Three parenting lessons I learned in my childhood backyard

by beagooddad on August 5, 2006

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I spent a few years in an apartment in Iowa between Kindergarten and 2nd grade. The way the apartments in the neighborhood lined up left us with a yard about 2 apartments wides and 3 long. There were a lcouple patches patches of trees and a couple 3 feet steep hills between apartments. For a bunch of kids it felt as big as the world.

This was back between 1980 and 1982 and there wasn’t nearly as much to worry about when your kids were playing as these days. Our parents were able to let us play while only loosely monitoring us.

There were probably 6 kids within a year of me and that group expanded to about 10 when you included some of the older kids that would let us play with them to help fill out the team.

We played from the end of school until dinner and then again until dark. During summer we would even spend time chasing lightning bugs with wiffle ball bats or empty jars.

We played kick the can, statutes, hide and seek, kick ball, slip and slide, and frisbee to name a few. Some days I was the king of the yard. Some days I was the little man on campus.

Today, in the fenced in small yards of the suburbs it seems like the only place to get these unsupervised communities is at public parks and school parks. But because of how crazy the world is kids are never left alone to establish these relationships on their own.

My kids are still too young to want to leave my side for long enough to think that exploring the neighborhood would be a good idea. When they are ready, I’m going to work very hard to provide the kids the private play time they need.

Now that I’m a parent, I’m sure my mom and the other parents in our apartments were watching us frequently from the windows. They practiced a few things that seem to be rare these days.

1) They did not come running as soon as somebody started crying. We normally stopped after a couple minutes and went back to playing none the worse for wear.

2) They let us keep score but never cared what the outcome was. Winning and losing are incredibly important skills to learn. Parents beating a killer instinct into their kids are just hoping for a NBA contract to pay for their retirement. Kids with a killer instinct will develop it on their own. Everybody else can have fun whether they are good or not. Even the worst athletes made the winning goal from time to time.

3) They rarely pushed us into the structured soccer leagues and t-ball leagues that pepper the parks these days. The first organized sport I played was in fourth grade. The first time I played organized basketball, my sport of preference and much success, was in a basketball camp between sixth and seventh grade. I played sports nonstop as a kid but it was just an outlet for all the energy we had as kids. We made up games just as often as playing any of the major sports.

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