Giving Them Space: Being a Child of the 70s

We rented Super 8 today. Great movie, even the second time. My husband liked the action, my girls liked the humor and, I think, the excitement of seeing something rated PG-13. What I appreciated and paid more attention to this go around, was how it captured being a kid in the late 70s. Particularly the freedom kids had to ride their bikes through the neighborhood and to be out after dark. I cherish the memories of being with a bunch of other late grade schoolers down by the creek in the woods behind our houses for hours or playing Ghost in the Graveyard after the street lights came on. My husband remembers starting out at his house with a few friends on bikes in the morning and ending up in another nearby town by mid-afternoon. Sadly, this is unheard of today.

Believe me, I get the whole safety and supervision thing. I really do. My children are well supervised, don’t leave the house alone and have a sitter if we are going to be away for long stretches. What worries me, though, is we have a 13-year-old who, three years from now will have car keys and suddenly free run of Northern Virginia (and beyond, if she is anything like me at that age). She will have this freedom without the years of practice I had, running between neighborhoods and working to solve the social conflicts without a parent looking directly over my shoulder. Think of the social skills that were developing at the playground or community pool between children, versus what is developing now with the limitations of planned playdates and organized activities. Children need space and time to be and to problem solve and to grow.

I’ve only been able to answer this myself in small ways, we let the older kids hang out a good football field away today at a park. Yesterday, they went into a few stores at the mall while I parked myself on a bench just outside. I don’t know the answer here, but struggle with the question often. There are two books that address this issue from very different angles Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Louv and Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry by Skenazy. I think I will put these books back in the to-read pile.

Author: Dr. Rene Hackney

With a MA in school psychology and a PhD in developmental psychology, I founded and work as a parent educator at Parenting Playgroups. Somewhere in there I trained in the Developmental Clinic at Children's NMC and in the public schools. I have two beautiful, funny children who make me practice what I preach most everyday.

3 thoughts on “Giving Them Space: Being a Child of the 70s”

  1. i agree and i like your perspective. i have all the same goals you have. i do try to let my kids experience conflict, although it breaks my heart while they are going through it. i think allowing them to feel disappointment, conflict and face challenges now does help them become stronger, more adaptable adults. i will definitely have to loosen the strings a bit as my oldest is turning 13, the mall idea is great! i do want them to be ready for what life brings when they are let loose in a few years. thanks!

  2. Such an interesting point you make about freedom earned with certain milestones (i.e. driver’s license) without the years of practice and experience. I do often think about how my “protection” may be having the opposite effect….so hard to let go sometimes though.
    I really enjoyed this post – glad to have come across your blog.

  3. I agree, can be so hard to avoid rescuing or protecting them from negative experiences but those experiences in the long run shape them in positive ways. We talk in classes about the benefits of letting natural consequences play out in discipline situations. I think this is a small way to start on the path. This continues to be one of my own parenting struggles.
    Thanks for participating with comments! Rene

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