Thursday, August 23, 2007

My kids' first taste of 'freedom'

Since it wasn't actually raining when we got home tonight and we didn't have anything that had to get done right away, the kids and I played outside for a while. As usually happens when our kids are out, neighborhood kids appear from out of the woodwork and head directly to our house, which is apparently a kid-magnet. We're on a corner, so that may be it, or maybe there's some neighborhood code or signal that we're not privy to - but pretty much every kid within about a 10-house radius knows when we're outside and apparently immediately heads to our house.

But - they don't stay here. They used to stay and play with my kids, which was great for me as it allowed me to keep an eye on them and everything that they were playing. However, most of the neighborhood kids are older than mine so are allowed a greater freedom to roam than mine are. And some just have more freedom in general - more about that in a minute.

Sometimes I wonder if it's just me - am I the only parent around here worried about supervising my kids? Making sure they're safe? Am I too overprotective?

I grew up in the era of "Bye, Mom - see you at dinner!" and we were off around the neighborhood. Down the street, blocks away, through the woods - there was a ton to explore around our house. I don't remember how old I was when I was first allowed to wander outside of our fenced-in backyard but I'm sure I had to be older than my kids are now. Right? Because I can't imagine not knowing exactly where they are and what they're doing. Maybe things have really changed that much in the past 30 years. Scary thought.

So where am I going with all of this? Well the requisite kids stopped by on their bikes when we set foot out of the garage. They were just passing by however and wanted to know if Abby and Hannah wanted to come play with them, down at another little boy's house. Now I really do have to give you some background here on this other little boy, oh let's call him "J". He is just turning 5 years old and was in Hannah's preschool class last year. He moved here when he was 3 years old and lives with his grandparents in a house 3 doors behind ours on the side street that runs next to our house (remember, we're on a corner). From the time he arrived in the neighborhood, J has showed up at our house to play, most often with no adult present. He has pretty much had the run of his street (it is a short, cul-de-sac street, but it's still a street) to ride his bike, his power wheels 4x4 or his scooter on. He hangs out mostly with another boy a few years older. They both are usually unsupervised and pretty much roam the neighborhood at will.

Ron and I used to be fairly close to J's grandparents - they're a very nice couple and like to play euchre, so we were thrilled to find potential euchre partners nearby. But our amazement at a 3-year-old (and even after he turned 4 last summer) being allowed to wander the neighborhood without a supervising adult even knowing where he was (there've been a few times that his grandfather has come looking for him because he didn't know where he was - I now ask J if they know where he is before he's allowed in our yard or house) caused a rift in our relationship. We're cordial to each other but that's about it.

So back to today. The neighborhood boys (2nd graders, I think) wanted Abby and Hannah to go and play at J's house with them. I hesitantly said 'yes' - for a couple of reasons. They could get there by walking across lawns so wouldn't have to go in the street (I know - not exactly polite to go walking across people's yards, but it is much safer!). Also, if I stand in our backyard and look in that direction past the next 2 houses' yards, I can watch what's going on in J's backyard since everyone has chain-link fences that we can see through. And I know I need to let my kids have at least a little bit more freedom to play now that they're getting older. Not old enough to roam around by themselves though, at least in my opinion.

They lasted 15 minutes down there playing. And it was the longest 15 minutes I'd had in a while as I stood there pushing Becca in her swing and trying to watch J's yard (I can't see the entire yard since there are a couple of sheds and trees in the way). And then they came home. With juice boxes that someone (presumably J's Grandmother?) had given them.

I'm not sure if I'm ready for that kind of freedom yet!

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6 wonderful people said...:

Summer said...

I haven't had to worry about that yet as we live in apartments in a big city. They don't ever go outside without me. I've been shocked to see kids walking around the streets by themselves. A while ago I saw a probably, 10 year old girl and her little 4 year old or so brother tagging along behind her on one of THE busiest streets around here. She actually had her hand out signaling she wanted to hitch a ride. I was baffled.

Corey~living and loving said...

oh my.....I am so not ready for that time to come. I am super protective and it just baffles me to think of children just running around. I know as kids we did it, but seriously it seems INSANE now.

Donetta said...

I am with you. It is not the same world that we once lived in. It is the love of a mother to keep watch. If I do not know the adult I do not let my kids go. I have always kept the safe house (married 25 yrs) I have had parents not know where the kids were up till 10 pm back in those years. Having adopted my two I am older so much more careful as to error on the side of caution. I know how hard a decision it can be.

~Amber~ said...

I feel the same as you do. I know we have to let go, but the world we are releasing our daughters into, while beautiful in so many ways, is down right scary in others. I am not looking forward to that kind of freedome either.

grace said...

I echo your sentiments. It's just a mom's instinct to protect her children.

BTW, I will be including this post in next week's edition of the carnival of family life (I am hosting).

JoAnne said...

I'm with you. My girls are 5 and 7 and although they can run along the back of the houses (they're are only six on our street) because there are no fences, if they're out of my sight for five minutes, I get nervous.

You're right (and all of your other moms) to have a bit of cautious hesitancy as anything can happen ... and it only takes a second. Better to burn a dinner than to lose a child.