4 Sept 2009

It weren't like this in my day..

Coming to the end of a long, long, long summer holiday. I haven't written anything for over a month because my children have squeezed out any energy I have as if they were sucking out the last drops from a Capri-Sun juice pouch.
Don't think I don't like having them around, I do. But for two months and four days solid? When everything they want to do besides play on the computer either requires a) great expenditure of money that I don't have, or b) great expenditure of energy that I also don't have.
They've been on a film and animation course (£70 for one for two days) and a make-a-movie course (£280 for both for a week); they've been to Grandma's several times; they've been to Italy; they've been to the park with the dog umpteen times (and complained every single time); they've watched the Disney Channel until they developed American accents; they've had friends over and been to friends' houses; they've been on bike rides and long walks. And now, by September, they are experts on Roblox, a computer animation program for kids where the worst that can happen is to be called a 'Noob'. My eldest son knows every Michael Jackson song word for word (and of course, that means so do we- I can hear it as I type).
The thing is, all of these activities, except the TV watching and computer time, involve an adult, ie, me or sometimes Grandma.
When I were a lass, oop North, I used to spend the summers wandering around the village and meandering through fields and along streams alone or with friends. My sister and I used to play out for hours, unfettered by the irritation of grown-ups, coming home only for dinner and tea (we didn't have lunch in the North-West). We used to call round for friends across the village without a parent needing to be with us.
Even on school days, my mother would leave for work at 8am and we would have to get ourselves to school, home again and start the tea, letting ourselves in with keys that were tied with ribbon around our necks. Now, I'm not saying being a latch-key kids was ideal, but it taught us independence and to make our own drink of juice if we wanted one at the very least.
Is the danger to our kids any greater today than it used to be? Well, yes, it is if you count the increase in traffic and as my kids have Asperger Syndrome, it's not so easy to let them out of your sight. But is the danger of being snatched off the street by an evil-doer any greater? I honestly don't know the answer to that, but I do know that because of the media input, the fear of the worst is much greater than it was when I was a child.
I don't remember my mother ever worrying about us being kidnapped and murdered when she waved us off on a Saturnday morning to walk to Tottington for our ballet class, or of me coming home alone from school aged 7 through our quiet village. She wouldn't have dreamed of walking or driving me to a friend's house unless it was too far for foot travel and not on a bus route.
And yet, even if my children didn't have special needs, I couldn't imagine letting them go any further than a short walk with the dog, and that's only the elder one as he is almost my size.
The question is, does this lack of early freedom do our children any long term harm? Or any long-term good? Again, I don't know the answer but I'm not about to experiment with benign neglect to find out. I would, however, be interested in your views, so leave me a comment if you have time.