Coach and I are old school parents. Our kids have all been spanked . . . on more than one occasion. We are in charge and we aren't afraid to remind them of this fact. There are chores in our house, and our offspring does them (OK, typically not as well as we would like but everyone can wear a mismatched pair of socks sometimes, right? And whose to say that the kitchen floor under the cabinets didn't get a whole new pile of crumbs a few minutes after being swept anyway?). Meals are not optional, and there is no sneering at food on your plate. 'You don't always get what you want' isn't just a line from a song, it's a reality in our home. Parental homework involvement only happens when necessary and even then sometimes we don't realize how necessary it is. 'Plugging in' in our house usually means the mix master, the fan, or the hair dryer. Old school doesn't make us perfect parents though . . . far from it.
Another similarity to childhood of yesteryear: our kids aren't overly supervised - especially when they play outside. May I point out that we live on a cul-de-sac. In the suburbs of Chicago. This is not inner city. Also not a 'watch out for traffic' kind of setting. Our crew is like a herd. They travel in a pack. You've heard of safety in numbers - well, that should be our motto. When the kids were little, the doors that were part of the deck locked. It was awesome. Eventually Laddie and Eddie were big enough to climb to freedom or open the gate and forget to close it. Nothing is fool proof. But I used to be able to park a kid in a swing and run in and stir dinner. Strap a kid in a stroller and change a load of laundry. Or keep them busy with bubbles on the deck with the gates locked and stand within ear shot making dinner.
Now that they are older, I remind them to wear a helmet, stay near the house, don't swing golf clubs when other kids are around, etc. while they race out the door. I can usually see or hear what they are getting into, while I am getting things done inside. I suppose my landscaping could be beautiful if I devoted time to it while they were outside playing. The inside of the house always seems a bit more emergent though.
A few of my neighbors don't subscribe to the same child rearing philosophy that Coach and I do. I moved into the neighborhood when the youngest of their 2 or 3 kids was about 3. They would take out their folding chair and park themselves on the driveway watching the kids. Even though I had the locking-gate-deck and the older, somewhat-attentive brother, I stood outside and chatted with them from time to time while the kids played. Curly would be in a stroller or walking around pushing a toy or a pulling a wagon. Besides I felt guilty when my kids ran down to play on their driveway. I didn't want it to seem like Neighbor One (No) and Neighbor Two (Nit) needed to watch my kids. But I loved the locking gate, damn it. I was accomplishing stuff and the kids were happy in our yard, but they always wanted to hang with other kids. It was one of the only things I missed about our old house. Everyone was elderly. There were no kids. The street was busier, no cul-de-sac, but my kids were always in our yard. There was no where else to go.
Anyway, I admit that I was outside more frequently too when one of my really little guys was out there threatening to eat grass etc. Of course back then I had nap time to try to accomplish something. Although I remember napping myself or relaxing during nap time . . . oh, the good 'ole days. But now that Curly is six I am only outside when I am trying to round them up, break them up, or get them to turn off the hose when it is only 58 degrees out. I also enjoy sitting in the sun on the deck (deck doors broke off awhile ago, but no more need for locking kids up now anyway). I have given up feeling guilty about No and Nit. Oh, let me clarify. Even though their kids are now older than 8, they still drag out the folding chair and plop in it at the end of the driveway while the kids play. I've gotten looks and a few comments about how my kids are outside playing with their kids and I am not out there. Let me also clarify that my kids are typically well behaved (especially while in the presence of other people) and they are not as interested in playing with No or Nit's kids anyway. I don't think these moms are outside trying to bond with their offspring. They are usually buried in a magazine or focused on their phone. Ahhh, another bonus to having a brood our size is they rarely require entertaining. They don't care if I am outside or not.
I am blessed with a very good memory, so I remember my childhood. Granted I lived in Iowa for a few years growing up, but we used to go outside to play and that was that. We stayed outside for hours. We were little. When I was in kindergarten I used to take my doll stroller around the block for a walk alone. No sidewalks. No biggie. We ran around to the neighbors houses and no one cared. It was awesome. So . . . I don't get constant supervision. Let them play. Let them get into a tussle with a brother or a neighbor. Let them work it out
Of course this hands off approach to outside play has come back to bite a couple of times. When Reggie was in kindergarten, he was outside playing. He decided to ride his bike around the block but neglected to tell anyone. This was a practice that was only allowed when they let me know they were going, and they were accompanied by an older brother. Reggie didn't get far when he saw kids we know playing in a slip 'n slide in their front yard. These kids lived in the neighborhood across the street from ours. Crossing a street they weren't allowed to cross was involved. It was no expressway, but there were a regular flow of cars. Apparently he joined in the slip 'n slide fun while the mom kept asking him if I knew where he was. He insisted that I was aware of his whereabouts. She was nervous to go in the house and grab her phone and leave the kids in the water. She asked him one time too many about my knowledge of this impromptu play date. Reggie shouted back, "I told you she knows, so stop asking me!" At home, I was gathering the gang to go to the orthodontist. No one could locate Reg. Laddie jumped on his bike and decided to check around the block. Not 5 minutes later, he showed up with a very angry and very wet Reggie hanging out of his arms. Uncool.
Yesterday was Mini's 10th birthday. Her cousin slept over the night before. I ran to a step aerobics /kettle bell class at 8am. Coach had to drive Laddie to the high school bus for his away game, and then he dropped Eddie off to caddy at the golf course. It wasn't ideal that the youngest four (they call themselves the fabulous four and they refer to Laddie and Eddie as the terrible two) plus a visiting cousin be unsupervised, but it wouldn't be for long. When the class ended, I jumped in the car and noticed that I had a text from Coach. He decided to attend morning mass since it was lent. Another unsupervised spell. Only 10 minutes though. What could happen in 10 minutes? On my way home, I drove down the street that Reggie crossed to get wet and wild. There is a pond that I pass about a half mile from our subdivision. It was a beautiful sunny morning - finally. There was a boy exploring at the pond's edge with a giant net. I smiled. Then I looked again. That boy belonged to me. Tetonka. I honked. At home Reggie was out hitting gold balls in the yard. He knew Tetonka decided to head out to the pond. Tetonka came home a few minutes later on his bike. I explained to Tetonka that he was the oldest one home and no one had given him permission to visit the pond or leave the other kids. He explained to me, "Yeah, but the rest of the little kids were told to stay here, and they did." Cool.
That night for Mini's birthday my folks joined us for dinner, cake, and presents. I told my dad that recently when I cut up a lemon for a recipe the kids wanted to try the lemon. Can you say sour? It reminded me of a story my grandpa told me once. I shared it with them, but I wanted to see if my dad had better details. He knew right away what I was referring to. His dad, my grandpa, was born in 1903. One afternoon he and his brother went to see a band play in a gazebo at the park. They took out lemons and carefully cut them up in front of the performers. Then they proceeded to suck on them right there in the front row. Some of the musicians struggled to play and some stopped playing altogether because they couldn't help but pucker their lips at the sight of grandpa and his brother. It was a successful stunt.
I explained to my clan that back in the day kids ran around in neighborhoods, through alleys, and into town in small packs without a parent holding their hand or supervising them at all. They were shocked. True we live in a different world, but if you can't even hang out in your own cul-de-sac without being monitored, maybe it is time to tell No and Nit to go suck a lemon.