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Suburbia's fortress mentality
Christian Science Monitor ^ | June 1, 2007 | Melodee Martin Helms

Posted on 06/03/2007 2:38:07 AM PDT by Lorianne

Parents' fears are robbing children of their childhood. ___ My three boys sprawl on the couch, fingering their Game Boys. I wish I could shoo them outside until dusk. I wish they could tromp to the marsh to search for polliwogs. I wish we didn't have to live in a fortress.

But we don't let our children play in the front yard, because a sex offender lives two doors down. Instead, like other families in this neighborhood, we've built private playgrounds in the back.

From my kitchen window, I see two wooden play structures, three trampolines, and four basketball hoops, including our own. The kids on our street don't play unsupervised on common ground. They have play dates now, arranged by protective parents.

Carefree childhood of the '70s

The unsupervised outings of my 1970s childhood are over. When Mom told us, "Be back before dark," we'd check in sooner only if our stomachs insisted.

My family lived in a subdivision full of cul-de-sacs with small ramblers and split-level homes. I wandered freely. My sister and I traipsed past construction sites to undeveloped land beyond. We'd romp in waist-high grasses, trampling down areas we'd pretend were houses. We wandered in the woods.

We explored the creek, trying to keep the mud from sucking our sneakers right off our feet. I used to ride my banana-seat bike (without a helmet) down the busy road to buy candy at the gas station.

That would never happen today. Two-thirds of Americans say it's likely that a convicted child molester lives in their neighborhood, according to a 2005 Gallup Poll. Yet the constant supervising seems to be taking its toll.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Government; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: childhood; genx; suburbia
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How right you are..

I lived what now seems to be a privileged life as a little girl in a small fishing town on the New England coast (back then- the only liberals around were “token”).

We played outside every day in all seasons. We had freedom to explore. We weren’t afraid of the world or it’s people. By spending so much time outdoors we learned about nature...where a snake might hide, which spiders were ok (daddy-longlegs) and which weren’t (black widows)..

Each summer when my son was little we went “back home” and we’d go on hikes exploring the woods, fields and marshes .. Those times are now his favorite memories but he still doesn’t believe me when I tell him when I was little we did those same things without grownups..

21 posted on 06/03/2007 4:05:54 AM PDT by SE Mom (Proud mom of an Iraq war combat vet -Fred'08)
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To: Dr. Frank fan

325 in my zip code alone!

I must create a fortress today! /sarc.

22 posted on 06/03/2007 4:06:49 AM PDT by EBH (May God Save Our Country)
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To: Lorianne

I remember life as a kid in Reston, Virginia, in the early seventies. It was like ‘Lord of the Flies’. We built secret forts deep in the woods. We made sharpened spears from branches and tried to hunt animals. We had brutal dirt clod fights that often ended in someone getting “hurt”. We swam in the lake for hours on end. We built dams in the creek so we could create mini-floods. We’d catch frogs, turtles, snakes and lizards and bring them home. In the summer, we went out after dinner for games of ‘Manhunt’ that would last well beyond dark. Those were good times.

23 posted on 06/03/2007 4:11:10 AM PDT by Godebert
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To: mrs. a

I was working a Vitro Laboratories when that happened. It really shook the community. The fact that there was never any closure really wierded eveyone out.

Part of the problem I believe is that people rarelyspeak out when they see something going down. Conress now thinks we need a law to protect people who report suspicious activity.

Go figure.

24 posted on 06/03/2007 4:28:17 AM PDT by Jimmy Valentine's brother (Crush your enemies; see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women - Conan)
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Whoa...83 in my little zip code. The closet on is 1.8 miles from me, with his name, picture and address. Thanks for posting!

25 posted on 06/03/2007 4:30:08 AM PDT by GBA (God Bless America!)
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To: endthematrix
"Talk about living in fear."

The whole concept of terrorism is not manifested by a crazy with a gun or a bomb, but in the fact that people are afraid ... afraid of any and everything that could be.

It used to be that a person cornered is to be feared because they will come out swinging, possibly feeling their life was in danger.

Now, it seems frightened people just try to hunker closer into the corner.

Sort o' like that fish sandwich commercial where, upon seeing a square fish flopping on the deck of a boat, someone says .. "That's not natural"

It ain't natural for people to be unable (from within themselves) to come out swingin' when threatened.

America ... let's roll.

26 posted on 06/03/2007 4:31:03 AM PDT by knarf (I say things that are true ... I have no proof ... but they're true.)
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To: widowithfoursons
"Those who grew up in the 70’s may think they had freedom, but they don’t have a frame of reference."

The same could apply to our political situation today. We really don't know what it is to be truly free.


27 posted on 06/03/2007 4:32:40 AM PDT by CDHart ("It's too late to work within the system and too early to shoot the b@#$%^&s."--Claire Wolfe)
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To: widowithfoursons
Uh, if this person grew up in the 70’s, it was already way too late for running around unsupervised.

Oh poo. I grew up in the 60's and 70's in inner city Chicago and ran around unsupervised. We had to check in when the street lights came on, and then could still play on our block. I and all my friends survived unscathed.
28 posted on 06/03/2007 4:34:12 AM PDT by Kozak (Anti Shahada: " There is no God named Allah, and Muhammed is his False Prophet")
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To: Lorianne
We see this over protectiveness in many forms, like the rules against smoking, my mom sent me on countless trips to the store to buy her more cigarettes. Now a kid faces 30 years of hard labor for just buying a pack of smokes.

Kids should not smoke, but it should not be illegal. We are heading towards a society where we can only do what the law gives us permission to do, and the concept of Freedom is lost.

29 posted on 06/03/2007 4:42:41 AM PDT by Mark was here (Hard work never killed anyone, but why take the chance?)
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To: widowithfoursons

Not for me....i stayed out fishing all night during the summer back in the 70’s...10 and 11 years big deal....the 80’s is when it started changing.

30 posted on 06/03/2007 4:52:27 AM PDT by chasio649
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To: mrs. a

The Lyon’s sisters case is a cold one. There were some suspects and an actual sighting, but no evidence. My husband grew up in Springfield; he remembers that every thing changed after their abduction. That is when the close supervision began - especially for his sisters.

31 posted on 06/03/2007 4:59:42 AM PDT by SoftballMominVA (Never argue with an idiot. He will bring you down to his level and beat you with experience)
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To: Lorianne
I live in an older development in an outer suburb that is considered rural by many. It means that my husband and I have a 45-minute commute to work.

However, it also means that I can tell my 12-year-old when he says he's going outside, "Come home when it gets dark". It means my kids could ride their bikes unsupervised -- although kids don't ride much at all these days because no kid over the age of nine wants to wear a helmet (another example of government screw-up). It's meant my kids have had lots of neighborhood kids to play with. We've been fortunate that way.

32 posted on 06/03/2007 5:11:04 AM PDT by ContraryMary (New Jersey -- Superfund cleanup capital of the U.S.A.)
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My buddy and I used to take our uncased .22 single shot rifles on our bicycles to a retired teacher's house and shoot frogs out of his pond (as I remember they were so big I'm surprised a .22 would kill them). My mom fried up the legs for me after I skinned them.

I'd have a juvenile record if I tried that today.

33 posted on 06/03/2007 5:14:35 AM PDT by Hardastarboard ( is an internet hate site.)
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To: Lorianne
But we don't let our children play in the front yard, because a sex offender lives two doors down.

Same could have been true in the 1970s except that you wouldn't have known about it

Now, are your kids safer when you are more likely to know where the pervs are or when you are less likely to know where they are?

Maybe rational thought is required.

34 posted on 06/03/2007 5:16:28 AM PDT by Tribune7 (A bleeding heart does nothing but ruin the carpet)
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To: Lorianne
A lot of this is driven by changes in demographics and economics.

I grew up in the 60's and 70's in a family 4 children. Today, we have 2 children, as do each of my siblings. The house I grew up in sat on a 1/6 acre lot. The house I live in today sits on a 1/2 acre lot. Simple math says that the 'density' of kids running around my neighborhood today is many times less than it was when I was a kid. Where kids used to run around in groups of 6 or 8 when I grew up, I see a lot of kids in groups of 1, 2 or 3 today. There was some safety in numbers.

Tolerance for risks are different than they were. If you look back to the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, most large families had children who didn't survive to adulthood. My mother (who grew up in the 20's and 30's) had a brother died of polio. Her uncle had a family of 9 kids of whom 6 survived to adulthood. They didn't love their children any less back then, but with so many dying of childhood disease, the risk of an accident from playing in the street or in the woods or by a stream seemed relatively miniscule. My wife and I would feel devastated if one of our two kids didn't survive into adulthood. In past years, large families accepted losses a part of life and moved on.

Perceived risks have also changed a lot. FoxNews and Nancy Grace give us breathless reports of every detail of the most purient kidnapping or molestation case in each day's news. In a nation of 300 million people, there's always going to be something bad happening somewhere. As parents, we probably greatly overestimate the relative risk of a stranger snatching our children, compared to simple dangers like being in a car accident (or letting MTV teach them that all the cool kids experiment with drugs and sex).

Some things have actually changed for the better. We know now that there were a small but very real number of authority figures in the 60's and 70's who were able to use their positions to take advantage of children, and often got by with only a slap on the wrist when there were signs of trouble. At my high school, there was a driver's ed teacher that girls knew to avoid being alone in the car with, because he had a tendency to get frisky with his hands. Today, that fellow would be gone awfully fast.

