Where went the neighborhood? - Catholic Courier

Where went the neighborhood?

On a recent picture-perfect summer afternoon I pointed up and down my suburban street, noting to a friend the endless sidewalks and yards devoid of humanity — a typical sight where I live.

That’s way different than my childhood experience, when Mom would simply say, "Be home for supper," and I’d be off roaming the neighborhood, often meeting up with friends blocks away. No worries. Tons of kids around. So where are they now? The last time I checked, we weren’t in a war zone.

To some degree, I can attribute this sad trend to many kids being lured indoors by electronic gadgetry and others being watched away from home due to more moms working.

But there’s something more going on.

Seemingly every day, you hear a sickening new story about a child being abducted. Now we wonder if a crazed gunman will open fire when we take our kids to the movies.

And to what degree is parental fear fueled by clergy, coaches and teachers being revealed as sexual abusers — supposedly trustworthy people? For every Jerry Sandusky-type story that emerges, parents build an even stronger figurative fortress around their kids.

My own children are ages 11, 9 and 7. They’re allowed to travel a few houses away as long as I know where they’re going, but I’ll admit my wife and I aren’t comfortable letting them out of our sight. Some of our neighboring parents keep their leashes so short, their similarly aged kids aren’t even allowed out of their yards.

Obviously, the top priority is to ensure your children are safe. But don’t they also have an inalienable right to be kids — which means being able to play with friends? Will our fears ever be quelled to the point they can recover that privilege?

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