Monday, May 21, 2007

Go Out And Play

My mom would kick us out of the house and tell us not to come through the screen door one more time or else. Our yard wasn't fenced. No one's was. You could see neighbor's yards up and down the street. The demand, "Go out and play!" was universal. Ann Althouse is bemused by the new trend in parenting, "Traditional Play". What's old is new again. Parents are kicking their kids out to play.

As a kid, I was kicked out. A lot. There were games of kick the can and tag and water balloons. My sister surreptitiously rode her bike three miles to her "boyfriend's" house in second or third grade. That's my daughter's age. There is no way in hell I would allow my kids to do that today.

Last summer alone, there were three separate attempted kidnappings, thwarted by watchful but out of sight mothers, in our planned community. A week ago, a mother returned to her car from the preschool with her child where her infant sat in a car seat waiting (a two minute turn around) to find some guy in the car. He quickly ran out and jumped into a car with another person. Car jacking? Attempted kidnapping?

In my neighborhood, there have been two break-ins in broad daylight and one car stolen out of the driveway. I live in a good neighborhood. The crime rate is realtively low.

But here's the differences from when I was a kid. Most of the neighborhood is filled with couples or single people or retirees or families where both parents work or some combination of the above. One street has only one family with children. Oh, and those without kids (most of the neighborhood) drive like they're in the Indianapolis 500. There are yard workers everywhere. There are contractors here and there. With air conditioning and houses closed up, no one can hear someone in distress.

It is simply not the same as when I was a kid. Friends of ours moved out to the country and built three lots backing up to a stream so their kids could run amok, safely. They've been robbed three times.

It's not like it was all innocence when I was a kid. I walked about a mile to Kindergarten by myself, with a group of neighborhood kids and one street over another Kindergartener was abducted and the case has never been solved. When I was in High School, the mother of a girl on my basketball team was raped by a serial stalker/rapist. That guy was loose during a very hot summer and all the women were terrified because the windows had to be left open or suffocate. No one had air conditioning in Michigan.

Our solution, has been to build a pool and put play stuff in the yard. The kids beg to go out and play, but I still have to supervise. There are just too many unknown people in the neighborhood. There is no rhythm like when I was a kid--dads leave at 7 or 8. Dads home at 6. People have crazy hours. People travel all over for work. What can I do? Let them go?

I want a return to traditional play. That would be great. I wonder at the luxury of turning loose my kids for hours upon hours and telling them to "be home by dinner".

Can you imagine the condemnation if something happened to my child? The world is a different place today. It just is.


Anonymous said...

Funny that you would post on this right now. My kids have begged me all year to ride the bike to school. Even though it is relatively close to where we live, I have not felt comfortable doing so. Yesterday, I finally allowed them to take the bike but I rode the bike with them. My son proclaimed after school that he wanted to try it by himself with his sister. Although I've written my bike all over the place when I grew up, I have to agree with you that this is simply a different world we live in. It is sad but the truth. It is difficult to know when to cut the strings a bit and let them experience some independence. Very difficult, isn't it? How could a person go on if something where to happen? I don't even want to think about it.

Chalmers said...

Moral of the story... get a license to carry a handgun.

Anonymous said...

Chalmers, what would that solve?