I have such fond memories of playing outside when I was a child. None of those memories included scheduled play dates, $1000 swing sets, perfectly landscaped fenced in yards, fancy sprinklers, adorable play cottages, and parents that hovered over us and intervened when the slightest tiff takes place. My children currently have or will have most of these things mentioned. (We are currently in the market for the $1000 swing set). My children are only 3 and 2 so the jury is still out on hovering and intervening too much but I do wonder "Will I be that parent?", and more importantly how do I avoid being too involved, giving them their space yet ensuring they are safe?
When I was growing up we lived next to a large field that was used for all the neighborhood kids to play running bases, capture the flag, kick ball, and Ghost in the Graveyard. On the other side of the field was Mr. Davis’s house. Mr. Davis was a cranky old man who lived alone and hated children. While we spent the day playing in the field, Mr. Davis spent the day yelling at us every time a ball would hit his house for fear it would break a window. We never even came close to breaking his windows. Looking back the yelling never really deterred us from playing there. We spent many an hour planning our defense against mean old Mr. Davis...."This time we were actually going to tell him It's not his lot...." All the while our parents never really intervened. Can you imagine those shenanigans flying today? When we weren’t playing in the field we often were swinging on a old tire that was attached to an even older tree to make a swing, digging in the puddles and dirt to make “mud pies”, running through the rusty old sprinkler, and riding our big wheels. Every kid in the neighborhood had a big wheel and the entire block was our driveway. Big Wheels were our first ever taste of freedom. We didn't need five different choices of riding vehicles. We had the freedom to roam the street as long as we stayed on our block. Parents called us in by yelling for us out the door. Am I advocating we go back to the days of no helmets or seat belts, and rusty metal swing sets? Of course not! Also, there’s the “The world is not as safe factor”, where kids shouldn’t be roaming free like we used to anyway. I do however think a little of that care free spontaneity is lost on children today. Dealing with Mr. Davis on our own built character and we bonded as neighborhood kids. As I think about what "playing outside" will be like for my daughters I know they'll have acess to many cool places, toys and experiences that I never had. However I also know they'll probably never have the empty lots, the freedom of roaming the block, and the overall simpleness of childhood that existed back then. A part of me wishes they could know the feeling when 'conquering' Mr.Davis with a big wheel and some Bubblicious chewing gum was all a kid needed for the perfect day!
Do you worry about raising kids in a generation where we are over involved as parents?
How do you strike the balance of safety and freedom when it comes to your kids?