Letting Kids Loose

I have had a lovely day. Got a few essential odds and ends sorted, got my fringe cut, and then our munchkin little nephews and niece came over and we all went to the green behind our house to play in the sunshine (and by play I mean everyone else played while I sat on the grass and looked ginormous).

Not long after we descended on the green and Uncle Dave started kicking the football about, a bunch of other kids from the neighbourhood arrived, in true pied piper style, to play as well!

It was so heartwarming to watch these little ones (all under 7) that didn’t know each other, play together.

That’s something I love about our street. Kids are always out playing. It’s not something you really see anymore, and it was definitely not something we would have seen in London. It does my heart good.

My sister-in-law and I started talking about how nice it was during our own childhood to play in the street with other kids. Dave and his sister grew up in the same neighbourhood as our family and loads of other young families and we were never in our houses. Any excuse to get out and play a game of ‘buzz off’, ‘123’, ‘rap door run’ or the Beech Park favourite ‘kerbsie’. We would arrange discos in each others garages, and adventure days down in the back fields pretending we were the kids from The Famous Five. Our mums would get our wellies out and pack us a lunch and not see us from morning til evening.

Those days shaped my childhood and the freedom we had at such a young age was unreal. Our parents very rarely worried if we were safe or getting up to no good (which we undoubtedly were – I still maintain my innocence in the Hill’s swing-set getting broken while they were away on holidays!) – everyone knew their neighbours and looked out for each others kids.

I started recalling how at 6 & 7 years old, our mums would have sent us to the shop to get ‘messages’. I don’t know how many packets of beech nut Janet Gracey’s mum sent us to get, but there was never any big concern that going to the shop involved crossing a main road and walking through an often questionable housing estate. The fear just wasn’t there.

Looking at my 6 year old nephew it’s hard to imagine allowing him to roam down to his local shop to get a bag of potatoes on his own nowadays.

So what’s changed? Is the world a bit more sinister now? Or have we become too over-protective? Maybe we just don’t get to know our neighbours enough to feel as though our kids are looked after by a wider circle of eyes?

They say it takes a village to raise a child – have we lost this notion?

What do you think?

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