sex

7 things our parents did that would get them arrested in 2015.

Times have changed and in a lot of ways, this is for the best. Being pinched on the bum at work and having to laugh it off? Nobody misses that. Except perhaps the lecherous old fools who did the pinching.

But parenting has changed even more than sexual politics and social mores. For one thing, parenting never used to be a verb. Up until the 90s, you just were a parent or you weren’t. It wasn’t something you actively did, let alone bought books about.

And it’s only when you have children of your own and begin comparing generations (“back in my day…” etc) that you realise how many things that were totally acceptable in the past, could now get you into a lot of trouble. Or even arrested.

I, being born in 1975, would say my memories of being a child kick in around 1980. The ’80s were a splendid time, they really were. But they were also pretty loose in many ways.

For example:

1. Disciplining your kids

Smacking a child in Australia hasn’t been outlawed as such. But I’ve got to tell you, the “smacking” my brother and I received back in the day certainly wouldn’t be accepted in general society or a court of law today. An actual leather belt was wrapped around the back of our legs. So too the occasional jug cord. A wooden spoon was literally broken over my husband’s arse when he was small. Happily, that’s not okay these days. That’s considered abuse.

BUT … when I was a kid, it was perfectly normal. Admittedly, I only received this kind of discipline when I was monumentally naughty. I didn’t consider myself abused then and I don’t now, because everyone did it and everyone copped it. Now you would probably go to jail for hitting a child with a stick so hard it broke, no matter whether you were a stranger or the child’s parent. And that’s a good thing in my opinion.

2. Smoking in the car

In a lot of states, if you are caught smoking in your own vehicle and there’s a child inside it, you can be fined. ,I for one, am completely onboard with this law. I grew up with a father who rolled his own cigarettes and we were constantly experiencing the excruciating pain of rubbing random bits of loose tobacco into our eyeballs. We inhaled god knows HOW much secondary smoke and, as my father eventually died from lung cancer, I can only imagine how much damage my brother and I inadvertently suffered. Now, thank god, parents aren’t allowed to hotbox their kids like this.

A scene from 1960s drama Mad Men where the mother not only lights up in the car with her daughter, but lets her smoke as well.

3. Leaving kids alone in the house

As a kid growing up, we were often left alone in the house. Never for long periods of time, but if Mum needed to, say, shoot down to the bank or grab some groceries, everyone, including the law, were totally fine with it. In 2015, even though in a lot of states you can legally leave a child home alone from 12 years of age onwards, the lines around these laws are blurred and in some, there is no line at all. This can make it tough, and its why there have been instances where parents have not only found themselves investigated but also arrested and sentenced for leaving their children unattended.

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4. Letting kids walk home alone

Earlier this year,  a “free range” parenting couple in America were charged with ‘unsubstantiated child neglect’ when they allowed their children, aged 10 and 6, to walk to the park together. Whether you would, or wouldn’t, let your children do this relies on a myriad of factors: the distance, the maturity of your children, the safety of your neighbourhood and really, your own personal views.

When we were kids back in the '80s, we walked to and from school, a good two kilometres each way, every day, via numerous busy streets - and we did so at the age of seven. Studies show that childhood norms have shifted drastically over a generation. For example, in 1971, 80 percent of third-graders walked to school alone, but by 1990, only 9 percent did. 25 years later and I imagine that percentage would be even less.

Want more? Try: “How I accidentally ran away from home in my 40s”.

5. Being unrestrained in a vehicle

I doubt I’m the only one who can remember being flung around in the back seat of their parent’s station wagon because we weren’t wearing seatbelts. From memory, dad’s EH Holden did actually have seatbelts, albeit very slack ones, but no one ever pressured us to wear them. At no point in my young life was I restrained, even as an infant. As a toddler, I sat on my mother’s lap. Today, a child (in Victoria at least) must, by law, be in an approved child safety seat until they are at least 8 years of age.

A 60s ad for a car highlighting how the rear of the wagon could be used as a play area. While driving.

6. No helmets while bike riding

This is now not just dangerous, it’s illegal. Yet when we were kids, flying down the street with our hands on our ape-hanger handlebars without shoes or helmets, was all in a day’s work. The cops can and will fine the parent if your child rides around the street helmet-free these days. Which isn’t such a bad thing. Little brains, all brains, don’t get too many shots at surviving if they hit the pavement too hard.

The 60s: when mothers wore hotpants and kids didn't wear helmets.

7. Taking photos of children that aren’t ours

I have hundreds of pictures of my brother and I with other random children in the background. We were at theme parks and skating rinks and other very public spaces and my father or mother, whoever had the camera, would be always snapping away. Now, especially at junior sporting events, even photographing your own children isn't allowed. Period. I get it, there are some weirdos out there, hanging out inconspicuously in public places and taking photos for their own private viewing, but it’s making it hard for the genuine parents to catch their own memories.

Girls playing leapfrog at school. The kind of photo most schools and sports groups have banned today.

These are but a small snapshot of how times have changed. How seemingly normal practices at the time are now not only frowned upon, they are often illegal. Can you remember more situations that were once perfectly fine but would get you arrested today?

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