Friday, August 5, 2011

What's A Mama To Do?

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Summers today are not like the summers of my childhood.

When I was a kid the neighbor boy and I would scoot out of our houses early in the morning and head over to the park all day long. Sometimes we would stop back at home for a little lunch and other times we would pack a lunch and take them with us. Either way, we would be gone all day until I heard my dad's loud whistle coming from across the street signaling dinner time.

At the ripe old age of 6 that same neighbor boy (who was the same age as me) and I would jump on our bikes and ride two and a half miles through the city to the quarry where we would spend the entire day swimming. Yes, there were lifeguards there, but essentially, we were on our own.

Never in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) would I allow my young children to do the things that my parents allowed me to do. Never. Ever. And it wasn't just my parents. Todd was riding a dirt bike (as in, a motorcycle) when he was 8 years old. He and his neighborhood friends would ride around in the woods by his house all day long. I don't even let my kids play out in the front yard without me for fear they will ride out into the street (there are no sidewalks in my neighborhood) without looking for cars for the 100th time, or turn around on their bikes and not watch where they are going. The ONE time I ran in the house while they were playing on their bikes Tommy wasn't watching where he was going and ran into the neighbor's mailbox. Ouch. I was surprised he didn't break his collarbone. And of course, it was the one time a car happened to be driving down our street (it is a VERY quiet culdesac) and stopped to help Tommy when they saw what happened. I came back out of the house (I was just putting the dog back in the house for a SECOND), saw Tommy lying in the road with a car parked right behind him and thought he had been hit by a car. So scary. And then of course I felt like the biggest neglectful mother ever for not watching him more closely. And to think at his age I was biking 2 and a half miles by myself.

Sometimes I don't like where society has gone. Sometimes I think it was much better to just let your kids go explore without a parent's ever watchful eye. Sometimes I feel like I am taking away my kids' ability to think on their own. Learn from mistakes. Learn common sense. Other times I come out of my house and find Tommy has collided with the neighbor's mailbox (or that the boys have dug HUGE holes in the neighbor's yard, or are raking up my newly seeded grass) and realize they need my watchful eye.

The kids do get some unsupervised play in our backyard. They can go out and play on the playset and muck around doing whatever they like, but this summer the backyard has been off limits while we try to grow some grass back there after our construction project had destroyed the grass we previously had. So, one more thing that has made my job a little more difficult this summer.

So what's a mom to do?

Well, we are outside pretty much everyday. My kids aren't happy unless they are outside. It doesn't matter if it is 30 degrees or 100 degrees. They want to be outside. And I like that. But it does get a little tough trying to give the kids enough to do in summer when the backyard is off limits and, because of their age, they can't do too much without me. So, we go to parks. We go swimming at the lakes. We ride bikes. Play in the front yard. We take walks. And we repeat and recycle these options over and over and over again.  It is nice when I can throw something different in there once in a while.  You know, a festival, a zoo, a museum.

Yesterday the weather finally cooperated and we were able to go to the farmer's market.  Yes, we've done this before, but it had been a while.

The farmer's market is located at one of our city's oldest parks and it has plenty of room to run, explore, and play. The kids love it there.

There is so much to see and do that the kids didn't know what to hit first. Should we check out the food? The crafts? Should we jump in the fountain? Should we run around like maniacs? Hmmmm. Decisions, decisions.




It was close to lunch so they decided on food.  Surprise, surprise.  (can you hear the sarcasm?  my kids are gonna eat us out of house and home)  I ordered four egg rolls, fried rice, and a couple of waters. 




Minutes later their food was gone and they needed dessert.  Funnel cake it is!   All the fresh fruit and veggies that are sold at the market and we settled on fried rice and funnel cake.  Oh my.  In my defence I also bought two pounds of sugar snap peas and we ate half of that while at the park too. 




After the dessert the kids burned off some energy while I munched on the peas.
I tried not to watch too much and gave them a bit of that unsupervised play that they so need. 

 I think they had fun.

I wish times were a little different and that I could let my kids "just be" a bit more.  Maybe it's me.  Maybe I'm being overprotective.  I don't know.  What do you think?  Have times changed, or is it just me?  How do your kids play in summer?  Do you watch their every move or let them have at it?  Are we more overprotective and cautious than our parents were?  Are we just paranoid or have times really changed?