Overall, however, we are giving our kids a very different childhood experience than the one we had. In some ways, we are focusing more energy and attention on fewer kids and that may benefit them. However, they will have less opportunity to act independently, make choices on their own, and live with the consequences of their choices.

35 posted on 06/03/2007 5:26:21 AM PDT by CaptainMorgantown
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To: Chickensoup
There have always been child molesters.

Yes, but in the old days, they were sent to prison and were permanently dealt with by the other inmates.

36 posted on 06/03/2007 5:32:21 AM PDT by reg45
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To: Lorianne
Ah, the opportunity in the wee hours of a Sunday morning to wax nostalgically (and indulge our vanity) about a time of innocence.

I was born just before Pearl Harbor, and so got to spend my pre-adolescent and teen years in the 50's, in what was one of the larger cities in Indiana, but which would be considered a small town compared to my present home. We didn't even have a local TV station for most of that time. We would spend winter nights listening to the radio (Ozzie & Harriet, Gunsmoke, Innersanctum) and playing cards or board games. (After coming in from sledding or trying to ice skate on the little ponds in the neighborhood.) I can still remember listening to a radio broadcast of a particular state championship high school basketball game. In later years, I thought of writing about that game, but someone beat me to it: it bacame the movie, Hoosiers.

In the summer, we played baseball (no, not Little League, no parents involved -- just a bunch of guys who felt like playing, using whatever we could find at the time for bases, in a field where a long hit could be lost in the weeds) or went to the river to fish, or went swimming at the pool in the park. After swimming, we might hang around to peer between or under the canvasses to try and see a Daisies game. (Yes, another movie, "A Field of Their Own.") Along the way, we might place pennies or nails on the railroad track.

After dinner, and well into darkness, it was "Hide and Seek" or, as we grew a little older, "Capture the Flag."

In the fall, the same fields or empty lots became football fields. Two or three to a side, "everybody out for a pass."

And, it being Indiana, basketball at any time. We often played in the snow.

You'll find another thread today about Australians who want to begin teaching their youth how to handle BB guns. That little boy in A Christmas Story who just had to have the Daisy Red Ryder gun was me. (Not literally, of course.)

In our high school years, very few of us had cars, but when one could get Dad's wheels, we cruised the drive-in restaurants (yes, there were car-hops,) went to drive-in movies, or to the basketball game, followed by a record hop at the skating rink or in the school cafeteria.

I was on a cruise ship a few months back, where one of the events was a "sock hop." The thirty-something hosts were surprised when I actually took off my tennies to dance in my socks. I had to give them a little oral history about the origin of "sock hop:" at my high school, a P. A. system would be set up in the gym for lunch hour dancing. Since street shoes were not permitted on the gym floor, we danced in our socks.

Today, when I visit my sister, that town no longer exists. Oh, There still is a Fort Wayne, but downtown is a ghost town. I was told several years back that it is "the cocaine capital of Indiana." Everybody now lives five miles outside what used to be the city limits. My present home, San Pedro, CA, gives me more of a community feeling than does my own home town. Geography separates us from the metropolis, and there are many whose families have lived here for generations, and who want to raise their own kids here. Sadly, those kids will never know what real innocence is.

37 posted on 06/03/2007 5:33:56 AM PDT by LantzALot (Yes, itís my opinion. No, itís not humble.)
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None within 10 miles of me. There was a highly publicized one about a half mile away a couple years ago but his trailer home burned up. The sheriff said, “These things sometimes happen.”

I grew up playing in the woods all day, I find today’s childhood whirl of arranged soccer games, play dates, electronic toys, and the omnipresent leash of the cell phone abhorrent.

38 posted on 06/03/2007 5:42:45 AM PDT by Tijeras_Slim
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To: LantzALot

Yes, I remember the world you described. At the time we did not know how really wonderful it was. I feel sorry for kids today. With all their computer toys they will never learn how to play.

I’m a public school teacher. My experience is that kids have almost no attention spans today. Cheating on tests is considered normal behavior, and if you are caught it’s because you did something stupid. That’s the only sin.
There’s no morality. No right or wrong, only “what works”. My high school kids live in homes where their mom has a boyfriend. Divorce is the norm.

What a world the liberals created.

39 posted on 06/03/2007 5:45:05 AM PDT by kjo
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To: Lorianne

maybe if criminals were in jail instead of being “compassioned” out into the streets, then we wouldn’t have a fortress mentality

40 posted on 06/03/2007 5:45:37 AM PDT by InvisibleChurch (Forty on the highway, forty in the driveway.)
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