We live on the north side of downtown Indy. There are builders selling $600k+ homes on my block. There are thriving schools in my neighborhood. A street scene bursting with trendy, small, local eateries and businesses.
There is also a Pathway to Recovery house in our neighborhood. There are strangers walking the sidewalks all day and all night. Sometimes they even knock on our door at night or rummage through our trash cans for things that aren’t trash to them. I have called the police to report expected drug sales in one of the apartments in the house north of ours. I have heard gunshots more times than I can count in the almost 10 years we’ve lived in this house.
We chose to live here because it’s diverse. It’s urban. It’s close to work and school and friends and fun. And sometimes it’s uncomfortable. That’s a good thing.
We let our kids walk to the park. Without us.
We let them ride their bikes around the block. Without us.
We let them play in the backyard for hours. Without us.
We let them ride their bikes to school. Past a run-down Dollar General, an even more run-down Family Dollar and don’t forget the corner liquor store. Crossing three busy streets besides the five normal city streets on the way.
And let me tell you, if someone EVER calls CPS reporting my children doing any of those things, I will fight back with everything I have. I’m warning you now. BRING. IT.
Let me repeat that we CHOSE to live in the city. Where it’s diverse and different and not perfect. And since we’ve made this choice, we’re also raising our kids with street smarts that most children significantly lack these days. I’m not talking inner-city, ghetto street smarts. I’m talking the street smarts we all grew up with that used to be NORMAL. No one called our parents “free range” back then.
Remember when we played outside till it was dark? Alone? Our parents didn’t even really know where we were, just that we were in the neighborhood (because that was our boundary area) and we’d be back by the time the street lights came on. We made friends with the kids riding their bikes through our streets and could tell if they were “good kids” or “bad kids” all on our own. No one was calling CPS on any of us for being out alone.
I can’t wait to see the young ladies and gentlemen that my kids become! Because they are being raised as independent kids who understand living in a diverse area and are learning how to have fun without me (GASP!) and be smart about and kind to the people in our ‘hood (GASP!) and get dirty in the dirt (GASP!) and climb to the top of the playset and go down the big-kid slide before they’re two (GASP!) and they can get dressed by themselves and put on their own shoes and can actually carry on a REAL! LIFE! CONVERSATION! with an adult!
My kids don’t need me (or for that matter, want me) to hold their hands all the time. They have a kind of independence that makes them feel confident in who they are and where we live. We aren’t dumb – we know there are dangers in our community, just like there are in yours. (Can you even believe that a teen was stabbed in Fishers?! And you thought that only happened in the hood right by mine, didn’t you? ) That’s why we teach our kids to stay together and to know the signs of things that aren’t safe.
But tonight, my 8 year-old chose to hold my hand walking into Walmart. She knows what to be scared of.
Plus, who has the energy to be a helicopter parent anyways? Phew. I’m tired enough letting my kids do everything on their own…