Before we moved to the suburbs, my husband and I had a sweet little bungalow in the city. We loved our neighborhood, and even with all it’s issues (the house was over 70 years old…so it had issues), we loved our house. When it came to traffic our street was not the busiest street, but it was not the quietest street either.
We had both of our children while living in that house. The Girl was 3 when we moved, so she was old enough to learn the lesson about staying on the sidewalk while playing, and to this day does not like playing in the street. My son, being 6 months old when we moved, never learned that lesson. Instead he has grown up seeing kids and families walking down the middle of the streets in our suburban subdivision. Although, we have stressed walking on the sidewalk when we walk to the pool and when we are out and about in our neighborhood, we don’t have the same sense of urgency to our message about staying on the sidewalks now. He has never been yanked back by one of us to prevent a speeding car from flattening him, like The Girl has. He has not seen countless squashed squirrels in the street when walking in the neighborhood, which means I have not pointed them out saying “that could be you!” So, the street is not as scary as it is supposed to be.
Today, our neighbor’s dog got out and the kids wanted to get it and bring it home. It was chasing a cat so it ran with reckless abandon down the street after it’s prey. As it turned the corner, I called my kids back… but only my daughter heeded my call. My husband ran after my son and I ran to my neighbor’s house to let them know their dog was out.
After talking to my neighbor’s daughter, I went back to my house. My son and husband had not returned. My daughter and I walked to the corner of the street, and still no sight of my husband or son. When they finally reappeared, my husband was disgruntled and my son was sulking.
Apparently, my son ran a few blocks after the dog and apparently he did most of his running in the street. My husband was not happy. In his words, “My son was running down the middle of the street like an idiot (although it could have been a stronger word).”
What a quandary! In our neighborhood, my kids see other kids running in the street, families walking and riding their bikes in the street, and sometimes they will see kids playing football and skateboarding in the street. Isn’t that why people move to subdivisions like ours? Suburbanites want a neighborhood with posted speed limits of 15 miles per hour and “children at play” signs.
They want to know that their kids are safe to play in the streets and that cars driving around know that they need to be ready to stop at any time and yield to the child playing football in the street. If there was ever safe streets to run or play in… then our streets would be them.
Yet, even after 5 years, my husband and I would still prefer our kids to stay on the sidewalk. We did pick a neighborhood with sidewalks for a reason. We want our kids to be aware that the road is a dangerous place. Yet, I don’t want them to be teased or feel that they cannot play with their friends because they are playing or riding their bikes on the road (because the streets here are safer than other streets). I don’t want to be that over-protective parent, but it does seem that I swing more towards over-protective than not.
In the end, my husband was right to let my son know that he was wrong for running down the middle of the road. He was right that my son was being stupid… because he was running down the road and was not looking out for cars and stopping at corners and looking both ways… You know, all the stuff you are supposed to do to be safe. I am hoping that my son will remember this day and will be more cautious in the future. He has grown up without seeing squashed squirrels in the street in front of our house, which is the best reminder of what could happen to you if you go in the street in my opinion. Thus, I am sure he thinks that we were being melodramatic, or unfair… when all he wanted to do was help his friend’s dog get home. The thing is… all we want is for him to be safe and that means that we are serious about staying on the sidewalk.