Readers — This note was originally a comment on the post below this one. Its poignancy hit me particularly hard because today’s New York Times has a piece by Jane Brody — “Communities Learn Good Life Can be a Killer” — about the effect of sprawl on health, autonomy and, of course, childhood. I’m not sure how to suddenly re-urbanize vast swaths of suburbia, but I’m glad that city planners are looking into it. — L.
Dear Free-Range Kids: Before moving to my current home in Germany 6 years ago, I lived in a small town (about 5,000 people) in a different part of Germany. It was very Free-Range. Kids of all ages played outside in the smaller streets without adult supervision. The older kids watched out for the younger ones when a car drove by. Kids were always out playing in the neighborhood, either in the streets or at a local playground.
When my son was about 4 or 5, my family (husband, son, me) took a trip to California to visit family. In all of the neighborhoods where we stayed, nobody was on the streets. My son finally commented, “This must must be a really lonely place. Nobody is here.” He was so used to seeing the German streets in his neighborhood alive with kids playing and adults walking, cycling, or running. The empty streets in nice neighborhoods in California really threw him off.
During another CA trip, when my son was 9, he commented that he wouldn’t want to live there because you have to drive everywhere. He likes being able to walk or ride his bike over here and doesn’t really know anything different.
Kudos to Lori for making her town less of a “lonely place.” She is a beacon of hope for the Free-Range movement. — Sue Biegeleisen