Mamacita says: Neighborhoods are supposed to have sidewalks. Period.
I don’t know what kind of schooling our urban and suburban designers “graduated” from, but their education has been sadly lacking. Neighborhoods are supposed to be just that: NEIGHBORhoods. These days, even if two houses are right close together, it’s impossible to get from one to the other without walking across the yards or going into the street; that’s because most modern neighborhoods are being designed and built without sidewalks.
It’s almost as though the people in charge of building places for people to live are interested in that and only that: places IN WHICH people may dwell. Alone. Isolated from everyone else dwelling nearby. They don’t seem to be interested in designing NEIGHBORHOODS wherein people may LIVE. With NEIGHBORS. You know, people with whom one might have supper or barbecues, or from whom one might borrow an egg or a cup of sugar, or get advice about pretty much anything. NEIGHBORS. People whose first and last names we know. Children we recognize when we see them skating and riding their trikes and bikes on the SIDEWALKS all around the block.
But oops. “Neighborhoods,” and I use that term loosely, no longer have sidewalks, and we don’t know who is dwelling in those other houses near ours, and even though we’re dwelling near other people, we’re not LIVING near them, because we’re all holed up in our hermetically-sealed houses, many of which were designed with windows that don’t even open, getting our exercise via our Wii and conversing with people online only.
Gone are the days when any kid was everybody’s kid – watched over, guided by, and occasionally disciplined by other people’s parents because that’s what nice people did. Many modern parents would call the police if a “neighbor” dared tell their perfect child to stop picking someone else’s flowers or pushing, shoving, hitting, or otherwise bullying another child. It’s too bad that our communal living conditions have DEvolved to this level: that we are no longer interested in helping each other and each other’s children become decent citizens. It’s a moot point these days, anyway, because in far too many contemporary housing developments (they’re NOT neighborhoods!) there are no sidewalks for kids to play on anyway, and nobody ever goes outside except to water or mow those smooth lawns that never saw a badminton net or croquet hoop. Besides, if kids played on the lawns, the lawns would be MESSED UP. Oh ick. Perish THAT thought.
I’m not talking about rotten kids – and yes, there are such kids. I’m not talking about hoods, or bullies, or mean kids, all of whom might be a lot less mean, bully-ish, or rotten if their parents allowed NEIGHBORHOODS to help raise them, which in turn means allowing kids to let the consequences of their own actions fall on their own heads by means of being allowed some free play and having eyewitnesses who don’t hestitate to step in and tattle. I’m not talking about “free range kids,” which is a euphemisms over-protective parents use to describe other people’s kids who are allowed to BE kids and play outside with no hovership involved. Then again, maybe I am. How sad, that such a euphemism even exists, when “free range” is how children are SUPPOSED to be. Don’t confuse this with neglected children who roam because they have no place to go and no one to care. NEIGHBORS call the cops when they see that. People living in housing developments don’t even notice, because nobody ever goes outside. Heck, even our cars are inside.
Yes, it’s a scary world. Yes, there are perverts and molesters and all kinds of monsters “out there.”
I’m not sure today’s overprotected, obese kids would know one if they saw one, unless there was an interactive Wii game about it. Even then, seeing it in real life wouldn’t mean anything. Our kids have no experience in dealing with adults other than parents and teachers, and such inexperienced kids would probably go with anyone who told them to. Kids who play outdoors are much more savvy than that; they know what each other’s parents look like and any strange adult would stand out like a sore thumb.
Turn off the tv. Unplug the video games. Not forever, but for most of the oncoming summer’s daylight hours. Open the door and insist that your kids spend HOURS outside. When they look at you blankly and ask you what they’re supposed to do, tell them to use their imaginations and don’t let them back in the house until it’s suppertime. It’s awful the way so many of today’s kids don’t even know how to climb a tree, and even if they DO know how, Mommie is standing underneath, wringing her hands and begging Billy or Susie to “Be CAREFUL, darling!!!!! and otherwise scaring the poor kid to death and giving him/her the assumption that there is always danger involved in the big frightening outdoors.
When your kids come home covered with bruises, scratches, scrapes, and bumps, don’t make a big deal out of it unless they were caused by another child, on purpose. Even a broken bone from childhood’s play isn’t really a big deal. Kids fall down and kids break their arms and legs. We’ve lived with that for generations, and when we do, it’s not so traumatic when it happens. Many parents SUE when their kids gets hurt while playing. Unless there was shameful neglect, which doesn’t happen often, this is ridiculous, and such people are morons. Kids are SUPPOSED to be covered with band-aids and dirt. If yours isn’t, at the end of a lovely summer day, then you’re doing something wrong.
There is something very creepy and Twilight-Zone-ish about a neighborhood in summer, with no kids playing all over it.
Quite frankly, I don’t think kids who live less than a mile from school should even be riding the bus. Walking in groups is safe. Press charges again anyone who interferes with them, and I include bullies in that.
Take back our NEIGHBORhoods!