Was Mike Brady a Bad Daddy? or Boy, Have Times Really Changed!

I recently caught a holiday episode of the original Brady Bunch show. In all honesty, I wasn’t watching the whole show–it was kind of on TV like background music while I was doing other things. I did stop to watch it for a moment. Apparently, somehow Mike had got roped into taking Cindy to the mall to see Santa Claus. She looked about 6 years old. Mike seemed anxious and I think he needed to get some last minute gifts or something. As they approached the area where Santa was, the line snaked around the store. Mike look miffed. Cindy, in all her wide-eyed innocence, said, “I don’t mind waiting by myself, daddy.” The next thing I know, Mike had dumped her in line and took off like a bat in hell. That’s right folks. He left a 6 year old alone in line in the mall waiting to see Santa.

Is anyone else shocked by this? Have things changed so dramatically since the late 1960’s/early 1970’s? When was it ever ok to leave a 6 year old unattended at the mall? Who wrote this crap–single, 20 year old male geeks? Where were the store employees? Outraged parents? Mall Security? DYFS? Where was Mrs. Brady? When the camera panned the line of children, it was just that–all children with nary an adult to be found. Could you imagine if someone did this today? The press would have a field day! Every unemployed and half forgotten actor/actress would make an announcement of public outrage and shock! Sally Struthers probably would have dropped her twinkie!

Perhaps in TV land, it’s ok to leave your children unattended. After all, everyone smiled. Everyone was helpful. Every problem was resolved in 30 minutes or less. Or maybe it was just a one time mistake, an oversight by a network more concerned over showing Barbara Eden’s belly button then it was in promoting proper parenting techniques. Besides, they’d never do that in the movies, would they?

Who doesn’t love the movie, A Christmas Story. It’s a wonderful tale about a little boy who wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas and gets shot down by everyone. The classic line, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” has been immortalized by this movie. Watching this movie during the holidays is as traditional as eggnog and jingle bells.

In one scene of the movie, the family takes their children to visit Santa at a local store. The store is full of wonderful Holiday characters, like the Wicked Witch of the West. Yes, nothing says Christmas like a green, crooked-nose witch all dressed in black with a pointy hat. Darren McGavin takes his boys to the line for Santa. He sees what he thinks is a short line, dumps his boys, and runs like hell. Anyone who’s seen the movie knows that the line is miles long and the boys have to trudge to the very end. They almost miss seeing Santa because the store is about to close. Just as Santa finishes pushing Ralph down the sliding board with his foot, Mom and Dad appear.

What a minute? They waited for what seemed like forever to see Santa but Dad thought he left them at the front of the line. Why didn’t dad come back sooner? What did he think the boys would do after they saw Santa? Did he assume that the store employees were also babysitters? Maybe he thought Santa would recruit them as elf helpers. Maybe he was hoping they would get snatched up by the Wicked Witch of the West.

So, were these people bad parents? No, not really. Apparently there was a time when you could leave your child in line waiting for Santa and no one would blink an eye. And your child would be safe. And your child would wait for you to return. Or at least there was a time when we thought these things were true. Ah the age of innocence! Merry Christmas all you moms and dads…and when you take your kiddies to see Santa, stay in line with them. I don’t want to see you face plastered all over the six o’clock news!

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22 thoughts on “Was Mike Brady a Bad Daddy? or Boy, Have Times Really Changed!

  1. Heather says:

    It totally was a different time back then! When I was in kindergarten through second grade (so aged 4 through 6), I used to WALK to school, 1.5 miles, with a group of children. After the first week, NO ADULTS escorted us (different moms took turns each way for the first week only). There were six of us, with most of us in my grade at the time and then one older sister who was a whopping third grader when the rest of us were in K. No one thought twice about that – a bunch of 4 and 5 year old girls with a 7 year old girl “in charge” walking over a mile twice a day, every day.

    Now? I won’t let my five year old walk the four houses up to the corner to catch the bus for school by herself. Neither will the school district – they will not let the elem school kids off the bus without a parent/designated grown-up waiting for them at the corner. It’s a different world…

    On a completely unrelated note to the Horrors of The World Today, I totally LOVE A Christmas Story. That and the (original, animated) Grinch are my two favorite Christmas-related specials. 😀

    I think that’s enough rambling; this is turning into a novella-length comment! Cheers!

