NE Philadelphia on a pretty basic row-home street three blocks away from my elementary school. From the age of six, I walked it myself. The deli we got our lunchmeat from was across Colgate Avenue, and my mom would sometimes send me there with a list since I was seven. The recreation center (with pool) was two blocks up the Avenue. I went alone from the time I was ten. I also went to the library, or to my friends' houses, who lived usually five or six blocks away, by myself since about nine or ten.
So to me, this thing where "free range children" are picked up by the police for being some walkable distance away from their homes without adult supervision strikes me as absolutely bizarre. (I don't have kids, though. But I do know that violent crime has gone down since I was a kid. Seriously--why aren't people raising their kids to do stuff like play outside?)
Now, I'll admit that some of the ways kids in my day were raised might have been ill-advised. I will admit I played with matches, threw rocks, ate Rio Snappers on a dare, jumped off of second-story porches onto hard-ass lawns, and had monumental schoolyard fights where faces were rubbed with snowballs and permanent scars were received. But this helped me get that being older meant sometimes dealing with consequences. I was followed by a presumed perv from a card shop up Rising Sun Ave three blocks from my house when I was nine--ducked him. I got knocked over by a sixth-grader when I was in second grade and chased his ass with a piece of ice like the size of my head and plastered him.
When I was growing up, you went outside the house to grow that sense of the "hairy eyeball" that told you when things were going pear-shaped and you needed to run home to Mom. You did not stay indoors on your ass and look at your Mom or Dad to lead you about all your little life. There is something about this "free-range kid" thing that sounds pretty much exactly like my childhood. I do not see why kids are scooped up by police as if being a kid on the street is a problem, or why, if they are a problem, they aren't being taken directly to their parents for discipline.
I don't know if this makes me old--but this dynamic is really weird to me. Aren't there any kids anymore who at least walk themselves to school or the local park from the age of nine or so like it's no big deal? Or are all the kids these days setting up play-dates and having fixed events like karate or Little League or scouting or whatever, instead of getting their knees dirty the old fashioned way?
* The Crest Movie Theatre was where I saw Star Wars, Grease, The Muppet Movie, Superman 1 & 2, and Ghostbusters. By the time Ice Pirates came out, I was sometimes going down to the Crest on my own. I also sometimes spent allowance money at the Dairy Queen a block down. I remember Rings Drugs and Oskars Drugs a block up the Ave like they were yesterday. They were the kind of old-school drug stores where Ludens Cough drops and Trident gum fought for space with Philly Blunts and Dutch Masters cigars. It was a different time.