Friday, January 11, 2013

Henry Huggins, 2013 remix

Over Christmas break, I read Henry Huggins to Miles.   Growing up, I dreamed of living on Klickitat street, and even though I always say Calvin O'Keefe was my first literary crush, in reality it was probably Henry Huggins.  Who could resist a boy with most of his adult teeth and hair like a scrubbing brush?  I loved this book as a kid, but reading it as a parent just made me sad.

The pining I felt to be part of that gang as a kid is nothing compared with how much I wish my boys could be now.  Because, even though in 1989 I could appreciate its picture-perfect 50's charm, it wasn't that different from my own life.  I never heard the word playdate until my children were having them.  We had girl scouts/lessons/sports.... but not all going on at once. My siblings and I were blessed with parents that let us breathe - we walked to school alone, played outside until dark with the neighbors, and cruised around the neighborhood on our bikes.  That's not to say that I didn't waste a lot of hours laying around watching Saved By The Bell and America's Funniest Home Videos sometimes, too.  Just that we were free as kids. 

Just imagine if Henry Huggins was set in 2013.

In the opening chapter, Henry is coming home from the Y, where he goes once a week for swimming lessons.  He's waiting at the bus stop, eating an ice cream cone, when he finds the homeless dog and has his first adventure trying to get him home on the bus.

Hmm.. there are some obvious snags to making this story 2013-friendly. Third grader riding city bus alone.  Third grader simply walking out the door after swimming lessons and heading home, without being "picked up" by a designated adult.  Child having only one after school commitment per week.

2013 version: Henry's mom picks him up from school and drives him to the Y.  She walks inside with him and sits on a plastic chair next to the pool for his whole lesson.  She walks out with him afterward.  As they are walking toward the minivan, they see Ribsy sitting in the parking lot and decide to take him home.  Ice cream cone sadly omitted or possibly gluten-free cone?

In the second chapter, Henry buys a pair of guppies with his pocket money while he's at the pet shop buying horsemeat for his dog.  By the time he gets home, there are already a dozen babies.  He goes to the library to get a book on taking care of tropical fish and by the end of the chapter, he has hundreds of fish in dozens of canning jars taking over his bedroom.  He wisely decides to sell them back to the pet store.

2013 snags:  similiar to chapter 1.  Let's get on to the 2013 version:
Henry's mom picks him up from school and stops at the store on the way home to buy dogfood.  They decide to buy some guppies.  Mom googles to find out how to take care of tropical fish.  The guppies start breeding and mom takes over.  She gets stressed by all the fish jars all over the house.  She eventually decides there are too many and makes Henry get rid of them.

In Chapter 3, Henry and his friend Scooter are playing with Scooter's new football and Henry accidentally throws it into a passing car.  Scooter demands repayment, so Henry catches thousands of night crawlers to earn enough money to buy a replacement ball.  Luckily the lost ball is returned just in time by a kind neighbor, and Henry can use the money he has earned to buy his own ball.

Snags: child solves own problem instead of expecting his parents to.
2013 version: Henry and Scooter are having a playdate.  Both moms are present.  Both moms warn boys to stay well away from the road.  Henry makes a terrible throw and somehow manages to throw the ball into a passing car, despite extreme caution on both mothers' parts.  The moms see everything and talk it over.  Scooter's mom buys him a new ball that night.  Henry's mom buys him one, too, for good measure.  That Saturday, the neighbor returns the ball, so now Henry has two.

Chapter 4, Henry is given a part in the school Christmas play, much to his dismay.  Ribsy saves the day by knocking a can of green paint all over him while they are painting the set, so Henry is excused from participating.

Snags: play practice would interfere with the children's regularly scheduled afterschool activities.  Children painting own set. Christmas play inappropriate.

2013 version:  Three weeks before play rehearsals are set to begin, teachers send home permission forms to take part in a Winter Celebrations play.  Henry doesn't want to be in the play, so he never gives the form to his mother.  He isn't in the play at all, but volunteers to be part of the stage crew because he wants to paint the set.  The parents paint the backgrounds while Henry and Scooter sit on the floor and play angry birds.

