I am always amazed whenever I see youngsters out in the streets after 10 pm, especially on school nights. At first, it seemed as though there were only boys who were out ‘roaming’ the streets at what I feel are inappropriate times. But, girls are out there, too. The average age of these children is about 14-16 years. That’s too young to be out at night and wandering aimlessly, it seems.
They are adolescents who think that they are mature enough to be out alone after dark, and/or they need no real supervision, because, ” I’m almost an adult!”, or “All of my other friends will be going!” The surprising part of such scenarios is that parents either let their children go out on school nights at all, or any night at their ages unaccompanied, or their authority has been undermined due to years of slowly losing that parental grasp that parents possess.
First of all, I do realize and acknowledge the myriad of life tasks that many parents must perform or navigate in addition to parenting duties. Work schedules, single parent households, younger children, and many other challenges, including personal, can interfere with parenting duties and responsibilities. Some children have siblings who fall under their daily care due to economical reasons, such as lack of affordable childcare options. I understand all of the hats parents and their children may wear.
However, parents were adolescents too, and we remember when we thought we knew all that we needed to engage the world. In fact, I remember when, as a child, I had to be in the house before the ‘street lights came on’ or else. What happened to that type of structure and parental expectations? I have sneaked our of the house, too. But, this is a different day and time, and we have been there. We know the types of trouble that can find amazing ways to test a child’s capacity to safely escape harm.
I was fortunate in that I grew up in a safe and largely middle class community. The operative term when I was growing up is-community. What is sadly missing from society for the large part, is the sense of community and the ownership that adults take for what happens in their community, and what happens with the children in their community. I had neighbors who cared. They informed parents about the random sightings of a neighbor’s child, especially if the times of sighting was during regular school hours, after dark, and too late for children to be away from the safety of the home.
The ‘neighborhood watch’, were adults, grandmothers, aunts and uncles. They were usually the women of the community, because at that time, women were not compelled to work outside of the home. Many did, but many did not-they were at home or close to home.
Quick story: I started driving very young, and allowed to drive my grandparents’ cars long before I was eligible for a driver’s license or permit. So, on Sundays, I was allowed to drive the Cadillac to church, and on occasion the truck. Mind you, both were new cars, and that made trust an especially important part of the deal. OK! So, about 13 years old, I had the truck one Sunday, but instead of driving to Sunday school and then church, I picked up my girlfriend to take her to a store-a Kmart. I don’t recall whether I had money, though I always did, but, we went into this store looking at cosmetics, makeup.
She wanted some Eyeshadow. She nudged me to just take something and put it in my purse without paying for it. Terrified of getting caught, knowing it was wrong, I left the store. My girlfriend came behind me. We made our way back to the car. I didn’t know that she had taken that eye shadow[ worth about $2.00]despite my insistence that we do not take anything. I was horrified, and felt just as guilty as if I had stolen it myself. Here we are, two teenaged girls, who had just stolen from a Kmart. A Kmart??? All the way home, I was so very paranoid, just waiting to be apprehended by the police. It was the longest drive in my life, at that point.
How could I explain this if my grandparents found out! I was supposed to be in church, and wasn’t, and the heaviest part was that I was never allowed to shop in a Kmart, ever.And, I was with a girl considered by many adults as ‘fast’, if you know what that means. I was certain that my life was over. And, worse than that, too, my grandmother owned her own neighborhood store. The stores she frequented were literally the very best in the city, and she would kill me when she found out that it was a $2.00 item from a Kmart. I was surely dead, a criminal, and would never be given any car again.
Besides being fearful of the police slapping handcuffs on me and carting me off to prison, I was also afraid that someone would see me and tell where I was spotted, and that meant more trouble. That day, God smiled and Jesus Christ probably said to him/her, ” Forgive them for they know not what they do!”
My mom always said to me that God watches over babies and fools!” I was a fool, and still pretty much a baby. I vowed to be a fool no more. Life is funny! In today’s world, my girlfriend and I would probably have been followed around that store upon entry, even though it was a Kmart, and although we may not have fit the ‘profile’. But, that’s a story for a different day.
Parents, remember where your children are, where you were at their age, and then be clear in judgment: Get them indoors before the ‘street lights come on’!