Excursion 21, Part 1 (Far From the Madding Crowd)

In which our intrepid hero contemplates nature and navels…

One of the things I love about my driving excursions in Ohio is the feeling of freedom that they give me.  I can drive anywhere, do anything; I have no deadlines or schedules or things I must do.  The only pressure at all in that regard is the pressure to wake up early enough in the morning to catch some good light.  Sometimes it seems to me that this sort of freedom is disappearing in modern society.  I don’t mean this in any sort of Glenn Beck/right-wing/libertarian way at all.  I am not talking about politics but personal freedoms.

Let me illustrate what I mean.  I think far fewer children simply play than when I was a child.  These days, it seems that all too many parents channel their children’s “playtime” into organized activities, like team sports and day camps and so forth.  I have to say that when I was a kid, if you wanted to play, you walked down the block and knocked on the door of some other house and got the kid who lived in that house to come out and play.  We played “cops and robbers,” or “pirates” or “cowboys and Indians,” and we played games like hide and seek, and we played sports, like baseball or basketball.  We rode our bikes all over the neighborhood.   I never once was on an organized soccer team or anything like that.  We didn’t need those things to have fun.  These days, however, it seems like organized activities are all parents think about—this is certainly true for the parents I know.  And those few parents who do seem to allow their children the chance to simply play do so like they were East German border guards.  One set of parents I know would never let their children play outside—on their own block!—unless one of the parents was outside watching them.

I confess that I get very crotchety about this.  My parents would set limits, which varied as I got older, typically making sure I knew when to be back, what geographical limits I had, and so forth.  But then they would simply let us play.  To me that seems to superior to choosing an organized activity for your kids and making them engaged in that supervised, constrained activity.

Where has that freedom gone?  The freedom to simply be a kid?

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