In Chapter 5, Henry enters Ribsy in a neighborhood dog show.  Ribsy is a mess and Henry sprinkles him with talcum powder to try to cover it up.  He performs terribly, but shockingly wins a small silver cup for the most unusual dog, due to his pink spots.

Snags: Henry's independence, actual awards
2013 version: Henry hears about a dog show and asks his mom to enter him.  She does.  The night before the dog show, she gives Ribsy a bath.  The next day, she drives Henry and Ribsy down to the park.  She registers for them.  Ribsy does terribly, but Henry gets a silver cup anyway, for participating.

Chapter 6:  Ribsy's former owner finds Henry after seeing his picture in the paper for winning the award in the dog show.  They decide to settle the matter by letting Ribsy choose.  Each boy calls to him, and Ribsy goes to Henry in the end.  The neighborhood kids cheer and Henry is the hero.

Snags: see Chap 3, also child reading newpaper
2013 version:  The former owner's dad calls Henry's dad and accuses Henry of stealing his son's dog.  Luckily, Henry's uncle is a lawyer, so Henry's dad scares the other dad into backing down.  Henry posts pictures of Ribsy on facebook and tags the other boy.

The End.

The 2013 lifestyle takes out all the fun and squelches all the adventures.  I don't want that to be true for my kids' lives, too.
I try not to be a helicopter parent.  I'm taking baby steps.

Today we let Miles rent a bike at the railway park instead of riding on a child's seat on the back of Whim's.  And while he struggled with the monkey bars, I sat nearby and tried to channel Mrs. Huggins.  Granted, she would have been at home canning peaches, but Henry was nine, not four.  And he didn't have a little brother who has seizures.  I'm working on it.




41 comments:

  1. That was a really fun read, even though it makes me sad too. I used to play all the time in my neighborhood until after dark, I walked to and from elementary school (granted, it was only 3 blocks, but still). It's really sad that kids won't have that kind of freedom. Good for you for trying to channel Mrs. Huggins.

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    1. I'm going to try to give my boys the kinds of freedom I had. It feels a little crazy to think of letting them be kids like that, when society makes us feel like it's bad parenting, but I want them to learn what we learned, even if that means a few scrapes along the way.

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  2. This is SO fantastic! You have hit the nail on the head and your snags are hysterical (child problem solving on his own! NEVER HAPPEN in 2013) and also sad...but true.

    While I understand certain safety issues, I think we are doing our children a grave disservice by always swooping in and handling things and being ever present. How are they supposed to learn self reliance if they've never actually had to do anything by themselves?

    There are even moms standing at the bus stop now. A child can't even walk from the bus on his own street to his own house without having a parent RIGHT THERE.

    I rode my bike to softball practice. I used to leave the house in the mornings with a friend in the summer and we'd ride our bikes around the neighborhood, eat lunch at another friend's house and I wouldn't even get home until dark. It's just not like that anymore.

    Is the world more dangerous now, or have we built it up that way in our minds?

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    1. Thanks! I really agree and am trying to learn to step back and let them deal with things on their own that way that we did when we were kids.

      I've read a lot on the Free Range parenting website that says that things are actually safer now than when we were young, stats-wise. I like knowing that. It makes me feel like we're not so crazy to try to turn things around for our kids, at least a little.

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    2. Robin...I wanted to email you to ask a question...but I can't find an email for you here. If you see this, would you email me at thedoseofreality@thedoseofreality.com when you have the time? Thanks!--Lisa

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    3. Hey I sent the email, let me know if you don't get it . :)

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  3. This post is fantastic, Robin! You are so right about all of it.
    And the pictures are adorable, as always :D

    I never had this freedom. My childhood was pretty much the same as you wrote for the kids in 2013, save for the angry birds and facebook which I didn't have back then. I really wish I grew up like Henry though. You were lucky :)

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    1. Xae- I know you're a few years younger than me... I wonder if I squeaked by as one of the last truly free kids?

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  4. Love, love, love this!! Hilarious AND thought-provoking. I allow my three and five year old to play in our unfenced backyard, while I watch from the window and wonder if the neighbors are going to call child services.

    -Amy

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    1. Isn't it awful that we have to worry about other people deeming out intentional attempts to raise independent, brave children as neglect?!

