This is something that was rarely heard when I was younger. As a kid, it seemed like I was always outside playing with the other kids in the neighborhood – playing kickball, practicing our gymnastics moves, riding bikes. As a parent, however, I sometimes feel like I have to convince my kids to play outside. People say all the time, “Things are different now.” I wholeheartedly agree. When I was Miss M’s age I walked to the neighborhood corner store – at least a half a mile away. My friends and I played entire games of Wiffle Ball in the street, using a fire hydrant for first base. When I was 11 (just a couple of years older than Miss M), my brother and I would ride our bikes to the pool as soon as it opened and stay there until dinnertime.
It’s true that things are different now. As a society, our sense of security has diminished. Today I wouldn’t dream of letting Miss M leave our street by herself, whether on her bike or on foot. My boys know that they are not even allowed in the front yard unless there is a grown-up out there with them. The stories of child abductions as well as freak accidents involving unattended children are enough to scare parents into keeping their children locked up in the house.
Our sense of community has also diminished. Neighbors aren't as "neighborly" as they were when we were younger. Our neighbors generally keep to themselves, occasionally waving from across the street or smiling in the direction of the kids if we’re out playing. People don’t stay in one house like they used to either. I have seen articles suggesting that the average American family moves every five to seven years. Perhaps that’s why people don’t bother getting to know their neighbors – because they won’t be neighbors for long!
One of the reasons why we want to move is because it is very difficult to find any kids on our street to play with. There may be more than I realize, but it’s even more unusual to find a kid whose mom or dad stays home during the day. Finding a playmate isn’t as easy for my kids as it was for me. On most days I could just walk outside and have a playmate. For my kids, playing with other children involves a lot more planning than that. There’s setting a date and time that works for both families, arranging rides to and from the play date, not to mention making sure the location is safe and acceptable to both sides. I am extremely lucky that my children all have cousins nearby that are also their playmates. I feel 100% comfortable with my children at their houses. It’s a different story when someone from school asks one of my kids to come over. It makes me want to run a background check on the parents before my kid is allowed to go over. Oh, how things have changed!
Thankfully, my children will always have each other to play with, whether they appreciate it or not. The primary reason we wanted more than one child is so that our children would have built-in playmates. As I mentioned yesterday, the boys have been getting along wonderfully lately. And since the weather has been so nice they are more than happy to play outside. The Banana loves it outside. There’s no place she’d rather be, whether she had a playmate or not. Miss M likes playing with her sister and her brothers, but most days she’d prefer someone her own age to play with. This is why it takes a little more encouragement to get her to go outside and play.
Yesterday was one of those days when my heart got all warm and fuzzy to see all the kids playing in the backyard together. I just had to get the camera and snap a few dozen shots or so (I love digital photography, don’t you?) Click the picture for the set.