Sunday, July 8, 2012

Freely Playing Outside

I was probably pretty annoying to all my friends when I was little.  I would drag whoever I could to the creek, whenever they complied with my pestering, to find crawdads, scope out snake holes, and simply be in the water, hopping from rock to rock.  There were so many fun things I did in the neighborhood I grew up in.  Most of my friends were boys, but that was fine with me. 

There was a winding hill that I loved to ride my bike down...with no hands.  My dog, Sally, was always by my side.  She followed me all over the place without a leash (or a bag for picking up her messes).  We were free to roam to the far reaches of the neighborhood.  My parents had a loud alarm that they would sound when it was time to come home.  Sometimes we heard it, sometimes we didn't. 

Our backyard was fenced in, but you'd usually find my brother, sister, friends, and I playing in the front.  We climbed trees, swung on a tree swing, dug for Indian money and arrow heads, jumped on the trampoline, rode big wheels up and down the sloped driveway, caught lightning bugs, had dance competitions, dug in the sandbox, colored everything with sidewalk chalk, and played huge games of capture the flag with kids from every street.  We had fun.

I remember one day when I saw a creepy man in a windowless, white van.  I always looked out for "kidnappers" or strange vehicles, mainly because I thought it was fun to pretend to be tough and quick by telling everyone I'd spotted a weirdo.  It was good that I was that way on the day there really was a scare.  The van was parked on the corner of the cul de sac next to our yard.  The man had dark sunglasses on, and was staring in our direction for an uncomfortably long time.  We all ran inside to tell my parents.  Nothing happened.

I hope Levi has this type of mentality when he is outside playing in the coming years.  Of course, I'll be watching him closely as long as necessary, but one day I'll probably let him ride his bike down the street, just like I did.  It's a hard thing to think about.  I know that might sound funny, but it does seem like times have changed. 

Is it true that we used to see more kids playing outside?  Is it really because of video games or a lack of desire to explore the outdoors?  OR is the world perceived as a more dangerous place now?  I'm pretty sure more kids stay indoors now than they used to...or at least they play in their backyards more frequently than we did in the 80's.  I know a lot of it depends on the neighborhood you live in, too. 

I want to feel the freedom to let Levi "have fun".  I don't want to be an overprotective parent, but I do want to be protective.  I do know that we want to fence in the yard so our soon-to-be toddler won't try to make a break for it, and run into the street!

What are your views on this?  Anyone with kids feel totally safe letting your kids freely roam around the neighborhood?  Are we more afraid to let our kids play outside than our parents were?

VIDEO:  Levi took three or four consecutive steps a few times yesterday.  We are very proud of him!  He will be one this week, and we are looking forward to celebrating his 1st birthday with friends and family!  ...and we may need to fence the yard in sooner than we thought ;)

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