We’re about to begin construction on a fort. Anyone who remembers the design for our sandbox, which rocks, will know the fort will be very cool as well: room enough to stand in, weather proof, matches the home siding and colors, power (Ethernet?), with a trap door/secret entrance in the floor that leads to the sand box. While dreaming of fort features, Rob suggested putting in fold out bunks on the wall, so the boys could sleep outside…
Now, when I was a kid, I slept outside with friends on our tramp almost every summer weekend. We’d bounce around, joke, and play games. Once we got tired, we’d lay there expressing our small minds while staring into the stars, well past our regular bed time and well out of the earshot of any adult. You could still see then the swath of the Milky Way in the sky of our suburb.
Those nights contain some of my fondest memories from childhood, even those nights we forgot to turn the sprinkler system off :-).
But at Rob’s suggestion of bunks in the fort, my first thought was no way. No way would I let our kids sleep outside. Times are different here in Utah, aren’t they? Right now Utah is mourning the death of Hser Ner Moo, kidnapped and murdered by her neighbor. Elizabeth Smart was taken right out of her home and out the backyard. Why make such easier by putting the kids one step closer to that unimaginable wilderness, where I can’t hear a thing, right?
I’ll admit that I’ve gone overboard at times. We’ve been threatened and it has made me cautious; I know there are people out there who’d think it right that our family was split up, if not worse. So when we built out home, I personally installed our security system. Now I can track any motion in the home and know when even the neighbor’s dog has been through the yard :-). I connected it all to the home automation system, and even installed cameras.
I know all that is ridiculous. But I did it so that I wouldn’t have to think about it and now I don’t, much. But let the kids sleep outside?
We’ve got some years before they’re old enough by most people’s measure, but what to do when that day comes?
Fact probably is that such caution is irrational caution. How many people, children, now live in our valley? Of them, how many are kidnapped and killed? I’m pretty sure it’s no more a percentage than it was when I was a kid, when there were no Amber Alerts or 24 hr news channels. And even if it is higher, the odds must be miniscule.
In fact, the leading cause of death for children is accidents, mainly automobile accidents, and yet I strap them into the car everyday.
So am I being ridiculous to be hesitant? Do/would you let your children sleep outside without you in a city or suburb? Am I being one of those over-protective parents? I don’t want them to even know such a worry exists; I want them to talk with their buddies late into the night where they know we can’t hear them; I want them to sleep on the tramp, under the stars, even if the Milky Way has been drown out; I want them to be awoke at 3 AM by the sprinklers they forgot to turn off... It’s just that, while the odds may be low of any harm coming of it, the consequences mean the world.
Sheesh, parenting is complicated. Maybe I’ll put motion detectors and intercom in the fort ;-)…