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    2. Oops, I meant to say "deeming our intentional attempts..."

      Thanks for visiting!

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  5. Oh, the tangled webs we weave! There is that fine line between keeping our kids safe and being an over-protective parent who hinders our kids from experiencing life. I try to find the balance, but it doesn't always happen. I'm sure you know what I mean. :)

    When I was a kid, we could go certain places alone, even more places with a trusted friend or sibling, and there were also places we were never to go (a rule I broke a few times and got in an immense amount of trouble for, and realized my parents were right to not let me go there the second after I'd done it). It was just how things were. My parents also go to know anyone I spent a lot of time with, something that doesn't happen much today, at least that I've been able to see.

    I think our world was no more or less safe then, just now we are aware of so much more of the depravity of people. Our world has gotten smaller in that we have instant information available, so we see it all - the good and the bad. We can no longer be disillusioned. So, the rules haven't really changed, because my parents would've done the same things if they were in my shoes because of the level of awareness there is now. Unfortunately, we're too paranoid to see that we can still work together with our neighbors and our trust is kaputt. Does that make sense?

    Anyway, I enjoyed this post (though it was kinda in a sad-but-true kinda way), and am glad that The Dose of Reality shared it so that I could come over and read it. :)

    I hope you have a great rest of your week.

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    1. Thanks for visiting, and taking the time to comment. I think I like what you said about the world not being safer or more dangerous now. I think a big part of the problem is the news. People hear about the tragedies all day long on the news until it seems that there is nothing else going on in the world but danger.

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  6. AWESOME POST!!! Ashley and Lisa sent me... was SO worth coming. I struggle with all of this- because there is nothing worse than an ENTITLED and DEPENDENT kid....I want my kids to figure it out on their own! It's a mess of a culture now...parents doing their kids' homework, laundry and chores...ETC. A CRYING shame.

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    1. Yes, the problem really is two-fold, entitled and dependent. I hope we can fight the culture and raise kids who are neither.

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  7. My life was not so different from 2013 version either. I don't know if my family was an anomaly or if that was pretty normal. The only exception I can think of is that my mom dropped me off at dance lessons and picked me up later. But I would do that with my kids now were it allowed by whatever program they were participating in, so I don't think that's really anything that's changed.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Nicole. How do you feel when you read about those carefree, 50's days. Did it make you wish you'd had that sort of childhood, or does it seem unsafe? Just curious! Thanks for visiting!

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  9. Great post!!!!!! I think we are robbing our kids of so many things in their childhood - as we try to "give" them so much. Your 2013 made me laugh - and yet it is so true!!! And if you aren't "that kind of parent" who does everything for your kid, you are judged for that!

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    1. All of us non-helicopter parents have to stick together! :) To think, one day normal could be normal again.

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  10. Awesome post!!! It would be so nice to return to a time when kids could be kids without so many rules and regulations imposed by parents and everyone else.

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    1. I hope when my boys reflect on their childhoods, they'll have more in common with Henry than not!

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    1. Thanks, Katy! And thanks for sharing it!

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  12. Heard about your post from Dose of Reality, and GIRL, it is wonderful. I get spooked from any and everything around us, anything that could hurt or spook my kid. My biggest parenting challenge so far has been backing off, letting that grip loosen.

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    1. I'm with you, Tori! Giving my boys freedom is so unnatural to me, but it's worth it!

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  13. Stopping by from The Dose of Reality, and I so get why they love this post. It's so true. So real. And so perfect. Sigh. It's a shame what our world does to our ability to parent and the ability for our kids to just be kids, isn't it? Thank you for the reminder and I'll be right there beside you trying to make it work for my daughter, as well!

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    1. Thanks, Andrea! It sure feels like we are the minority sometimes. But I guess that means our confident, independent children will stand out, too! :)

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  14. Wow! I loved this because it really brought home how different our kids are today than way back when. Not how different the world is but how different we parent and how are kids are growing up. I agree with Julie that it's the information that is so readily available to us that makes it seem like it is more unsafe now. I want very badly to go back to the Henry Huggins' days. This generation is definitely more dependant and entitled, like Chris said and it is a little scary.

