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On Her 100th Birthday: Author Beverly Cleary Feels Bad For Modern Kids

Photograph by Twenty20

Author Bevery Cleary turns 100 on April 12. The well-known author of the Ramona Quimby Ralph S. Mouse and many, many others, has seen a lot in her century of years.

She was recently interviewed in the Washington Post and, what struck me the most, was what she said about kids today.

"I think children today have a tough time, because they don't have the freedom to run around as I did—and they have so many scheduled activities," Cleary told reporter Nora Krug.

That's exactly what I've been saying. I wanted to high five her through the article.

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My oldest is almost 10, and this idea of freedom and independence has been on my mind a lot. He's beginning to butt heads with us, to push us, just as he should. I want to tell him to go get lost at a friend's house down the street, but I can't. We live in a city and drive to a private school. Even local kids who attend the neighborhood public school are not out walking around. I mean if you seen one, it's on par with spotting a shooting star, it's that rare.

I understand that living in Los Angeles is challenging that way. We are spread out—way out. We also hold the "capital of hit-and-runs" title, which is, honestly, my biggest concern with letting my kids walk around our neighborhood.

Cleary goes on to say that in her youth, "… mothers did not work outside the home; they worked on the inside. And because all the mothers were home—99 percent of them, anyways—all mothers kept their eyes on all the children."

Boom.

The Village.

The tribe I know a lot of us long for.

I feel like sometimes, in our age of feminism, we forget to talk about what we lose when moms can't or don't say home. I cringe just saying that.

I reached out to an old childhood friend who grew up in the same neighborhood I did and where we used to have all the freedom in the world when we were 12. Her kids are still a bit younger than this, but she said she does not give them the freedom we had. She also doesn't see kids running around like we did. Ironically, she has seen some kids out and about because their parents have given them iPhones so they can keep tabs on them.

"I, possibly naively, am not afraid of strangers or getting snatched up," she said. "I am super nervous about them getting hit by a car crossing the street. That's my beef—a distracted driver hitting them on their way to the park."

I am right there with my friend.

I, too, want my kids to have more freedom. But even when I give it to them, it's hard to find friends to play with, because they are all scheduled up the wazoo.

I'm curious: Is anyone out there letting their kids roam like we all used to?

Anyone?

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Last thing: Cleary's comment on stay-at-home moms is interesting. I feel like sometimes, in our age of feminism, we forget to talk about what we lose when moms can't or don't say home. I cringe just saying that. I love being able to work one-quarter of the time. I'm a work-at-home mom. But I can't do the patrolling alone. I wish I had more friends who were home, not just to see if our presence could create more freedom for our kids, but because I see how stressed out my friends who work full time and have kids are.

Well, anyway, I have always enjoyed listening to what my elders have to say. Thanks for sharing and happy birthday, Beverly Cleary.

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Photograph courtesy of HarperCollins

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