The 40 Year Old Bat Mitzvah

Soulfish Parenting: fighting

Posted in Uncategorized by Juliet on May 27, 2011

I am a huge believer in raising Free Range Kids, and while I’m not shy about sharing my views with other parents, sometimes I am stymied.

For instance…

We have a huge mixed-age pack of kids who roam our neighborhood, riding bikes and scooters, climbing trees, making up games, and generally entertaining themselves outdoors for as many hours as we’ll let them.

It is really terrific, except…

Virtually all of these kids, no matter how young, ride their bikes in the street, with full support and approval of their parents.  I have been baffled by this, because I consider it a huge blind spot.  Or willing suspension of disbelief of what is REAL, ACTUAL danger vs what is “Nancy Grace/CNN danger.”

Parents who don’t let their kids walk to school alone will happily let them ride their bikes in the middle of the street.  Parents who don’t allow their kids to walk one-sixteenth of a mile to a suburban kiddie park with swings and grass (on a greenbelt with no cars) wave and smile happily as their five and six year olds ride bikes and scooters in the middle of the street.

I was talking to one of the dads the other day and he named the town where he grew up.  He reminisced about the park they used to go to, then he said, “I wish my kids could go to the park like that, but it’s just not the same world today.”

Nope, it’s not.  It’s SAFER to be a kid in 2011 than it was in 1975 when this boy played at the park in what never has been a very safe neighborhood (in the South Bay in Southern California.)

So we have the dramatic, 24/7 news network fear of kidnaping or pedophiles jumping out of bushes, pitted against the pedestrian, ho-hum danger of a kid on a bike getting hit by a car.

Does ho-hum ever win the day in these stories?  Of  course not.  I guess they’d rather WATCH their child get hit by a car than have their third or fourth grader play on a safe, car-free greenbelt with fifteen other kids two blocks over where parents can’t hover over their every move.

I am going to keep fighting the good fight, though.  When we first moved here, it was rare  for kids to play outdoors on the street or even in front lawns or on sidewalks.  My personal project this summer is going to be to get these kids out of the street and onto the pathways (“paseos” as our developers call them — wide-open paved spaces bordered by grass and beautiful trees and other greenery – you know, nature?)

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