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Village Green/Town Squared

"Do I have to watch you every minute?"

Summer is here.  The heat part, anyway.  School is dragging on, the the calendar still says Spring, but the pools are open and so are the snowball stands.

With summer comes summer memories. As a parent, I want to share with my daughter the summer joys of my childhood. I  try. But there is one most crucial gift that I cannot seem to give her: freedom—independence.

I remember being able to play anywhere in the neighborhood as long as I was home to help set the table for dinner. And long summer nights of play where everyone knew they had to be home before dark.  I rode my bike, with its sturdy front basket, to the corner store to buy milk for my mom.  We walked to the pool, went to the playground, built a treehouse, and made roads for toy cars in the mud in an empty lot. 

There were no scheduled "playdates." We were flowing back and forth to each other's houses, putting on talent shows in someone's cool basement, eating popsicles on the porch. Of course, a lot of this was made possible because all of the moms were stay-at-home moms. Just like in the Charlie Brown world: Grownups were there, not visible, but in their own way, making it all possible.

But the reason my daughter can't live that life today is because we don't allow our kids that lifestyle anymore. It is considered unsafe. We live in fear that something bad is going to happen. Our kids are being stifled by a world of scheduled activities, organized playdates, supervised "fun." 

But on most days that seems better than those monstrous fears that motivate us. And once you go down that road, then how old is "old enough" to have any independent experiences?

The signs posted at the CA tot lots inform visitors that children must be supervised at all times. Really? Is that the way it was when Columbia was first built? Are there truly more dangers to children now than there were then? 

Well, would I allow my 10-year-old daughter to cross the street and go to the tot lot on her own? Hmm...I feel like I should be able to do that. But I don't.

As we work together on making Columbia a more livable, walkable, sustainable place for the 21st century, it is imperative that we address this issue. Our children are losing the opportunity to enjoy childhood and are missing out on developing the valuable social-emotional skills that come from exercising independence.

Until then, more and more of our kids are staying home, safe, where we can see them. And where is their new playground?

The Internet.

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b.santos June 08, 2011 at 05:43 PM
Anne, my thoughts exactly. Great book!
Jen Raffensperger June 08, 2011 at 06:13 PM
I don't have children, but I see a lot of kids having unsupervised play around my apartment complex, and lots of kids still walk to school. I worried about this with my nephews, too, because they went to a private school and didn't have friends in the neighborhood at first, so they had to have play dates. But over time the kids in the neighborhood all found each other, regardless of what school they went to. I still believe your concerns are very valid! But when I see kids running around outside, making up their own games, I figure things are still mostly okay.
hitter June 08, 2011 at 07:30 PM
The problem is, people don't look out for one another like they used to. Look at the video of the robbery that occured at Second Chance Saloon in Oakland Mills. Onlookers actually moved away and let the crime take place. Columbia has gone too far downhill to let kids roam free.
Julia McCready June 08, 2011 at 10:21 PM
I'm not sure I should address that here, but my feeling from viewing the video is that the "bystanders" were complicit.
hitter June 08, 2011 at 11:44 PM
That is not my impression at all from the video, nor is it the impression of the HCPD who are looking for a single suspect. Although, I would agree that the bystanders were inadvertently complicit by allowing the woman who snatched the purse to escape.

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