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Summah time

June 3, 2010 - Erin O'Neill

 "School's out and there's kind of a buzz, but back then I didn't really know what it was."

I may be dating myself and I don't know why the lyrics of this Will Smith song pop into my head when summertime comes around. I was never much into pop-rap but it always had a kind of funky groove — is that what the kids say? Oh well.

Anyway, in it Smith recounts his youth in Philadelphia when the kids would make their own entertainment: popping the water plug, playing basketball, cruising...
Recently, I read a column by the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Connie Schultz, "For children, summer is the time when fond memories are made," where she reminisced about her own idyllic youth — in the dark ages or fantasyland apparently — when kids would safely run rampant in the neighborhood, help their mom with the dishes after dinner, and stay out until the sun went down finally emerging unscathed.

I remember my own childhood summers playing with neighbor kids, stubbing my toe, being stung by bees, nearly drowning at Davlin Lake, being in the outdoors, which I genuinely can't stand. Good times, all of it.

Kidding aside, Schultz's stroll down memory lane was pleasant enough but not very realistic in this day and age. Or perhaps it is me being overly sensitive...again.

I have nothing against kids being outside. In fact, I encourage my child to play outside whenever possible. But I personally don't like to be in the heat and bugs for very long unless I'm lounging in a pool, tending my garden, or there is a nice breeze blowing. And it is very hard for me to trust that my child will be OK outside without me for longer than a few minutes. So there's the rub. I want her outside, she can't go outside without me, I hate going outside.

I've seen kids in my neighborhood running around, not much older than my own child, and I wonder if their parents care about them. I mean, I'm sure they do and I mean no offense. But these are scary times. I don't know all my neighbors and even those I do know, I would never allow my child to just show up unannounced. For one thing, it's rude to expect that my neighbors would enjoy the interruption. You're also putting your child's well-being in the hands of someone else. It's risky.

Of course many would say I'm being overly cautious, ridiculously so, and it's parents like me that are why the world is the way it is: parents who "hover," babying and coddling their children into a state of wimpyness.

But I prefer to believe a real problem stems from parents who send their children outside without so much as a thought as to where they might be going or what they might be doing - and with whom - simply to get the kids out of their hair.

These are different times. The family structure is not the way it used to be. Many single parents who are looking for a moment's peace are often too quick to send the kids out the door. These are also scary times and there are scary people out there.

So what is the point of this rambling blog, you ask? I'm not really sure now. It started out as a nod to the innocence of youth, ventured into my own phobias of bugs and general ickiness and ended with my preaching about stranger danger.

But I really just want to ask those busy moms and dads, as the summer months tick down and you find yourself counting the days until school's back in session, be aware of what your kids are doing while still letting your kids be kids.



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