Sunday, January 27, 2008

Different plans

My back yard is not really set up for the wild play of small children. Yes, there is a sandbox, and toys; but there are also roses, shrubs, bulbs. There is a yard, but also plantings. The fence needs replacing. The gates need replacing. I wish the boys went out more, but is it safe?

See, the original plan was to spend more time at Grandma's, who lives in the house I grew up in. I spent endless hours out in the woods by the river, rushing through the trees, dipping fingers and toes in the water, pretending to be fabulous creatures and people on wonderful adventures. I climbed trees, ate blackberries, and napped on the goatshed roof. We dug up old glass from a long-burned and gone homesite and pretended to be archaeologists. We swung on vines (poison ivy vines, by the way, and never got a bump until I was in college) and pretended to be Princess Leia being saved by Luke Skywalker. We dripped soft sand through our fingers and pretended to be overlooking new realms and mountain ranges- mostly inhabited by unfortunate frogs that fell to our grasp.

When Mom rang the big shipbell mounted on our porch, it was time to come in. Without a second thought, we stopped what we were doing and trudged back from the green banks of the river and up to the house, to reality again.

If I set Joey loose in the woods, would he return with the sounding of the bell?

I am hoping that there will be a day when he will be able to handle this idea, and return safely to my waiting arms. But that day is not today. Today we still need fenced yards and set limits. We need defined spaces. It was a huge deal the first time I let the boys into the back yard and remained in the kitchen. I watched through the glass door as the boys played. I noted the need for a lockable gate.

I see other children Joey's age wandering the sidewalks, or roaming the connected back yards. We have taken to seeing Joey's schoolmate, Dexter, and that street is full of children who think nothing of roaming between yards all up and down the street. They are free, because they are also reigned. When Mom sticks her head out the door and calls "Dinner!" down the street, her children come. The first time I saw this, especially with the age of the children, I was awestruck with fascination: to watch those little darlings come popping out from yards and- by themselves- safely cross the street and return home, motivated only by the promise of food and prompted by a single call. It was the most incredible thing I had ever seen.

One thing I fervently hope for Joey is- if not independence- at least freedom. I want him to be able to walk down a street and come home safe. I want him to be able to visit neighborhood friends, without even giving it a second thought. He should be able to walk to Dexter's house- all of two blocks- and play there all he wants, then bring Dexter back to our house for some more fun.

But first I need to replace the fence. And the gates. And get these boys outside, so they have their roots there.


Niksmom said...

Oh I hear you on this one! We have a backyard that is not anywhere near appropriate for Nik to play in. Needs a fence to keep him from going down the hill to the creek, it's muddy and mossy from all the clay in the soil and the total shade.

Wouldn't it be nice if there were some sort of "Backyard Makeover" show for families like ours??

Stimey said...

I'm all about the fenced yard too. I still can't let them out in the backyard without sitting where I can see them. And I know I used to wander the streets unsupervised (and pretty young too), but I can't quite imagine letting my kids do it. I do let Sam run around the corner to the neighbor's house. I watch him until he rounds the corner, then she watches him. I don't know if I would let Jack do that though.