I had a blessed childhood, as many of us who were born in the '50s or '60s did. Not because it was a privileged childhood, but because it was a largely unexamined childhood. There were some expectations; we had to get to school on time, keep our grades decent, stay on top of our chores, and be home for dinner. But how we did that was pretty much our business. I grew up in a large city, so getting around on the bus was something that we all learned early on. Our neighborhood parks, empty lots and natural areas were open and thrillingly wild and we knew them well. We knew where to hide; we knew which tree forts to take over once the established owners grew up and went off to college. We spent whole days roaming the old musty aquarium, knew all the paths of the Japanese tea garden, and knew to avoid the hobo encampment in the park. We mostly stayed out of trouble, and were home in time for dinner.
Raising my own kids, I felt pretty strongly about allowing them these same freedoms. The scenarios of early Saturday morning soccer games and weekends spent in East Jesus on "select" sports teams didn't square. I value the strength and discipline that sports impart, but spending weekends on a rectangle of green turf wasn't enough. I want them to walk to school, take the bus around town, know their community. I want them to find the secret spots where nature pushes through the asphalt, where creatures find shelter and where seeds float on the wind and take root in random spots like downspouts and roofs. You just can't do that with Mom in tow.