The Daily Mail (yes, the Daily Mail) has a thoughtful analysis of the decline of children’s freedom to roam over four generations. Whether you think parents are being over-protective or not, there is no question that the loss of adventure, exploration and time in nature is sad for children.
I felt a similar sadness recently when I returned to my home town after an absence of almost twenty years. I searched for all the “kidways” of the youth. The gravel path on public access land by Second Ward Grade School that let generations of grade schoolers cut up to Jackson avenue had been sold to a private citizen who had built an enormous house that blocked the way. The route through the trees by the Wilsons’ house that led to the old field where we played ball was cut off by a high wooden fence put in place by the owner. Ditto the long, rocky trail behind the Miller’s garage that led to an old stairway, across Dorsey Avenue and down to a great mini-mart that sold fireworks and bubble gum. The secret path around the Halls’ house that let you cut over to the Sussman’s basketball court and the “slide” (a steep rock-filled ravine we tumbled down for fun) were both blocked off by chain link and warning signs. The path down past the creek to the old water reservoir, where I was once startled by and then thrilled to watch a family of frolicking otters had been replaced with a modern water processing plant of cement and brick.
I learned about these now destroyed “kidways” from older kids and showed them to younger kids. My teachers knew about them from when they were kids. I hope the current generation of children in my hometown has found new kidways to roam as freely as we did, but I am afraid that world has passed away.