One thing our family is known for around our neighborhood is that we’re pretty free range with the kids. The girls have been walking to school for years now (okay, granted: it’s only a block and a half, and there’s a crossing guard). My fifth-grader, M, has been allowed to go on short runs, bike rides, or walks by herself for about a year, and this year I’ve let the girls walk up to the school playground to play on their own.
Many of M’s friends’ parents are not nearly so comfortable with all of this freedom, which has been a bit of a bummer because M could theoretically ride her bike to a few different friends’ houses, but since the friends couldn’t do the same, the point was sort of moot. What’s really stuck in my craw about this is that there’s a little posse of 5th grade boys who are often playing outside together who’ve clearly got more freedom to roam.
But we might be reaching a breakthrough. One friend’s been allowed to ride around the neighborhood as long as she’s with a friend, and when M heard the news, she took the first opportunity for a test ride after school.
Really, it went unbelievably well. The weather was terrific. M hadn’t been gone long when I saw her reappear, not with the one friend I’d expected, but with three girls from the neighborhood. They’d come onto our street because the ice cream truck was right by our house, and J had already run inside to raid the giant mug full of spare change that we set aside for ice cream purchases. After a full winter of collecting quarters, there was plenty for everyone without my even having to go outside, but I couldn’t resist taking a quick photo from the porch and sending it to the moms in case they were fretting with all the new freedom. To top it all off, I got an email from a further-afield neighbor reporting on my daughter’s good behavior and sociability while she was jaunting around the neighborhood. I was psyched that M got some kudos, plus it was reassuring to know that there were Parental Eyes around the neighborhood. Because I’m not above spying.
J, meanwhile, found a friend to visit as well. So I’m feeling pretty psyched about the girls’ prospects for a spring and summer full of plenty of roaming outside with friends.