dairy queen

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  1. Susan Templeton May 17, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

    On bike-riding and other dangers.
    I’d like to offer a contrast to the tentative bike outings offered children today. In 1953, my best friend lived about three miles away and across the highway. I biked to her house regularly. I went alone. I was seven years old. Seven was considered the age at which a child could carefully enough manage the risks of walking or bicycling across the highway.
    We didn’t go along the highway at any time without permission, but otherwise we ranged freely over about 40 acres of a partially wooded, partially suburban hill. Indoor play was infrequent. On weekends and long summer days our parents rarely knew exactly where we were. We ranged freely from house to woods. A game of kick-the-can might takes us through the yards of a half-dozen families. At times, we deliberately got lost in the woods, “lost” being a fiction with which we frightened ourselves, since we knew exactly how to find our way out, even from the deep woods beyond the houses.
    We had limits. We were not to climb the water tower, though a few daring children did. We were never to go to the beach alone, and no kid ever did. We were to be home for dinner, and always were.
    Our freedom was not specific to a rural setting. In 1957, my family moved to Portland, Oregon. In that city children on my block often walked a mile and a half to the nearest swimming pool, without adult supervision. We went to the park without adults, we walked by ourselves to school, we took the bus alone to go to the dentist, and we regularly went on our own to the nearest little shopping district. Children unsupervised on residential urban streets were an ordinary and frequent sight. No one would have had a concern, much less called the police.
    I know children these days who at age ten have never been out of earshot of a parent, teacher, or other supervisory adult and who rarely play outdoors. I feel sad for them, not only because they are missing not only the happy freedom I enjoyed as a child, but also missing the opportunity to develop the skills and competencies which that freedom promoted. Without those skills, how will they negotiate the wide world when, in a few short years, they begin to move away from their parents?

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