Ode to children of the outdoors | Nandell Palmer

I have been watching two groups of children in my neighborhood, and it gives me much joy to see myself as an 11-year-old boy living vicariously through them.

Rain or shine, winter, spring, summer or fall, you will always find them on the street. They seem to rise early and go to bed late.

One group is made up of boys and the other is comprised of girls. Occasionally, they merge, but most times each group dances to the beat of its own drum.

During the summer, the girls ride bikes and jump ropes, then while away under shade trees and banter each other.

Most often than not, you will see the boys in groups of 10, but at times their numbers would dwindle down to two.

No ands, ifs or buts — it’s downright difficult to be a child in today’s society. Children not only face societal pressures from their peers, but many face pressures from their own parents who force them to grow up before their time.

What I like most of all about the relationship among these kids is that in this day and age, when everything and then some is vying for our children’s attention, they are content in just being themselves. They are living each day as “normal” children.

Parents have all the rights in the world to worry about their progeny. Their fears are real as predators and sex offenders abound in various communities.

While parents should be guarded about the safety of their children, a child’s existence should never be centered on fear.

I am so delighted that the children in my community are enjoying the outdoors. Boys fix bikes, make toys, go from house to house, and make fast friends with new kids around the way.

Some wrestle each other, while others play stickball, shoot hoops, wave to passing cars and chase squirrels.

Apple trees and cherry trees are never too tall for them to climb. And if they had to use sticks and stones to aid them in harvesting their fruits, they will resort to those means.

Neighbors employ their services to walk their dogs or do basic chores like unloading grocer bags from cars.

The children can tell you which family is away on vacation or which mother is in the maternity hospital, delivering her baby. They can tell you who is a good fisherman or whose aunty is a drunk.

I am told that the ice cream vendors know them by name. And sometimes when they are out of money, the vendors would either credit them or give them the creamy treats for free.

One thing I can vouch for. If they possess XBoxes, PlayStations and other games to which boys are drawn, those machines would be as good as new.

What time possibly would they have to play those things when they spend so few hours inside the house? Their PE teachers must be very proud of them.

Medical experts have long touted the benefits children gain from unstructured outdoor free play.

Some experts see outdoor activities as the panacea to the burgeoning child obesity dilemma facing America today.

Still others, in a more subtle form, have found that free-playing children tend to be smarter, more outgoing and far more cooperative.

How I wish that my boys were young enough to indulge more in nature’s greatest pastime.

Would that mean their sacrificing 20,000 text messages a month to climb apple trees and cherry trees? Not in a million years!

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