When I was a little kid, my parents pushed me out the front door every day.
“Come back when the streetlights come on,” they said.
Oftentimes, my 3 year old brother was sent out with me to tagalong. Of course, I considered this a great imposition. After all, at 5 I was way too old to hang out with babies. Still, I had to take care of him because that’s what older sisters are supposed to do.
Back then, we never dialed phones and set up 2 hour play dates. Instead, we’d simply knock on our friend’s doors and say, “Is so&so allowed to come out and play?”
Of course they were.
When we got a good group together, we’d play baseball or kickball in the street.
Yes, in the street.
When the cars rounded the corner, we’d scurry away as fast as we could. We’d use a whiffle ball instead of a real ball in order to prevent hurting anyone’s car. After that, we’d have a squirt gun war. No one checked the temperature on the Internet to make sure it was warm enough to get wet.
Fortunately, no one got sick or died.
Some days, we’d go exploring in the woods. Our minds full of fantastical stories of bad guys chasing us, we decided we must build a tree house. So we gathered up scrap pieces of old wood, rusty nails pulled out of rotting pieces of equipment, and a hammer someone nicked from their Father’s toolbox. Then we’d nail this crap to a tree. Once the rickety house was complete, we’d climb up in it, careful to hold on to the branches in case the floor gave out beneath us. Then, we’d muse to ourselves that we had not built it high enough.
We built ramps in parking lots and jumped them with every toy we had that sported wheels. Skateboards, bikes, roller skates. We didn’t have helmets or kneepads or elbow pads. It didn’t matter. Sometimes we’d fall and rub the skin completely off of our bodies. Nobody cared.
We’d eat berries and apples from strange trees. We’d ride our bikes 6 miles to the park, alone. And not just any park, either. We went to parks with monkey bars higher than our Dad’s heads and dangled our legs over cement. We sat in puddles full of oil and water and swam in water so dirty it might as well be called sewage. In the summertime, we’d go 6, 7, 8 hours at a time without laying eyes on our parents.
And we survived.
Hell, we didn’t just survive. We flourished.
Not a single one of us was overweight; we all had little muscles popping out here and there. We were brave, too. Little badasses. There was no way a perv was going to kidnap us. In fact, we kept little sticks we had sharpened on the sidewalk in our pockets, just in case. Homemade shanks. Sometimes we got lost or hurt, sure. But we knew the difference between a creepy adult you should steer clear of and a responsible adult you could ask for help.
And not one of us died. Not one.