How long is your leash?

Now that my son is eight years old and a relatively responsible kid for his age, I let him go play in the schoolyard behind our house unsupervised.  My wife thinks I am putting her child’s life at risk and I think she is a paranoid freak who should be willing to trust the community where we live.  She has a good excuse to feel the way she does, she grew up in Brooklyn… It’s sad for me to think that most parents don’t let their kids go out and play like my parents used to twenty or thirty years ago.  I think this has happened for many reasons, one of which is that many people don’t trust their neighbors (or their kids) that they don’t know.  Whereas in the past people might have known most of their neighbors (or thought they did), today this is just not the case.  In my neighborhood it seems that most families have two parents working and there is just not enough time for socializing and getting to know everyone.  But then we all end up locked in our houses scared of each other for no good reason!  I believe another big factor that is often overlooked is that children have a lot more indoor entertainment than there used to be.  There are whole TV channels dedicated to children’s programming now and then there are so many awesome and inviting electronic toys and video games and web surfing has taken indoor entertainment to a whole new level.  Kids are not pulling on their parent’s pant leg anymore and asking to go outside like we used to.  That was the only way out of the tedium of the home for us back then and we were always pestering our mom and dad to let us go outside.  Outside was freedom and doing what we wanted to do on our own time .  I feel that if children begged their parents to go out and play all the time then parents would probably just let them go out more often.  Another factor is the amount of scheduled activities that children undertake these days.  Many child experts have pointed out that free time is very important for a child’s development but more and more these days children’s lives are scheduled to the hilt with extracurricular activities – sports teams, academic enrichment, music lessons, etc…  I have tried to avoid too much scheduling such as this mostly due to selfish reasons of saving time and money, but also because I sincerely believe in the merits of free and unstructured play.  Our normal policy has been to allow one child at a time to be enrolled in some kind of activity and this seems like a good balance for us.  Meanwhile, my kids are having a blast out on the playground and I am enjoying that special joy in of watching my children play from afar which is always superb entertainment for me.  I just wish more kids would come out and play!

1 comment
  1. ktonette said:

    I agree! It’s very hard to let them play, but I know it’s in their best interest to do so. Our kids are outside daily, when possible, but I understand that can’t be the situation for everyone. I like your idea about overscheduling. We are having the Little League debate right now… Give up free summer days or let our son do something he really wants to do? Parenting is hard!

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