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Kid Freedom and Kid Safety—can we have it all?

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

At 71, my childhood seems so different than that of children today. As a kid I measured my age by the increased freedom it gave me. Although my mother initially set up play dates for me, those were quickly replaced in a year or so with more freedom. The older I got, the further from home I could roam. The exhilaration I felt in that freedom is still instantly available to me in the present. Just thinking about it now has my chest puffing out, my breath getting deeper, and my eyes crinkling up in a smile.

As a child, building a tent out of army blankets on clotheslines in the back yard with friends, hiking a whopping ½ mile away into the trees and across the road, going to a Saturday matinee unaccompanied by grownups, and bicycling to the downtown candy store were easy places our freedom could take us.

I think I learned big lessons about getting along with others through this freedom. I’m not sure kids learn those lessons as strongly when adults are always close at hand to supervise. My daughter’s freedom seems smaller than mine. And my granddaughters’ freedom morphed into only adult-supervised activities [until now when they have drivers’ licenses]. Maybe I’m wrong about this, but to me play dates, team sports, planned group activities have all eroded our children’s ability to be both safe and independent—free to create their play and practice sorting out problems by themselves.

I think I understand why this move to supervised play has happened. The instant access I have to tons of information has me hearing what can go wrong. No wonder I was fine with keeping them close. But I still cherish the freedom I had and feel sad that my granddaughters missed out on something similar.

Lately I’ve been excited by something new. I’ve become a part of a group that is working to build a co-housing village. As we get ready to create this multi-generational community, I am cherishing the opportunity that the young ones are having. Even before we’ve moved in, the kids have been getting to know and play with each other on days when we have adult meetings. They are loud, rambunctious, excited, full of unimpeded energy. Although I am still sad that my granddaughters never got to experience this, I am so happy that our cohousing community is making it possible for a new generation of young ones. Our plans for the development will include plenty of outside places where they can be both safe and independent about their play. And they will have built in friendships from the get-go. It feels like the missing link.

We have done so much to keep our kids safe. I’m so looking forward to both keeping them safe and giving them freedom. Call me sentimental, but I can feel my face warming, the beginning of tears as my face crinkles once again with joy. Yes! There is a way to have it all.

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