Saturday, October 10, 2009

Childhood



We have fond memories of our own childhood. Growing up along the Elizabeth River in Tidewater, I recall riding bicycles around the neighborhood. Learning to fish with the older neighborhood boys and climbing the tall pines that sheltered our yards. We wore our shorts and tops, our tennis shoes and flip-flops, and we'd laze away under the shade reading during the heat of the day. As wonderful as those memories are, it's hard to believe childhood is a modern day phenomenon.

In the later 1800, there weren't the carefree days of youth that we think about as summer vacation. Children in some ways were a commodity, a source of labor that helped bring income into the family. The age of Industrialization and the machinery to run mills often required the use of small hands to replace parts. Over 700,000 children worked in places today we consider unsafe, such as mines, factories, mills to make clothing or yarn. Their days were long and hard sometimes lasting from twelve to sixteen hours for nothing more than $2.50 wage. Today that's probably less than an hour baby-sitting or the cost of a drink and burger from a value menu. With few labor laws restricting employers working with children until the turn of the century abuse ran ramped.

It's no surprise then the expressions on Rockwell's young men running from the swimming hole. So when we complain about today's youth being without a care, it's ok. We need to remember they earned it. Just ask your grandparents or your great grandparents, they might tell you let them enjoy their freedom with a bit of structure to balance it off.

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