02-17-2009 11:49 AM
So true c1937r!
As I said before, I had the empty house status and we had parties galore every weekday night. We all did poorly in school and didn't change our ways until college age when we learned that life wasn't a party. And on the weekends when my working parents came home (auto workers) we didn't want to hear about discipline. This was strange to us.
I have so much in common with Benjie in this book it is strange. I am not that much older, being in high school during the 80's. I was one in a handful of white children in my elementary school. When I moved to the suburbs as a teen, I had a hard time adjusting and, now that I'm looking back and remembering, I can definately see how it affected the way I viewed the world and also some of the choices I made.
Thanks to all for your thought provoking and intelligent comments. I am enjoying the discussion so far very much (My first one).
02-17-2009 11:53 AM
When I first read this, I was SHOCKED! The idea of leaving kids that age alone all week, and sometimes even skipping weekends...wow. How FREE the parents must have felt, not having to take care of the kids.
But then I thought of how we spent many of our summers. As a product of divorce, my mom worked all day. During the summer days, we were on our own. She trusted us to do what was right. But, to her credit, she DID come home and cook supper and was there most nights as well.
I don't know...it's not something that we would do in this day and age, anyway.
02-17-2009 11:53 AM
02-17-2009 12:49 PM
02-17-2009 12:55 PM
Yes, what you are talking about is "child rearing" which doesn't seem to have been taught during the summer. Maybe there was overtime learning in the fall and winter.
Teenagers need responsible adults who will be models for them. Maybe it was physically safe to leave Benji and Reggie alone during the week at that period in time and in Sag Harbor but I don't think it was psychologically safe. The boys had each other but at a very vulnerable age, they had no one to help them make mature judgment calls. Wise decisions about food, power supply, peer interaction, etc. are issues that teenagers aren't necessarily equipped to respond to.
02-17-2009 01:16 PM
02-17-2009 03:15 PM
When I was growing up in the 60's and 70's kids were left home alot.
Even I was, when my grandmother would go shopping.
My friend would come over and we would play.
My friend's mother worked and she was home after school by her self too.
Kids were referred to as latch key kids.
We knew who to call in an emergency and we took care of ourselves.
02-17-2009 05:37 PM
02-17-2009 08:14 PM
02-17-2009 08:59 PM
02-17-2009 09:38 PM
Empty House Status, is completely different from being a latch-key kid. Empty house status means that your parents are not home during the week, you have an allowance at the grocery store, you're on your own until the weekend. And then, sometimes you are on your own during the weekends as well.
Empty House Status disturbs me on so many levels. If the parents had taught their boys
how to manage money, how to cook, how to be responsible, how to clean it would be a "slightly" different story. It appears to me, that one of two situations is occuring with the parents : 1. Parents are on vacation, happy, and are letting their children learn how to be responsible adults by "winging it." or 2. Possibly the Parents are not as affluent as once thought, or they are running into financial difficulties and have to work. The second option would explain the electricity going off.
I believe that the "correct" way to handle this situation is the happy medium between latch-key and are crazy hover overprotectedness state we have now. This situation today would have placed the children in foster care in two seconds flat, but on the flip side, today children can't play outside, can't learn for themselves, and can't be outside a 15 foot radius from there house.
I believe within our "fear" of how scary the world has become, that we are inadvertently making it worse. We are being overprotective and not letting children live their lives, cultivate their imagination, and enjoy the few precious years of being a kid, before the big scary world forces you to grow up and be an adult.
How else can we explain the rising stats of obesity in children? We've decided it's much safer for them to receive no exercise, and sit in their nice safe homes in front of the tv, with their parents two feet away. (I know this doesn't describe all households, but it's the fear that is making us collectively hold on to such EXTREME ideas of behavior).
A latch-key situation, or the children at home by themselves for a few hours before one parent arrives home to make dinner would be much preferable to the main characters situation.
Although the situation disturbs me, it does allow for the boys to learn who they are, and it gives them freedom. They can finally relax and learn how to navigate each others social circles. It also educates the boys, that when push comes to shove, they will be responsible and work for money to buy food.
02-18-2009 02:53 AM
Empty house status is the parents leaving the children to their own devices. Allowing them the freedom to do what they wished, with the knowledge that things had to be back to normal once the parents returned.
While I do see this as being a freedom for the children, I am left wondering if the parents benefited from being alone as much (or more so) than the kids did?
I think this shows a vast difference in childrearing today from that in the past. Children today are rarely left to their own devices. Parents seem to see a need to fill their children's lives with so many activities that the children rarely have time to just be themselves.