17 comments:

Krystyn said...

It is so crazy to think of the things we were able to do...things really have changed. You aren't overprotective at all. We have a fence in the backyard and it still makes me nervous to have the girls out there by themselves.

Glad you were able to get out to the Farmer's market and stretch your legs.

Tonya said...

My childhood was much like yours. And when I think about where I went and what I did it freaks me out. I'm so surprised I'm still alive! My hubby and I thought about letting our kids go to the park two blocks away on their own but have only let them do it once. I feel the same way as you do.

Cecily R said...

Jon grew up in the same neighborhood we live in now and the stories he tells about what he and his brother did around here would curl your eyebrows.

Sometimes I wonder how much things have actually changed versus how much more hyper aware we are now as parents. Since so much information is available to us now, do we just see more danger? I don't know, but I know exactly how you feel.

I still freak out a little about my 13 year old riding his bike to his buddy's up the hill. :)

Great pictures. That last one made me grinny. :)

Kat said...

Cecily- You are exactly right! I think we are more hyperaware. Kidnappings are actually way down since the 50's but everything is on the news and on the web, you just feel like it happens all the time.
I've been letting my 8yr old and 6 yr old bike to the next street over to play with their friends (it is really just behind us) and every time they go I remind them to look for cars (why don't they ever do that????) and never talk to a stranger or a car that pulls up to them (we live in one of the quietest neighborhoods around). They are literally about 45 seconds from our house, but it still freaks me. Ha!

Karen Deborah said...

I grew up like you did. We did get hurt but not bad enough to be hospitalized. I don't remember any of us breaking a bone but my brother needed stitches once. We knew the main thing was to hang out with a buddy or more than that and not talk to strangers.
The hard part of this new lifestyle for kids is they don't get a chance to develop imaginative play. It's a lot of work entertaining kids instead of letting them entertain themselves. Between supervision and technology how will they learn to be creative?
Even without the new grass yet, how about some mud pies? Tree climbing? your basic getting dirty play? Grace is a big girl now. AND your a great mom please adopt me.

Robyn said...

I also think it is because we are hyperaware, I think everything is sensationalized on tv. I personally think working where I work sucks in that way seeing the bad people everyday. But on the other hand I also think we are not as good neighbors any more. There was almost a code in my neighborhood growing up. parents were called by other parents and other neighbors when ever anything went wrong, i.e. we were naughty. We were told which houses not to go near. I let the girl go 2 houses down and play. I walk her over, I feel bad that their mom doesn't let them come over here and play. I wonder what about my house is so bad. I also let her play outside by herself I can pretty much see her anywhere from my lower level. Our street is very quiet so cars aren't too much of an issue.

Kat said...

Robyn- Very good point about neighbors. All the neighborhood moms and dads would scold us if we did something wrong. Everyone knew everyone. It isn't like that quite as much these days, although my neighborhood we all know each other.

michelle said...

i definitely think times have changed. people are more scared for the physical and emotional safety of their children these days. so we hover every interaction, every experience they have. it is exhausting. and i feel as you do...i am robbing them of valuable experiences that they need to learn. but on the other hand, if something ever happened and i was not watching...??? you just can't win! :/

Tam said...

I stay outside with my kids. Things are not like when we were kids. I had this conversation with an older friend. She insisits that bad things happened when we were kids it was just not widely known. She says it is because of the access we have to internet and media that we are aware more than our parents were. I do not think there is no such thing as being overprotective. Every day you read or hear about a some thing happening in a blink of an eye. I think our children will be fine with us watchfull parents. BUT I have to admit I ask myself those questions all the time tooooo. Great post btw.

Chic Homeschool Mama said...

Okay- first, I love the shots of the farmers market- I would love it if we had one here.

So, my hubs & I talk about this all the time. He was 6 when he was walking miles to school, down a somewhat busy road- alone. He played in a back yard that wasn't fenced & he roamed at will. I was meeting up with friends, catching the bus a mile from home & riding on it for over an hour to the beach- spending all day there & heading back- at the age of 10 & didn't bother to tell anyone where I was going & no one missed me or really knew where I went. Seriously. I look at those things now & wonder where the heck was my supervision. I keep a very close eye on my kids- I refuse to be a victim- especially in the town in which we live. Far too close to seedy Las Vegas & you are right, society has changed. It used to be rare that we heard of bad things happening not only to kids- but to people in general. Now it's one bad story after another every night on the news. Sad.

imbeingheldhostage said...

I completely agree. For a couple of years I was thinking my parents must have been horribly neglectful, but I'm realizing more now that it was just how things were done.

I feel bad that my kids don't have the freedom I do. In fact that's one of the reasons we're moving again--to put them in a place where they can at least walk to a friend's house to knock on the door. They'll still have me hanging over them, but at least they'll have company.

Riahli said...

Oh Kat I struggle over the same issue! My childhood was mostly unsupervised free play. I lived out doors from morning until night doing my own thing for the most part. Rode my bike and horse all over the place, played in a local creek with out my parents near by. Wander and explore for miles! So many things I would never let my own kids do now. But a big part of me feels like I'm robbing my kids of a necessary learning process. How to truly problem solve on their own and learn to be independent. I try to balance this with letting them problem solve in the every day with littler issues and I foster independance from an early age, but it's just not the same. I've read that independent unstructured play is vitally important to developing imagination too. And imagination is such an important thing. It's often undervalued. I let my kids play in the backyard by themselves for hours, but it is fully fenced {and I'll admit I leave a window cracked so I can hear them and peek out at them often} so it's not really that big of a deal. I wish we had more room for them to explore. I try my hardest not to be a helicopter parent, I feel so strongly that this does more harm then good. When I feel and overpowering urge to hover I try to hid it well. But for me there isn't any getting around the fact that I will never feel safe letting them have anywhere near the freedom I had as a kid.
Doesn't it always seem to be the case that the one time you let up and do something like taking your eyes off them for a moment that's when something truly embarrassing and or scary happens. In the store the other day the boys were quietly looking at toys in the toy section and I wandered a tiny ways away for the first time, focused on something else and someone who worked in the store scolded me loudly in front of other people and I was mortified. Mostly because normally I insist that the children stay glued to my side, but the one time I eased up a little... good grief. I was mostly upset that my children followed her willingly though instead of staying in the toy section, lesson learned and a thoroughly bad parenting moment felt. I guess I just pick the wrong times to ease up. :) I think the scariest part is knowing when to hold on to them and when to let go... letting go is hard!

Suldog said...

I'm not a parent, so I can't let you know what I do with my kids. And I won't be so snotty as to try to tell you what you should do since I don't have to worry about the same things. I'll just say that we did dangerous things when we were young and we mostly pulled through OK.

It's interesting how your post and mine hit much of the same territory today, though.

painted maypole said...

I'm trying to let go a little. I think the advent of 24 hour news media has turned the world into a much more SEEMINGLY scary place. Something bad happens in Arkansas, and we all feel like it could happen in our neighborhood. And we watch it all unfold, 24 hours a day.

Mom24 said...

It is really, really hard. I try to let go as much as I'm comfortable with, but honestly there's an awful lot I won't let them do. Also, my parents were not good parents in a lot of respects, (I'm talking really bad, as in my 18 month old brother being brought home by the UPS man when he was playing alone outside and they laugh about it because he was "fine".) so I truly am figuring it all out as I go along.

Elaine A. said...

Times have TOTALLY changed. I'm not completely sure why and part of me wishes they hadn't but they have. I'm in the same boat and we also live on a quiet street. It's hard these days. I think we're just doing the best we can to protect them and still let them have fun at the same time.

lime said...

times have changed. they have. in our area they way i saw it was that folks were more transient. lots of people moving in and out. it breaks down a sense of community wherein everyone looks out for each other because they know each other.

Words To Live By

Be grateful for each new day.
A new day that you have never lived before.
Twenty-four new, fresh, unexplored hours to use usefully and profitably.
We can squander, neglect, or use them.
Life will be richer or poorer by the way we use today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be
encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson