Archive for February, 2010

The Blight of Suburbia

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

This morning it is snowing, already four inches or so on the ground, and my two school-age children have been outside romping through the drifts in the front yard for 15 minutes, waiting for their walking buddies to show up. (This means that my previously pristine, smooth front lawn is now a riot of paths and bumps, and the trees have deliberately had all their snow shaken down upon young heads. What will the neighbors think? Gasp!)

I sent them to school by themselves when it became clear that the walking buddies weren’t going to show, and not thirty seconds later the very thing I had feared occurred – a neighbor mom in an enormous SUV saw them, pulled over, and offered them a ride.

I am outraged.

First of all, it’s five blocks to school. Six if you go the long way. It’s not hard for elementary school age kids to walk five blocks – in fact, they burn more than that amount of energy just zipping around getting ready in the morning (colliding, panicking, playing, hysterically laughing, and in the case of Preston RIGHT NOW, cuddling three light sabres and tucking them into bed.)

Secondly, KIDS LIKE SNOW. I know this comes as a surprise to those of us who don’t remember childhood. But I can guarantee that my kids, upon looking out the window this morning, did NOT think to themselves, “dammit, now I will be forced to frolic my way to school while pelting my siblings and friends with snowballs and sliding on the sidewalk in my snow boots.” They LIKE walking those five blocks in a magically transformed, white-purple world (which has miraculously become wholly edible overnight.)

And thirdly, and most outrageously, does that SUV mom actually think my kids are SAFER in an SUV which will go join a queue of a hundred other cars and SUVs, sliding on the slush with kids dodging before and behind as they unload? My kids are much, much safer walking to school than driving. Period. But most especially, they are safer in crappy weather like this. What to a driver is a harrowing death journey is to a child an enchanted wonderland. And yes, I am aware that my children probably won’t be injured because of that sheltered, heated, crowded SUV, but that doesn’t change the fact that they would have been better off outside of it.

When did Suburbia become like this? When my grandmother raised her children, she sought out a suburban neighborhood. The kids roamed in packs, playing night games and raiding fruit trees. Now, my children play outside alone unless a neighbor invites them in to watch TV or play video games. And in this lovely, soft snowfall, all the children in my neighborhood can only watch through tinted windows as they join the endless queue to drop them off immediately in front of the school doors. Heaven forbid they have to walk down the school sidewalk. They might have to do something inconvenient, like enjoy themselves.