Letting Kids Be Kids As Long As Possible

You can fast forward childhood. But you can't rewind it.
- Jon Acuff

This afternoon as I cooked dinner, our eleven-year-old neighbor knocked on our door and asked if my girls could play.  It's one of the first warm days of spring, and even though dinner was going to be ready in just a minute, I sent the kids outside.  They ran across the street in a pack, and I stood at our door a moment longer, listening to their banter and shouts as they bounced on the neighbor's trampoline.

Dinner could wait.

I've never taken for granted how my kids play with the neighbors.  For the past several years, most summer days they rotate from house to house: playing soccer in our back yard, jumping on a trampoline in the neighbor's, riding bikes up and down our hill, staging a game of hide and seek, and then cooling off in our kitchen by raiding our refrigerator for drinks and snacks, leaving a trail of cups and wrappers in their wake.

There's something organic about this.  It's wholesome and healthy.  Our door is open, kids are streaming through, and as a parent, it feels right.  The back-and-forth, screen-door-slamming has become part of how we function, just one of the rhythms of the neighborhood.  I can't help but think, "This is exactly how it should be."

But, to be honest, I don't know for how much longer this season will last.  At what point will the kids be too old to run across the street, knock on the door, and invite the neighbors out to play? 

At some point, the dynamics will change.  It's inevitable.  The kids will grow up and have more formalized demands on their time.  Instead of riding bikes, they'll be driving.  Instead of holding their once-a-summer neighborhood bake sale and lemonade stand, they'll hold part-time jobs.  The bonds of neighborhood friendship, born of convenience and shared experience, might not last forever -- not due to any trouble, but simply because life moves on.  New experiences will expand their horizons beyond their childhood street.

Yes, I know that one day -- likely in the not-so-distant future -- my dinner preparations won't be interrupted by the neighbor kids knocking on my door and asking my girls to play. 

I'm just glad that today isn't that day.

1 comment

  1. Hi, Professor Kramer!

    Your post is very similar to one of my passion blog posts titled "I Believe in Sleeping with a Teddy Bear." It's all about how in college everyone thinks they must grow up so quickly, but I want to relish in my childhood. While eventually we must outgrow running around with the neighborhood kids, I think we are all still children at heart.


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