Thursday, March 24, 2011

Between the lakes.

It spring, mostly, here in Ohio.  When you walk outside in the morning, the air has that special smell.  I've talked about it before.  Wet and chilly, but not cold.  The smell that takes me back (eep) 25 years to when I was a kid.

I grew up in the nothing-ness that occurs between Westchester and Albany NY.  Yeah, there are some smallish cities, but it's mostly wooded rural towns.  (Maybe by now they've grown to suburbs, how do I know?)  At any rate, there were lakes and trees, and dirt roads.  No worries about "crossing streets" or "waiting for the light". 

I grew as part of the last generation that was allowed to grow wild.  Our moms turned us out in the morning with a sandwich, and didn't expect us back until supper time.  I'm sure they occasionally wondered where we were, but they didn't worry about us if we weren't in sight.  I'm pretty sure we were almost never in sight.  We'd take off on our bikes, and go who knows where.  When you're 10 years old, the world seems a whole lot bigger.

The place the kids in my neighborhood loved to go was "between the lakes".  My community was formed around two lakes, separated by a narrow stretch of land.  In some places it was just wide enough for two people to walk side to side on the path, and in others there were big rocks, and trees and little coves out to the water.   The boys would take their fishing gear, scope out a spot and could be found there from about Easter through Veteran's Day.  

->This is the point at which I will give all our parents the credit to say it was strictly forbidden for us to go there.  Any of us, all of us.  No parent liked the idea of the kids being around all that water in a place that wasn't easily accessed by a station wagon.  You all understand what made it so desirable a destination now.<-

There was only one other little girl my age in the neighborhood, and we'd get on our pink Huffys and find the cove we liked.  We'd bask on the rocks on sunny days, or find shelter beneath the trees in drizzle or wind.  Only a true downpour would send us home.  We talked about nonsense, or nothing, and spent most of the time pretending we were anything but middle-class, American girls in the 80's.  We'd climb the trees and just sit in the limbs.

On really hot days, we'd wear your swimsuit under our shorts and when we heard the first boy splash into the water, we'd join them.  We'd dry off in the sun, and go our own ways again.  Only the water brought the two groups together.

At the end of the summer we would all go back to school with brown arms and legs, and a sense of regret for missing out on all the nothing we did all summer.  Not for lost video game time, or theme parts we didn't visit, but just the time without rules, without boundaries.  

I spend a lot of time thinking about this because I wonder what it will be like for the boys.  In suburban Cleveland, I'm pretty sure CPS would be all over me if my kids were sent out at 7:am with just a sandwich and a prayer.  But what do they lose with that independence?  If I'm always within arms reach, how can they find any kind of freedom?  Freedom to make a silly decision (let's have a rock fight, let's shoot arrows straight up and see where they land, let's ride our bikes off this ___) and face the consequences.  Do they have to wait until the 14, or 15?  That worries me.  The options to make mistakes are bigger as a teen, the decisions larger.  If you haven't had the chance to face the silly stuff how the hell do you face the bigger stuff?  Part of me thinks this is why Generation Y and the one after are having such a hard time of it.  Forget the Internet, and global access, they just were never allowed to develop their own sense of judgement.

Ok, now I'm getting judgemental, and that's not what this is about.  It's about figuring out how to let kids be free.  I've got another few years to worry about it.  I'll let you know how it goes.


Anonymous said...

My kid started roaming around our neighborhood at about age 10 or 11 or so, but not too far. He really didn't get any real freedom until he had his electronic leash/cell phone a year or so later.
Such a huge contrast to the way we grew up, but it's a different world now. Also - I grew up in a small town not far from where you grew up. My son is growing up in a small city, with lots of notsonice city-ish stuff.

Grandma's Goulash said...

If there's one right answer, I haven't discovered it - and I'm a Grandma now. I think you do have to know your children and judge accordingly. I always used the incremental approach,giving increasing freedom as I observed the ability to handle it. And still you just never know. Parenting is like that.

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