There are six — no wait — make that seven boys playing in the street on this Saturday afternoon.
A football is rolling downhill, one end over the other. Two of the boys are on skateboards, several are on bikes and the others are zigzagging across the street, running through yards, laughing and shouting.
A mom comes out of a garage, stands in her driveway and surveys the action. She returns to the garage and reappears with a large, round pillow that she tosses down on the driveway. A brown mutt appears and curls up for a nap. The woman goes back in the house.
The boys, ranging from ages 7 to 12, are now dribbling basketballs, generating the sounds of play that draw you to a window, cause you to look outside and smile. The odd thing is that there is no obvious direct adult supervision. What an anomaly.
You wonder if the parents didn’t get the memo that you must never let kids out of your sight. We live in a world that thrives on pumping suspicion and fear.
Not that we didn’t teach our own children about stranger danger and cultivate a healthy awareness.
Yet here these kids are, a throwback to childhood of years gone by, playing hard in suburbia.
We let our kids set up a produce stand at the end of the block when they were this age. (This was before cities began cracking down on crime, busting kids operating lemonade stands without business licenses.) I checked on the kids periodically, but I didn’t sit with them.
One of our grown kids asked if we would let kids operate the Champ Produce stand today. It’s a good question.
A family around the corner lets their daughter have a lemonade stand. (Please don’t tell the city.) She’s personable, responsible and sharp. She also is in the sight line of the family’s front door.
Maybe I am relishing watching these boys running free because it smacks of a more carefree time. Nobody’s dad is checking names on a roster and nobody’s mother is running behind them dragging a cooler filled with snacks.
In the simple act of play, these boys are learning to take risks and problem solve. They are finding out who has the best throwing arm, who is fast on a bike and who can balance on a skateboard. They’re also looking out for one another. A vehicle drives up the street and one of the older boys yells, “car!” They scatter and the car slowly passes.
They may even be forging community. Should one of these boys be bullied on the bus next week, he well could have a small platoon rising to stand beside him.
We have to be smart today, that’s for sure. Kids need to be savvy and on guard, but they also need the freedom to be kids.
Lori Borgman is an Indianapolis columnist. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.