Last Friday night (no, this isn’t the beginning of a Katy Perry song) I did something that I have done in one variation or another on many a Friday night. I ended up hanging out in my driveway with a group of neighbors while the kids took over the street and yards around us.
Some are old friends, some were neighbors I don’t yet know well, but it was just one of those nights when things happen organically and suddenly the streets are filled with marauding youngsters wielding bikes and noise.
Pizza was ordered, delivered, eaten. Drinks were filled and refilled. Chairs and picnic blankets were dragged out. It was easy and fun and I got some great adult time while my kids got to feel free, riding their bikes and hanging out with the neighborhood children, playing imaginatively from daylight to dark.
To me, with all the planned activities and other things we do for our kids, it is nights like these I think they’ll remember — the freedom, the unplanned fun, a group of children of all ages who usually wouldn’t spend time together.
To me, it’s the defining picture of childhood. I sit and watch the kids on their bikes, the little ones newly off their training wheels, the older ones zooming around, everyone surging over to the older kid’s yard when he and his friends come outside to throw a football. It is pure play, unblemished by technology or TV. The parents get a break and the kids get to be independent, with us adults staying on the sidelines unless our involvement is demanded by fights or danger.
I watched as my daughter, new to two-wheel bike riding but with the confidence of Lance Armstrong, went too fast and hit the sidewalk, flipping over her handlebars. Before I even got up, the fifth-grade boys had rushed over. She was unscathed, but it touched me how kids who would usually have no interaction could bond and how sweet kids could be to each other (something not in evidence inside the house between my son and daughter).
I love these nights as much as my kids do. I love having no schedule, no homework to supervise or dinner to make, watching the daylight turn into evening. And the best part is getting to not only hang out with friends I already have but to also get to know people who live nearby but whom I’ve only had surface interactions with.
It makes me feel as if we’re all in this together, as if we’re connected, a neighborhood, a community. People walk by and end up staying a while. It’s just something I cherish. It’s nights like these that make me feel I’ve done something wonderful for my kids just by living here in Dunwoody. And as the cold descends and we all retreat inside, I will miss these carefree evenings.
Lauren Menis is a Dunwoody mother whose column appears in The Crier each month. You can reach Lauren at Lauren.Menis@gmail.com.