Readers — Here’s a question I’m curious about. It’s the winter corollary to my summer query about whether any kids still mow the lawn. Weigh in! – L.
Dear Free-Range Kids: I do not even have children, but I was one once, so I believe that qualifies me as somewhat of an expert. I am constantly confounded these days by what I perceive as the infantilization of children.
As a kid growing up in Yonkers, N.Y., once a snow day was declared (minimum of 8-12 inches of snow for that!), we’d all meet outside with scrapers and shovels in hand, and offer to clean off cars and help dig out cars for people who had to get to work. The roads had been plowed, but they generally piled up snow against the parked cars so we really had to work to dig a wide enough trench for the car to get through. Oh and yes, we’d all get behind the car and help push it out into the shoveled path as well.
The commuters were usually very grateful and would toss us a few bucks, especially because they were in their work attire and we saved them the hassle. By lunchtime, we always had enough money to walk ourselves over to the local pizza place, buy a couple of pizzas and a pitcher of soda. After the pizza feast we’d head over to the candy store nearby and grab some treats. We shared the money evenly. It made us feel grown up and very proud of ourselves to earn our own money, without any help from parents. Not to mention the fact that we knew how to conduct ourselves in a restaurant, pay the bill, leave an appropriate tip, all without adult supervision. This all took place while the oldest of our group was no more than 11. The youngest was about 7.
Imagine it now? Wait? I hear an 11 year old can’t be left unsupervised in a library? Shame… – Stacey