  2. Steven at Green Dads says:

    I think things were different then. When I was kid in the 60’s and 70’s my mother used to shove us all out the door in the morning saying, “go out side and play, don’t come in until lunchtime”.

    Now I don’t think I’ll let my son out unsupervised until he’s about 12.

  3. Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge says:

    Okay, breathe. Quit freaking. Times were different back then.

    I very clearly remember when I was a kid (I was born in ’72) going to Target with my mom, and I’d race off to the toy department while she shopped. I was 100% unattended. No one every questioned me or my mom.

    Also, as a kid, we begged – and were allowed – to be left in the car while my mom grocery shopped in Kroger’s. She was probably only in there 20 minutes, but still… nowadays you get hauled off to jail if you leave your kid in the car to put your cart in the cart-keeper thing. (just kidding, but seriously folks, c’mon.)

    I do not advocate leaving your kid alone in a store, especially nowadays. I think “freedom of thought” has opened the door for sickos to think it’s okay to snatch a kid, violate common decency against those unable to defend themselves, and just a general perception of “I am more important than any law. My thoughts are not my fault and I deserve to act on my feelings!”

    Okay, rant over. Sorry ’bout that! But, 1978 was a LOT different than 2008. It’s a shame, really.

  4. Lyndsay says:

    Cindy was incredibly annoying … maybe he meant to leave her there.

    Oh wait, that wasn’t the intention of your post, huh?

  5. Preston says:

    Heather – It sure was a different time. I remember walking several blocks to school alone when I was in kindergarden and up. Of course, this was the mid 60’s.

    And right, today you can’t barely let your children walk ten feet in front of you. It’s a totally different world. It’s sad, isn’t?

    Steven – Yup, it sure was different. It’s a shame life isn’t so simple as it was back then.

    Texan Mama – I’m breathing and not freaking. It was just a shock at first. I can remember my mom sending me to the 7-11 to get her ciggarettes. She would give me money so I could get a candy bar (the bribe) and I would ride my bike to the 7-11. I was probably 10 at the time. And they would give me the ciggs and the candy bar. Amazing, isn’t it?

    Lyndsay – She sure was annoying. I think the most annoying Brady of all.

  6. Keeper of the Skies Wife says:

    I, too remember walking 6 blocks to school in kindergarten. We lived on Long Island, Medford to be exact. It was a different time. But, if I was a mom back then I don’t think I would have left my child!!!

    A Christmas Story is a classic we watch every year!!!

  7. Goddess says:

    If you think that’s bad, I was watching the first season of Bewitched and Larry’s wife Louise had just found out she was pregnant. She was afraid to tell Larry and needed to calm down, so she asked for TWO MARTINIS! So YES, it really HAS changed that much!

  8. Condo Blues says:

    Well of course Mike Brady and Ralphie’s Dad felt it was OK to leave their kids in line with Santa. The camera crew was there to keep an eye on them, right?

  9. Preston says:

    Keeper of the skies wife – It sure was a different time. And yes, A Christmas Story is definitely a Christmas classic.

    Goddess – Oh yes, drinking and smoking during pregnancy was very common in the 60’s. Crazy huh?

    Condo Blues – I bet that camera crew didn’t give a rat’s ass about those kids. LOL

  10. Jen says:

    I walked with only other children to school 1 mile.

    I rode my bike or walked to the corner drug store to pick up my mom’s cigarettes.

    I waited in line and sat on Santa’s lap while my dad shopped in another department.

    I also was able to buy alcohol in my catholic school uniform.

    It’s a different world. I don’t think it is worse but we all have cable now and hear about the missing children more frequently. It’s still safe.

  11. Preston says:

    Jen – Yes, it sure is a different world and I agree that bad news was not as readily available 20 years ago like it is today; however, I disagree that the world is safe. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention claims that a child goes missing every 40 seconds in the US. That’s over 2100 per day. That is one scary figure.

  12. Lola says:

    What about the movie “Stand By Me” or “Sandlot”. In “Stand By Me” the kids wandered off all day playing by train tracks! In “Sandlot” and the various sequels, the kids wander off all day in pursuit of baseball.

