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BIG SCREECHER: How in the world did we ever survive as kids?

I’m 71 years old, and every day I learn something new. The other morning I watched the Rachael Ray show and learned how to avoid colds. Actually, she had on a pediatrician who was responding to a parent whose kids always caught colds and coughs and what have you. The doctor mentioned that kids get these illnesses 8 to 10 times a year, and they could be avoided if the children were conscious of germs and washed their hands frequently. The doctor demonstrated the ways germs spread by using two kids; one put their hands in a bowl of pink-colored cooked rice and the other in a bowl of blue-colored cooked rice. He had the kids shake hands and you could see the intermingling of the pink and blue rice on each child’s hands. The sticky, colored rice represented the germs and visually was a very effective demonstration. OK, the doctor also recommended changing the children’s clothes, and washing them when they came home from schools. Made sense, if the germs stick on to your hands, they certainly can stick on to the kid’s clothes. Of course, this is all predicated that your child was not sneezed on by a classmate with a running nose who did not have the use of a handkerchief or tissue. Or your child was not coughed on by another child with a hacking cough. Parents that have two or three kids know that when one kid gets sick, everybody gets sick, including the mommy and daddy. There are two trains of thought on germs. If you can raise your child in an absolute sterile environment, will that child be healthier than a child that was exposed to all sorts of germs? Will your child’s body be able to resist any invasion of germs compared to the child whose body has been able to build resistances to them? I don’t know. And the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. Every day brings a new innovation or medical theory and I’m getting confused. Butter is bad, butter is good. You know the drill. The real question is how did we survive before? First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. Now pregnant moms are not allowed honey. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes. Now they take every possible medical test you can think of. As babies, we were put to sleep on our tummies in cribs covered with brightly colored lead-based paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, booster seats, seat belts or air bags. Nowadays, a young couple has to have two cars, one equipped with the kids’ car seats and the other for Dad to go to work. None of my grandchildren have ever ridden in my car. The law says car seats until they can wear seat belts. Well, why would they want to ride in Grandpa’s car? I don’t have TVs and DVDs in front of their car seats. When we were kids, we drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. Water is probably the #1 universal drink. Everybody carries a bottle. As a youngster, I shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank Kool-Aid made with sugar, but we weren't overweight because we were always outside playing! We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K. Today, kids have cell phones and moms can even put Global Positioning Systems on them. We did not have Play Stations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's, no surround-sound or CD's, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or chat rooms. What we had were friends and we went outside and found them! We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. We were given Daisy BB guns for our 10th birthdays. Now they’re outlawed in New York City. Unfortunately, it’s probably easier to get a real gun now on the streets. We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house, knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them! Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! And the beatings we would get from them were worse than what the cops would have given us. Forget about child abuse – “spare the rod, spoil the child” was the motto our parents knew and they produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas, coming from generations that didn’t have the benefits and technology of computers. So although I marvel at today’s technology and do my utmost to stay on top of it, I still remember yesteryear and miss some of the good old days. However, you gotta keep up and enjoy the benefits of modern-day technology. Today, everybody walks and talks with a cell phone, drinking bottled water. Instant communication is here. Laptops bring the world of the Internet with you and the Information Highway is at your beck and call. Just ten years ago, fax machines almost drove the post office out of business; today email has proven to be more effective and faster. What next! Screech at you next week!

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