Alonzo Weston

I was reading an online story the other day about how summertime can bring an increase in anxiety for kids.

Katie Hurley, a child and adolescent psychotherapist and parenting educator, was quoted in the story as saying various aspects of summertime can affect kids in an negative way.

It’s either too little structure or not enough.

“Anxious kids rely on carefully crafted routines, and too little structure or shifting routines can feel overwhelming,” Hurley said in the story.

Susan Newman, a social psychologist and author also quoted in the story, said many parents view the summer months as a time for their child to catch up or gain an edge, so they enroll them in numerous classes and activities.

“Piling on and filling time only adds to their stress and anxiety that, ideally, summer break is theoretically designed to reduce,” Newman said.

Funny how we never had that problem back in the day, it seemed. We had structured activities like baseball and Boy Scouts, but for the most part our time was our own.

Parents worked then, too, and kids were left to themselves. The only rule we had was to be home before the streetlights came on. Not many places like drugstores and other places ran kids off as long as you behaved.

Many businesses had stuff for kids, like pinball machines. On Saturday mornings, kids could go to the basement of House and Wheels and Toys and race model cars or watch the races. We swam in lakes. We climbed in caves and had dirt-clod fights up on Devil’s Backbone. We rode our bikes all over town. We went to the Plaza Theater in Goosetown to keep cool and watch a movie. We got our ice cream from a Jolly Rogers truck that came through our neighborhoods. A small place Downtown with tons of newspapers piled high called the Midtown Newsroom had most any comic book we wanted, and they let us read them in the back of the tiny store for free.

It didn’t take much money to keep us occupied, either. Most kids were in heaven with a 3-V Cola, a Hostess cupcake and a comic book.

We never had Backpack Buddies or No Hunger Summer then, but we never went hungry. We sold pop bottles and cashed in store coupons for money to buy cupcakes, candy bars and potato chips. We raided fruit trees and gardens in the neighborhood for food, too. Most of us had a loaf of bread and some bologna and Kool-Aid in the fridge. Nothing fancy like a McDonald’s, but we ate.

The burgers our moms made at home were fatter and better than any fast-food burger anyway. Many of us never ate in restaurants because the food at home was good enough and most everyone cooked.

I never ate in a restaurant until I was 16 years old and on a junior-senior prom date to King’s Food Host where you placed your order over a telephone at each table.

I feel many kids today miss out on childhood. Some kids are robbed of their childhood through abuse. Other don’t have childhood because adults and society want them to grow up too fast and be competitive, leaving no time for kid stuff.

I know times are different and may not be as safe, but we had dangers then too. We were trusted to do the right thing. Too many kids today are not allowed to leave their yards or their street or walk to school without adult supervision. That free time is a huge part of growing up.

Alonzo Weston can be reached


Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWeston.