Since moving to a fairly rural area in Utah, I've been attempting a new parenting strategy. I've been loosening the apron strings, so to speak, and allowing the children free-reign to roam. This means I very often have no idea where they are. I do know they are near. I also know they are engaging in much more frequent active play. They have been climbing the hills behind their friends homes. They have been playing down the street at the local park. They have been riding their bikes, jumping on trampolines, sledding, chasing neighborhood cats, playing baseball, basketball, and tag. There has been a steady stream of neighborhood kids coming in and out our doors, just as our children have been going in and out the neighbors' doors.
Recently I've read several articles that decry the loss of the type of active play we and our parents may have engaged in generations past. Our children are wasting their childhood away in front of lit up screens and they are definitely worse off for it. We don't go a day without being reminded of the current epidemic of childhood obesity. Were you aware that outdoor, physical play is important not only for physical health and development, but also for cognitive, social, and mental health and development?
Why is it our children are spending so much more time indoors, under our watchful eye? The reality is fear . The world seems so much more dangerous than it was when we were children ourselves. Predators have always existed, but they have so much more leeway now. It is a sad result of our modern lifestyle.
In our Maryland suburb, I was very often the only adult at home during the day on my block. That was true even during the summer. I couldn't let the children roam free, because my eyes were too often the only ones to watch. Thankfully this is not so in our new home. One of the best things about living in a predominately Mormon neighborhood is that mormon mothers tend to stay home with their children. When we were children, every house had that extra pair of motherly eyes watching out for us. We could go for blocks, even miles, and our mothers would not need to worry.
Because we have several children, I would allow the children to roam some in Maryland, as long as they were paired up. So many children do not have a single sibling, let alone several, that could keep each other safe and in-line. Our generation is certainly not having enough children. We are robbing them of their childhood freedom. We have robbed them by leaving them so that we can work outside the home to give them the things we never had growing up or for our own so-called fulfillment. We have robbed them by not giving them the gift of brothers and sisters.
I believe, if we asked them, our children would rather have more siblings and more freedom than the latest techno gear or the most exotic of vacations. Hopefully this generation of children will learn from our mistakes and give their children the childhood they never had.