that doesn't mean they'll be free to roam without supervision like I often did.

Sure, wandering miles from home during grade school, playing with fireworks, and road trips at age 16 worked out for my brother and me back in the 80s and 90s, but that was then.

Here are things my parents let me do that I'll never allow my kids to do.

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1. I spent a month in Europe at age 14 ... without my parents

1. I spent a month in Europe at age 14 ... without my parents

When I was 14, my buddy and I headed off to Europe for a month without parents. We were enrolled in a Spanish-language course that provided housing, meals, a daily schedule, and a nightly curfew. But for about four hours each afternoon and for entire weekend days, we were free to roam the lovely Spanish city of Salamanca without the least bit of supervision.

Since we were very mature eighth-grade graduates, we got into some trouble. For instance, I once got a mouthful of red wine vinegar after making a mistaken purchase at a grocery store. We also got chased out of a restaurant after accidentally exploding a glass ashtray using a butane lighter.

My kids aren't going on any overseas odysseys without me until they're at least a few years older than I was.

2. I drove alone starting the day I got my license

2. I drove alone starting the day I got my license

I got my driver's license the day I turned 16, and that very day I was allowed to hop into our blue Toyota Previa and head out on the road alone. Granted, I drove all of two miles that first afternoon, but within a matter of weeks I was cruising around with impunity, even driving myself to school despite the fact that sophomores weren't supposed to. (For the record, my parents didn't know about that particular school policy.)

My kids can start driving themselves around alone after first driving around with my wife or me in the car for a year.

3. I played with fire ... literally

3. I played with fire ... literally

In my younger years, fireworks were one of life’s greatest pleasures. We would even combine the contents of multiple cherry bombs, rockets, and roman candles into one horribly dangerous concoction.

Looking back from the vantage point of adulthood, it's a miracle that I have all ten fingers and zero burn scars. It's an absolute certainty that my kids aren't going to play around with fireworks of any kind — especially not without me there to play, too.

4. I used technology without supervision

4. I used technology without supervision

When I was a young kid, the internet wasn't a thing. We got our first home computer when I was in early grade school, and we first had access to the World Wide Web when I was in middle school.

From the get-go, my brother and I knew more about using the internet than our parents, and we were free to surf that thing without any restrictions.

As most parents know today, unrestricted web access and youth are not a great combination, and when my two kids are old enough to access the internet on their own, my wife and I will put parental controls aplenty in place.

5. I stayed home alone

5. I stayed home alone

When I was a kid, it was entirely normal for my parents to leave my older brother and me at home alone for long stretches of time. While they didn't leave us alone overnight until he was well into his teen years, we spent many days and evenings left to our own devices, and I was occasionally left entirely alone when I was nine or 10.

I'm not sure at what age I'll finally feel comfortable leaving my son and daughter unattended, but I can tell you it won't be that early. For the record, some states have laws saying it's perfectly fine to leave kids as young as eight or 10 home alone, and I always loved the freedom and appreciated the trust.

But sorry, kids, you're not staying home without us parents any time soon.

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