When I was 8 years old, I was allowed to ride around my neighborhood. We lived in a close suburb of Dallas, and as long as I didn’t cross the main road behind our house, I was okay. Here’s a map of my neighborhood:
On my own, I pretty much covered the area circled in red. When the west side of it was built, I played on the dirt piles and collected souvenirs with a friend. During school time, I walked to the elementary school at the bottom left, using pretty much any route I felt like in the blue area. Didn’t matter, as long as I crossed Rosemeade at Standridge where the crossing guard was, and I made it to school and home on time.
When I was 9 years old, we moved to a much more rural area, a
smaller town outside a smaller big city. Within the next year, I had a much larger range (note that the scale had to change dramatically to fit it all in):
I used to disappear for hours, riding around the neighborhood, hiking off into the woods (the businesses and the neighborhood to the west had not been built yet), just generally being a kid. By the time I was 10 or 11, I was crossing Williams Drive (a highway with 2 lanes each way) and heading off to the lake and the dam.
In both of these places, this was normal. There were always other kids my age out doing the same, and we visited each other and played together.
Now, my family and I live in an even smaller town outside a smallish big city, closer to the downtown square than ever before. My six kids are allowed the run of the town in graduated stages, with clearly defined limits set before they are let go. Here is the area my 8-year-old is currently allowed to be in:
No crossing of major through streets like Cedar or any lighted intersections, but otherwise he’s allowed to go to the cemetery (which contains the riverwalk and the river and is a major local play spot), and he can get to the library as well as to a couple of convenience stores to buy treats when he gets some spending money.
Now, what prompted this post? I just got chewed out by a young teenage boy who thought maybe I didn’t understand what a serious issue it was for my 8-year-old to be running around ALONE in the CEMETERY, because that’s not how he was raised! Excuse me? You’re what, one-third my age, and you think you know more about this than I do? What the heck? Why do people teach this kind of stuff to their kids, that this BOY would feel he had the right to go up to a grown woman and berate her for the limits she places on her children?
It is sad, though, that there aren’t as many kids out for my kids to run and play with. You don’t see lots of young kids out on the sidewalk and running up and down the streets and the walks. My kids don’t get to meet other kids unless they just happen to see them coming or going. This despite living in a pretty small town with a very low crime rate, probably lower than any other place I’ve ever lived in my life.