Also today, if a parent left their children alone, even teenagers, there's no telling what could happen. As someone mentioned CPS is a good possibility. But there are other threats today, that weren't as prevalant in 1985. Today all it would take is one fithly person to realize the kids were home alone and try to take advantage of them in some way, theft, abuse, who knows what else. I personally feel that the independence gained from being left to fend for themselves allows teenagers the building of life skills that will be necessary once pushed into the real-world. But again, another difference, today children aren't pushed to leave as soon as possible. I know many people my sister's age that are encouraged to go to school at home, live at home, save for a house while living at home. Then when they do go off on their own it is often disasterous and they end up having to move back home because they don't have the skills necessary to make it on their own.
I can't imagine my mother's generation not moving out on thier own, not dealing with their mistakes on their own. Being left to like this was common place and I think there is something to be said of the life skills that could be gained.
Just as a side note, I would imagine that even with an empty house, as close as the community seemed to be in Sag Harbor there was always someone that knew what the boys were up to and that would be around in case of an emergency.
02-18-2009 07:37 AM
02-18-2009 10:57 AM
What is "empty-house status?"
Empty house status refers to when the parents would leave the kids out in Sag Harbor for the work week, and return just for the weekends.
How do Benji's and Reggie's lives on Sag Harbor create a picture of childrearing different to what most experience today?Today, most parents would not leave their teenagers alone for long stretches at a time.Teenagers could get into too much trouble if left alone over a long period of time.
02-18-2009 12:50 PM
Having grown up a latch-key kid in the Bronx in the 60s-70s I can validate the experience does develop your personality, not to mention 'trust issues'. I'm certain this will add a dimension to their experiences later in the story.
02-18-2009 01:15 PM - edited 02-18-2009 01:16 PM
02-18-2009 01:22 PM
I do agree with most of you that the "empty-house" was worrisome. My daughter is only one but I can't imagine leaving her alone for a week (sometimes two) at a time when she's in her early to middle teens. But times were different and Sag Harbor was different. Sag Harbor was a community where neighbors looked out for one another and I think that there was a little more adult supervision then it may seem - remember that other parents were often dropping in for beverages asking "when are your parents coming out?" Besides giving the boys rsponsibility I think that Benji's parents were struggling more than they would have admitted to the boys and they didn't want to give up Sag Harbor like so many others had done. I think they left the boys alone out of necessity, because both parents had to work during the week in order to pay the bills, and unfortunately some ills still couldn't get paid immediately. I think Benji and Reggie are good boys. They both went out and found jobs to buy themselves food. A lot of teenagers would have just relied on the food bought on credit and the kindness of their friends families. I think that their parents knew that they raised their sons right and couldn't imagine taking Sag Harbor away from them and keeping them in the city all summer.
02-18-2009 01:45 PM
I think it was a different time. Remember, this was a time when your neighbor could discipline you. I'm sure if the kids would have done ANYTHING wrong, their parents would have been notified and they would have had to deal with the consequences which would have been much worse. Instead of just their parents watching after them, they had the whole neighborhood. Someone would have complained to their parents if they were causing muck.
"Every burned book enlightens the world."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
02-18-2009 03:42 PM - edited 02-18-2009 03:47 PM
An Empty house status was a house without parent supervision. The parents could be checked out while drinking or socializing, having grandparents watching you, or just not being there.
Being a mom, there is a part that worries me reguarding the whole empty house status, however, part of my upbringing I understand it. This is a whole different time and age from where we are at now.
Sag Harbor was a whole area that is considered a paradise unlike what many of us have seen or experienced. This was a small nit group that knew any strangers coming around. People checked up on each other and knew each others buisness. During that time of age, being of working age was being an adult. Reguarding how the father treated Benji, they were trying to age them into adults and not be a kid.
This parent set is way different then most are. the children were sent to prep schools while parents worked at high hr/stress jobs. Children being not seen and not heard. I'm not sure the parents were very full in the childrens life as is. I can see the mom forgetting things, after you find out how she is treated by her husband. Sag, image is everything, and that is what guided them.
But, coming from the midwest, my house was the non parent house for a time. My father was away on trips and my mom came home at 11pm if she worked the night shift. Of course I didn't do any of my chores until her arrival. I was a teenager. I was left alone my senior year of highschool for a few weekend trips. I had neighbors checking in, but I was given a small amount of freedom. I'm not sure it could happen today, but with my background I can understand that it could happen.
Honestly, looking at the experiences of today and of the past, there is a mix of good on each side. I worry about parents doing to much for our children and them not growing up and dealing with responsability. Yes, society is not as safe as it used to be. Neighbors don't know each other like they used to. However, children do need to learn how to survive on their own when they go onto college/work/real world. There is a time you need to be an adult and stand on your own. I think that is what they were trying to teach, in the way that society and time knew how.
02-18-2009 05:30 PM