Monday, June 24, 2019

Playing Outside

Walking to Mr. 14's basketball tournament Friday afternoon, I saw a sign in a display case exhorting the reader to Play Outside An Hour A Day. With all the young athletes around me, I thought the message was a bit misplaced, but it did get me thinking about playing outdoors.

Big Cuter was just 9 when we moved from the city of Chicago to the rolling hills of Marin.

"Mom, I want to go outside," he said as I was unpacking boxes. I nodded and went back to the task at hand.
A few minutes passed.

"MOM! I want to go outside!"

"So, go. There's the door."

"But there's no grown up outside."
I stopped in my tracks. A City Kid, my son had never been outside without adult supervision. This wasn't helicopter parenting; a stranger was on the roof of our Buena garage, peering into the backyard one summer afternoon. Our kids were streetwise, but they were also very young.

So, when Little Cuter walked down our street later that week to visit a friend, I was only mildly panicked when no one called to tell me she'd arrived. The other mom laughed at me. "This is Marin, not Chicago. Relax."

Relaxing was hard. Without cell phones, it was a leap of faith to see my children stroll out the front door, or glide down the street on their bikes, knowing that I wasn't going to be there to protect them. 

Of course, in Tiburon, the whole community protected them. Everyone's soccer coach owned the ice cream parlor where tweens congregated. Neighbors phoned when Big Cuter drove the M3 too fast up our hill. People recognized Murphy the Wonder Dog on the bike path. 

Beaver Cleaver would have felt right at home.

There were video games available, but there were parks and paths and playgrounds, too. I don't remember hours spent in front of a computer or a gaming system until Big Cuter was well into high school, leading an on-line guild.

When I was a girl (an ever weakening memory, I'm afraid), there were 4 tv channels broadcasting soap operas and old movies in black and white during the day. Summers were spent on the block and at the high school, where we amused ourselves for hours, without grown ups organizing our play. On the field and the tennis courts and in and around the abandoned fort rotting away along the fence, we were basically unsupervised.

We came home for lunch and went right back outside for Cowboys and Indians (with cap guns and faux rifles and Dan'l Boone coon skin caps) or Red Light Green Light or Red Rover or Hide and Seek. 

We'd take bike rides (two left turns, two right turns, three left turns, three right turns.....) to random destinations. We flew kites and played stick ball against the garage door. We were outside until the street lights came on.

Then, we went inside.

We didn't need signs to remind us.  

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