    I grew up in the 60’s. In the summer, as long as we came home at lunch and dinner, it was all good. We would put 20 miles or more on our bikes every day, riding to the bowling alley or to the mall, ON MAJOR HIGHWAYS, not sidewalks.

    When my kids were little when we lived in Chicago I wouldn’t even let them out in my fenced in yard without adult supervision! Now they are teens and we live in a quiet suburban area and you would not believe how hard it is for me to resist hovering.

    The times they have a-changed.

    http://lolasdiner.blogspot.com/

  13. Kathy says:

    So weird. I was thinking about blogging on this topic. What brought it to mind was that I see no less than 10 cars sitting at the school bus stop down my street every morning. Each kid waits on the corner while their parents stand with them or sit in the car monitoring their kids until they’re safely on the bus.

    Like some others have said here, I too, walked to school about 4 blocks by myself as a youngster. We even had a mental outpatient facility near us. Passed it every day. No adult every walked with me past 3rd grade.

    Should they have? Probably. One time some orderlies came running down our block asking if we had seen an escaped patient.

    Still — we walked to school alone. Yes, the times have changed.

  14. Rachael says:

    I don’t think we did “play dates” back then either. That term is like nails on a chalkboard to me every time I hear it.
    I remember the good old days when we would just walk or ride our bikes over to a friends house, knock on the door, and ask if they could come out. We would play outside until “the streetlights” came on.
    I am very fortunate to live on a cul-de-sac in a very safe neighborhood where my boys are outside all the time playing football, baseball, every manner of sports!
    Anyway….I don’t think Mr. Brady was a bad father at all. In fact, I always thought he was the quintessential American dad!

  15. Dave says:

    Thing is that somewhere between now and then, the world became more cruel and as a result, more bubble-wrapped. Then parents became obsessed with safety to the point we’ve reached now.

    I recall the days of no-helmet bike riding without adult supervision, riding in a carful of kids without seat belts, etc.

    Yes, those times did exist. Hard to believe they did, but I’ll definitely have some stories to tell my kid!

  16. Preston says:

    Lola – I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s but my mom wasn’t like the other mothers. We were never alowed out unless we knew where we were going. And if the plans changed, we had to call. And if we didn’t know where we were going, we weren’t allowed to go. And I remember whining and complaining that other kids didn’t have to check in every 5 minutes but my mother stood her ground.

    Of course, if we said we were going to play in the creek behind the horse farm, that was ok, too. So she was a little slack. LOL

    Kathy – It seems everyone has similar stories. Was it innocence or ignorance on the part of our parents? Perhaps their childhoods were so safe that they just assumed ours would be.

    Rachael – Yes, I sure remember knocking on the door to see if a friend could come out to play, but most of my friends lived on the same or next block. And I grew up in a very safe family neighborhood.

    Dave – Unfortunately, what you say is true. And many things we did back then were dangerous. I remember a truck would come around in the summer and spray a very dense fog of pesticide to kill all the mesquitos. We would ride our bikes behind it and weive in and out of the fog. Can you imagine? No wonder I’m losing my short term memory.

    Tattooed Minivan Mom – Hi? That’s all you have to say is, “Hi”? You, the mom who slaps masks on her children when she posts pictures of them on her blog, has no comment about a 6 yo girl being dumped in a mall? I’m stunned. 🙂

  17. Country Wife says:

    The maddest I have ever been was when my brother and his wife took Biggest Brother and Big Sis to an amusement park. At the roller coaster, Big Sis, then only about 10 or 11, backed out of riding, so they all went on the coaster and left her standing all alone! When I found out, I was ready to spit nails! Needless to say, my kids never went out with my brother again.

    When we lived in the city, our kids couldn’t go outside without one of us laying down cover fire. Now that we live in the country, and the kids are older, I worry less, but I still worry. Heck, when I drop Big Sis off at work (she’s 17 now), I still watch to make sure she’s inside the building before I drive away.

  18. Preston says:

    Country Wife – It’s very upsetting when someone else reacts casually and/or carelessly about your child’s safety, even if it is a sibling who’s doing the watching.

  19. I agree. I think there was a time when this was acceptable. I mean, even back when I was a kid in the 80’s we would be all over the neighborhood until dinner time. Our parents didn’t know where we were if they needed us. But we were fine. That doesn’t happen with kids today.

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