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    1. All those tactics the news media uses to make us not want to turn off the news makes it so we can't turn it off in our heads. It's happening somewhere so it could/will happen here. We have to remember that the world is big and every fluke terrible thing is broadcast.

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  15. I really appreciate this post - I see both sides. I know I wouldn't have been allowed to do all those things Henry got to do (which was a big part of why I loved this book), but I do try to make sure I give my daughter a lot of freedom. It tends to freak out my husband sometimes, but she seems to operate well within given boundaries, and sometimes sets her own when asking to do things alone. I hope that our efforts to ensure her independence and problem-solving result in one of those "snags" listed up there, where she actually solves her own problems!

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    1. The best thing about Henry's independence and problem solving in this book is that it isn't an object lesson- it's a given, background material for an unrelated story! It's what I want for my boys!

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  17. This is a really great piece! I love the new spin you put on it by comparing Henry's life to modern times. I think about this all the time. I was born in '62 and we used to walk a mile to and from school. Sometimes, after school, we'd go home with a friend and call our mom's from there to tell them where we were. We biked miles from our house, and only worried about getting home by supper. I walked 2-3 miles to get to the orthodontist ... I walked from school to my Girl Scouts meetings several blocks away. Kids could even leave school for lunch, and sometimes I'd go home with a friend at lunchtime. Our parents never knew where we were.

    Why don't our children have any independence? They don't even have any independence from each other. They're out to dinner with their families and texting the people they're NOT with. There is a HUGE downside to this superhighway of information. I, for one, as an adult, don't want to be reached 24 hours a day. I hate how people are always just half present, when you're with them. Nobody can enjoy what they're doing and who they're with, because they're too busy communicating with the people who AREN'T there and posting about their every move on social media. When we were young, people lived in the moment. You enjoyed and savored that moment. You weren't obsessed with recording it. And you were selective about taking pictures, because developing the film was expensive. I try to hard to impart this to my daughter, but this generation doesn't know any differently

    A few years ago, she went on a one month wilderness experience ... completely unplugged ... no electricity, no plumbing. She came back so refreshed and with her eyes wide open. "Mom," she said. "It was so great. Without all that stuff, we really got to know each other, because there was nothing to do in the evenings but sit around and talk or play cards." Within a week, she was back to being plugged in 24/7. I also think the distractions of social media and texting interfere with her ability to get her schoolwork done in a timely manner. She has ADHD and there are constant distractions. I so long for more simple times ... when kids played charades and tag until the street lights came on. Then they came in for dinner and went back out in the dark to catch fireflies. I tried to bring some of those joys to my kid's childhood ... like running under the sprinkler, instead of going to the pool. But sometimes, it feels like we're fighting a losing battle.

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    1. You are right about people being too connected to their phones. It's a sad state when people can't even eat as a family because everyone is mentally somewhere else with their device.

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  18. Oh - I loved this. The snags are so true and so sad!!! The one about the award just for entering kills me!!! And, I agree - parents do way too much for kids these days! Even when we send them off on their own, they have their cell phone so we can "check in."

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    1. I remember feeling so proud of the few awards I one as a child. I can't imagine kids these days appreciate them much, when every participant gets a trophy!

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  19. So glad I landed here by way of The Dose Girls! I love everything about this and wrote a similar post about hovering over our kids when I read an amazing article about it in The Atlantic magazine. It's definitely changed the way I parent...now if I could just get all the others moms in the park on board so I don't look like the neglectful one!!
    PS - My son is also named Miles!

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    1. I'll have to check out your blog and your boy! I have it on good authority that kids called Miles are extra special. ;)

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  20. What a sad commentary. Fun, but a bit depressing. I think we had way more fun as kids, didn't we? I loved running around the neighborhood in the summer time playing "Ghosts in the Graveyard" until 10 at night... at age 8 or 9. Maybe 10. We got on our bikes and rode all over the place. I walked over a mile to and from elementary school - in 1st grade. No adults, just other neighborhood kids. We played "Star Wars" in the trees, not on the XBox. I miss that lifestyle...

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    1. Being able to ride bikes around town was such a big (and normal) part of my childhood. Maybe it's because we live in such a huge city now, but kids don't do that here.

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