As the investigation continues into the collision of a school bus with a Subaru in North Brunswick, information came out that the 6 month old baby critically injured in the crash was not in a car seat. That police department's Facebook described the situation as an "unrestrained infant." I wish the baby a complete recovery.

This shocks most young parents today because the laws are so strict. Would it shock young people just as much to know that many middle-aged people were brought home from the hospital by their parents routinely unrestrained? There was no federal seat belt law even for adults until 1968. Not all 50 states had child seat laws until 1986. Back then mom simply left the hospital holding the newborn on her lap completely unrestrained.

It got me thinking about other things that used to be different for kids.

There was no such thing as arranged 'playdates.' Kids found their own friends, even at young ages. I remember first talking to the kid across the street by both of us yelling from our front lawns because we weren't allowed to cross the street on our own yet. We were 4. I was however allowed to play outside alone even at 4, which brings us to my next point.

Children had freedom. Years ago, before the Etan Patz scare started putting missing children's faces on milk cartons, kids could roam the neighborhood when they were only kindergarten age. Mom's trusted them to follow the rules and be back for dinner. Then you'd go back out and play until the street lights came on. Today it's hard finding kids playing outdoors.

We called holidays by their names. We were allowed to dress up at school and have a Halloween party. Parents from other cultures weren't shutting it down back then. We had off from before December 25th until after January 1st and it was actually called Christmas break, not winter break.

We never heard of wearing a helmet. We all had bikes, of course. And we didn't go riding them with mom and dad tagging along. We went exploring the world on our own and we didn't have to wear helmets doing it. We never even heard of such a thing.

We were allowed to walk to school. Believe it or not, there are some towns in Jersey where the schools have policies that students either have to be on the bus or be driven by a parent. You are told you are not to have your child walk to school. And this is in 5th and 6th grade. I've actually experienced this and I was floored. When I was in elementary school, I was walking alone to school starting in kindergarten.

Kids were never in constant contact with their parents. There was no such thing as a cell phone. You didn't send Johnny off with a cell phone so you could check in with him every hour. Parents had to trust their kids to not get in trouble and handle it themselves if they did.

Saturday morning was the only time TV was for you. Those precious few hours on Saturday mornings when cartoons came on was all you got. There were no channels specifically for children. There certainly were no movie rentals or dvrs either. You had to figure out how to entertain yourself most of the week.

I'm not saying which was better or which was worse. That's up to you to decide. All I'm saying is things couldn't be more different today.

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