“Can we walk to the corner store? Pleeeeease?!”
My nine and six year-olds looked at me with eyebrows raised and hope in their eyes. The sunshine that beat down on us as we lounged on the backyard deck was so welcome after days of rain here on the West coast, and classes weren’t in session due to a Professional Development Day. It was the perfect recipe for adventure except that I also have a two year-old who was napping at the time. Whatever adventure my kids were going to embark on would have to be something they could do without an adult.
The corner store isn’t actually on our corner. Or on the next corner. It’s probably a 25 minute walk for young legs eager for a sugar hit, and a cranky “I’m soooo hooooootttt, I need a driiiiiink, I have to peeeeee,” 30 minutes coming back. Basically, it’s not a walk I am ready to send my two young kids on on their own.
“No, you can’t walk to the corner store. Why don’t you go ride your bike around the block? Or you can walk up a couple streets and come back?” A few months ago this would have thrilled them. The freedom! But yesterday, this just wasn’t going to cut it. And I don’t really blame them.
I think it’s innate to want to be outside and explore. I wasn’t restricted to just my own neighbourhood when I was nine. But the streets these days seem desolate. Where is everyone? More than that, though, there’s something lurking in the nooks and crannies of our neighbourhoods: fear. There’s fear of the bad guys, but there’s also fear of ‘what-will-people-think-of-my-parenting’. There’s the thought, if I let my kids walk to the corner store past Nancy’s house and she sees them, will she think I’m irresponsible for letting them walk so far alone?
I know I’m not the only one who wonders when is the right age to let them venture out of sight. Many of my friends agree with me, that we want to see more street hockey being played, more children biking or walking over to their friends’ homes. We want our kids to be able to walk to the corner store that’s not actually on our corner to buy the 2 cent candy that’s not actually two cents anymore. But who’s going to go first? And when?
We have a long summer ahead of us. I work part-time from home, and am thankful to have time for family adventures. But I have to tell you, I am nervous about the rest of it. I know we have the options of camps and lessons, and the kids do enjoy those things. I think it’s unfortunate, though, that it’s not just as easy to let the kids out for some unstructured play.
Sometimes I think, maybe I should organize some kind of neighbourhood movement. Find out why kids aren’t outside as much. I’m sure there are many factors including parents’ work hours/after school care, activities and other things I maybe haven’t even considered. In some neighbourhoods maybe it’s fewer cul-de-sacs and busier streets? I’m curious. Maybe I’ll initiate a block party and be like, hey, will you send your kids out if my kids come a-knocking, as I pop mini quiches in my mouth and serve up some lemonade.
Am I simply too nostalgic for my own good? Trying to re-create something that doesn’t really mix with the current vibes? Or would you join me in this movement?