How to give your kids a '50s summer

How to give your kids a '50s summer

I witnessed something yesterday that warmed the cockles of my cold, dead heart.

I took the kids to a park out in the suburbs, doesn't matter which one. The park was big and rambling and had a large pond right in the center of it. We'd been to this park several times; but during our last two visits, we witnessed something astounding -- fishing. Kids fishing.

Yesterday there were three fisherboys. One was about eight, and he was there with (I think) his brother and his cousin, who were probably around twelve. They were there alone, and they were fishing. For hours. They told us they had been there the day before as well. The eight-year-old had caught a crayfish that day and had planned to use it as bait, until his bratty (his word) cousin knocked it off his hook.

My kids, who have never been fishing because their mother is an indoor cat who doesn't like slimy things, were entranced by these boys. My son wanted to follow them everywhere they went, asking questions about the worms and the lures and how they knew where the fish would be. My daughter found a long stick and sat on a tree stump. "I'm fishing," she told me.

We stayed there for almost an hour, just watching these boys work. They caught three small fish in our presence, hemming and hawing about the safest way to get them off the hook and release them back into the pond. They came with poles and tackle boxes and a grandmother who let them be, but drove by in her minivan every so often just to check on them.

This, I remember thinking, is the fucking life. This is what you want for your kid. You want them to have the autonomy to be in a park by themselves, respecting nature and life, solving problems, cooperating with one another, and being polite to the strange woman with the two children and so many questions. You want them to be in a safe place where they can be left alone because you know the community, the people walking or running on the trail around the park, will be watching out for them. The sad part is how remarkable all this felt to me.

We malign kids so much for spending too much time in front of the TV or playing too many video games or bullying one another on the internet. We fret about running into youths on the street who are probably up to no good, but here was a group of boys behaving exactly the way you'd want a group of kids to behave if you set them free in the world for a day.

Now I guess I need to buy a fishing pole.

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