Today I was out on the deck at the back of our house and saw 3 neighbor boys, in about 4th and 5th grades, playing air-soft gun games in the park behind us. What bothered me was that there were a couple of boys about 14 years old also, playing them also, who I believe just came in through the park and joined them. It's the second time I saw them there and I don't ever see them in our neighborhood.
The thing that really got my attention was that they were all urging one of the younger boys to leave our neighbors' back yard and go out into the park to play their games, and he didn't want to go. They wouldn't let him remain, but started ridiculing him.
I believe I have something of a reputation for being a bit over-protective of my kids. My belief is that if I err on the side of over-protective, I'll make less mistakes than if I don't protect them enough, and then my kids might not be the subject of a news story. It's hard to know exactly how much is the right amount--unless you know enough about the kids in the neighborhood where they play. On our street, most of the kids' parents see them for dinner time and that's about it. Some of the kids I think I know a little better than their parents do, just because they don't have to conform to parental standards until the parents are there to watch, and I see them in their less guarded moments. It can be sobering.
Anyway, protective me got moving and went three doors up to notify the father of the boy who didn't want to go into the park. He was also concerned and went and brought his son home, who I believe was relieved. The strange thing was that even though these neighbor boys are constantly together, the father didn't even know where the other family lived, 4 doors away from him. His son has actually gone camping with the other family, and both families have lived here at least 3 years.
As it was getting dark, and the remaining 2 neighbor boys were still out there with the older boys, I thought maybe my next-door neighbors didn't know what was going on in the back. I went over just to make sure that they were aware of the situation. The mother is usually polite, but today, though she didn't say anything specifically hostile, I could tell that she was insulted that I could imply that they weren't keeping a close enough eye on their kids. She said that her husband was in the back (he wasn't; he was up the street); and that one of the boys was the other neighbor's brother--he wasn't--we didn't recognize him; the boy wouldn't have been so hesitant to go into the park; his brother wouldn't have been so unkind as these boys were; and the father wouldn't have so gladly dragged his son home.
I don't know. I think I'll stay my over-protective self, at least with my own kids. I have to figure out the boundaries a little better with one set of neighbors though. Maybe I live in the past, a time gone by, when people wanted to know where their kids were and with whom; maybe I'm just dense and my kids need more freedom to associate with the world unhindered, as it seems so many do. The way I see things, though, I don't think I'm ready to buy that yet.