As I reflect back on my summers as a kid and talk with other friends my age, I am struck by a common theme. We all spent a lot of time outside without any parental supervision with a lot of other kids. I was thinking about my fourth grade photo above and realized that I don’t think any of my classmates was an only child. Families in my grade ranged from two to seven children, with four being the average. That meant that at least one sibling and usually more were around at all times.
We all walked to school, so we were used to the distances around the neighborhood and how to get to each others’ houses. When we wanted to play, we would get together at the school or at someone’s house. We walked or bicycled there. Our mothers were busy at home and we didn’t expect rides.
That means that at all times mothers were home and kids were roaming the streets. When people say that kids don’t have the same freedom today, I think that is because so many homes are vacant during the day and there are fewer kids in the neighborhood. On my street, however, there is still one vestige of my kind of childhood. We live two blocks from a city pool and during the summer groups of kids walk and bike together, without parents, to go swimming. At the pool itself many children swim happily for hours under the lifeguards’ watchful eyes.
And sometimes, in the dead of winter, a small group of kids materializing from who knows where, arrives at our door offering to shovel our walks.