This is my second old fart rant of the morning: Let your children walk around your neighborhood by themselves!
This problem might be part of that suburban fantasy (I see kids walking around my urban neighborhood all the time – just yesterday, I saw a kid headed to the local pool and she was at least a mile away), where parents believe by moving to a magical place with a patch of lawn and people Just Like Us, nothing bad will ever happen. Hah! I knew more heroin addicts from the Main Line than the kids I grew up with.
How about the country? My best friend grew up on an Ohio farm and, as she points out, there were only two things for teenagers to do out in the sticks: Get drunk and have sex in a cornfield, or in the back of a pickup.
The city, on the other hand, is a wonderland for children. I took the trolley downtown all the time, starting at age 8 or so, and once my kids were old enough, they took the train from our inner-ring suburb into the city all the time. Philadelphia has a gazillion museums (okay, maybe a couple dozen), fabulous outdoor spaces with fountains, river drives, and a whole bunch of historical sites. (We invented history, you know.)
The sad thing is, I’ve known kids from the suburbs who went away to urban colleges and fell in love with their new city — because after all, they never really got to know a city before! You fall in love with the city you can explore and discover on your own, not the one where your parents or teachers take you on field trips.
Which is why, to this day, I do love the parts of New York I got to explore as a kid. My dad worked for the railroad and I used to, um, borrow my mom’s courtesy pass and go off to the big city. I thought it was quite the exciting adventure, and it was. My parents would have killed me, but whatever.
I’m here to tell the tale.