I just returned from a morning walk in my new suburban neighborhood.
It’s not totally unlike the neighborhood I grew up in Jefferson City. It has nice houses. The yards are neat and mowed.
But there is something missing from these yards, and from the neighborhoods in general.
Kids are missing.
I saw no bicycles carelessly left in front yards. No moms or dads moving those bicycles before they head to the office, grumbling under their breath about the kids and the way they don’t take care of their own things.
I saw very few signs of kids. Admittedly, it was still pretty early in the morning. But then even in the middle of the afternoon, I don’t see kids out on their bikes, roaming the neighborhood in groups of two, or three, or four, or half a dozen kids…noisily talking, bragging, in general, being neighborhood hoodlums.
I see no little girls marking up their neighborhood sidewalks with chalk to play hopscotch, or leisurely scattered out in the yard with their Barbie dolls or jacks, or anything else.
There are no kids outside.
And I wonder what happened to them.
Are they all inside watching movies and playing video games? Are they all too busy texting their friends to actually get outside?
When they are outside, is it only briefly from the house to the mini-van and then to swim lessons, or dance lessons, or golf lessons, or something else that is structured?
My, how things have changed since I was a kid, when from first morning’s light to the dancing light of fireflies, we would be outside, running the neighborhood, riding bicycles EVERYWHERE.
We, of course, rode our bicycles on our own street, where are mothers told us to stay.
But of course we did not stay.
We rode those bicycles to the city pool, downtown, to our friend’s house all the way across town. We rode in traffic. We rode down deserted streets.
We were fearless.
We climbed trees that were far too tall to be safely climbed. To fall would have likely been a certain death. But we could see the world from the top of that old pine tree.
Even in my own kids’ day, they at least got outside of our own house. We pitched back yard tents, and roasted hotdogs and marshmallows. We had fun, though my kids were not the roamers that I was. Lord knows I didn’t allow them to climb those tall trees.
It seems with every generation we become more cautious…more afraid of the world.
And I miss those days of climbing to the top of a very tall pine tree and looking at the world below me.
It was my Kingdom.
Kids…take back your kingdoms.
Do the kids in this family photo look like they would be staying inside playing with video games? Heck, no! We were explorers!