When I was a child growing up in Tucson, on the days when we didn't have school, my mother would basically open the front door sometime in the mid-morning and we wouldn't come home again until the mid-afternoon. We went to our friend's houses (most of them lived on the Cul-de-Sac Limequat Way which was just around the corner) or we went to the acres of desert across the street, an area that is now undoubtedly tract housing.
Even in College town in Sacramento I'm pretty sure I played alone outside, but I was only a maximum of two so maybe my mother was somewhere in the background. I do remember alone going to my "boyfriend's" house. He was five and slept with my picture under his pillow. In his room he kept showing me this robot that shot little pellets, like I was supposed to be impressed. I was only 2, but I'm pretty sure I was thinking, "What the heck is it with boys and robots?"
But there's no use pining over the good old days. Times have changed and besides, I'm raising my children in a major city, not in suburban Arizona. Still, sometimes I think things have swung way too far the other way, or at least here in Berlin. I was struck by this again this morning when I hung out on the playground on Chamisso Platz. All around me were uptight hipster parents, shadowing their children's every move, barely letting them make even a few steps by themselves. And I'm not talking about one year olds who are not yet steady on their feet, I'm talking 2 to 3 year olds, even a girl who looked almost 4. Of course, you have to make sure they don't get into any real danger, but they also have to learn things for themselves and have a little freedom, yes, even room to make mistakes.
Last week I saw a father there, also shadowing his three year old son, who had the audacity to have one foot on the ground and one foot on the edge of the fountain. There was no way the boy could have fallen into the fountain and he wasn't being wild. If he had somehow freakishly fallen, the worst that could have happened would have been a skinned knee. Still, his father said "No! Either put your foot on the fountain or on the ground. You can't have one in each place!" What's the message there? Never have fun or be playful. Never try new things or take risks. Hmmm...Sounds a little bit like German culture.....
Sometimes I think Mia and Lilly's generation is going to be filled with extremely neurotic people who have a hard time ever making any decisions for themselves. Prove me wrong kids, prove me wrong. ;)