Not enough free-range children

I am in Vancouver. It is spring here. The magnolias are in bloom and the grass has been cut, rhododendrons are popping out in big loud colour here and there and everywhere, while at home in Nova Scotia the brown wintered grass is buried in snow and the trees are only imagining their leaves.
Vancouver trees have fresh new leaves, sporting the hesitant colour that is merely a whisper of their summer hue. I am always amazed by the diverse climates in this country, yet the stretch from coast to coast is immense and so it is logical for the weather to differ . . . but still.
I arrived yesterday. Fifteen hours from start to finish, from when I left home to unlocking Aimee’s door. I used many modes of travel: car, shuttle van, airplane to Edmonton, two hours of footwork to pass the time, airplane, sky train, two city buses and my feet to get me from home to here, and a whole lot of people watching in between.
I may have mentioned once or 43 times that travel and me are not friends. We barely tolerate one another. We have been enemies at times, indifferent partners in others, and now I would say we are only just annoyed acquaintances with a barely hidden disdain for one another. But if I want to see my precious children, I must straighten my back and pack my bag.
I notice things while I travel. I make note of how people interact, how some are silent and compliant while others demand attention and behave as though their rightful place is at the top of the food chain. This time I watched children.
We have created a couple of generations now who view the world with the warning of stranger-danger playing on repeat in their heads and as a result many or most children do not interact with people they pass on the street or in the grocery store or wherever.
I feel sad for that and I believe our communities are changed and not for the better, because of it.
I doubt very much if the world is more dangerous today than when I was a child, but I can’t be sure. The immediate sharing and repeating of news stories certainly makes it seem as if a child predator is behind every corner.
We know that children are more likely to be hurt by someone they know than a stranger, but still we are quick to insulate ourselves and our children, for safety reasons, from the community, from the world.
With our access to the stories of the madness in the world it seems a natural reaction, but what are we losing, I wonder.
The two little boys who live next door to me, age eight and five, come to visit me regularly to discuss the day, to eat my blueberries and hunt for things to put in their magic potions. Their mother calls them free-range children. I like that.
They are being raised without being contained in an enclosure safe from the world. I enjoy our conversations.
Colten talks to me about someone who bullies him at school and mostly I listen. Sometimes I offer my advice, but not often.
I like to think they wander into my yard with a need to chat and to be heard and I want to feed that, to encourage them to want to know who lives next door.
wendistewart@live.ca

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