Erica is a writer, editor, wife, and mom. She has always found employment with an English degree and she excels at nurturing children and animals but struggles to keep houseplants alive. Erica currently writes at

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Playing In the Street

It started two years ago, when the people down the way let their 2-year-old twins play in the street.  The mom decided the best way to protect her kids was to spray paint SLOW DOWN!!! with dotted lines on the pavement.  The city cleaned up the mess by adding black paint.


Then there was a lull, where it seemed that my kids were the only ones outside.  They play in our cul-de-sac and scurry to the sidewalk when we yell “Car!”

And then September happened.  About a dozen 2-to-6-year-olds suddenly emerged from their basements.  It’s a blessing turned rotten.  Friends are good.  Playing in the street is bad.

Daily, the kids congregate in the street while the moms loosely keep watch.  Or the moms go inside and suddenly I’m left with all the kids.  One problem is that most of these kids don’t budge when a car comes, and also don’t listen when someone yells for them to move.  They’re in the street with cars rounding a blind corner into them.  I can’t make a supervision schedule to share the load because my 2-year-old wanders away and I can’t trust the chatty-Cathys to watch him, and also I don’t want to be responsible for kids who aren’t car savvy.

It’s frustrating because my kids want to play, too.  But I don’t want my kids thinking that playing in the street is ok.  Also, I do not have time to stand watch from 3-7pm.  I have no idea what the other moms do or don’t do that they can stand around chatting for almost four hours, but I can’t do it.

No really, I mentally can’t do it.  Even without work and dinner, it drives me insane.

So what do I do?  Say “no you can’t play outside,” or “yes you can play outside but you need to stay 200 feet away from those kids and play where I tell you,” or just suck it up and join the fray with an eagle eye on my kids.

Because for now, that’s where I am.  Standing on the curb with my head bouncing from one kid to another to oncoming traffic.  Yay for friends.  Playing in the street is so fun.


How would you handle this situation?  What is your neighborhood frustration?


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Comments (11)

  1. Pingback: Really Playing With Kids « « TodaysMama TodaysMama

  2. Christine 10/24/2011 at 2:08 pm

    I am SO in the same situation. I feel bad for my son because the majority of the time, I have too much to do inside and therefore, he can’t play outside. All the other little kids are running around outside unsupervised and I won’t let him out there with them. I thought I was the only one with this dilemma (I was attributing it to being a hover-mom); glad to know I’m not alone.

  3. Erin Oltmanns 10/17/2011 at 8:12 pm

    I am no help. I live on a corner and people drive WAY too fast around it. My husband once threw a shovel into the middle of the road when a car was approaching too quickly.

    Playing in the street isn’t an option around here.

    But, the chatty mom/group play does occur occasionally. I just don’t go out front if I don’t have time to chat/police the proximity to the road. My girl is JUST starting to get the whole “road = danger” thing. She was a runner. That was a blast last winter when I was massively pregnant.

  4. Christy 10/17/2011 at 10:01 am

    I feel your pain, Erica! Whoever thought playing outside would be so much work?? There’s been days where I’ve been outside watching kids for 7 hours straight. Sometimes, I entertain the idea of going back to work full time, just so that the kids can play with friends outside without me having to standing there the whole time.

    But on the other hand, (as a chatty cathy!) I try to make the best of it and have really enjoyed getting to know my neighbors. I’ve lived here 8 years and have only recently met some of them!

    My house stays a wreck, the laundry is usually backed up and most nights we have sandwiches and soup for dinner because I can’t get away to cook. But I keep telling myself, this phase of life will go by pretty quick. I hope…

    I think things are improving a bit on our street. Maybe it’s the yield sign that I put out? Even though I’ve been told by a city planner that I’m not supposed to “control the flow of traffic”. Parents and Grandparents seem to be a bit more aware.

  5. Shandra 10/17/2011 at 9:19 am

    I would be frustrated with that situation too. I send my kids (ages 2-6 1/2) out to play by themselves. BUT they know that if I catch them in the street they are in BIG trouble. Playing in the street means that you can’t be trusted to be outside and you lose that privilege. My 6 1/2 year old gets put in charge of watching her brothers and tattling if there’s a problem. (I figure she’s good at it, we should put it to use!) It’s tough to know that other kids (and parents!) are being irresponsible and I would honestly talk to the parents about it. It’s not okay for kids to be playing with no realistic supervision if you have a blind corner. There’s a man in my neighborhood who accidentally ran over his 2 year old. It was 30+ years ago and it STILL hurts him every time he thinks about it and the fact that taking the time to slow down and walk around his car would have saved the child’s life. How would these women feel if they were standing RIGHT THERE when someone came around the corner and hit a child, especially if it were their child?

  6. Jennifer D. 10/17/2011 at 9:07 am

    First, I might see if the city can put up a sign or speed bumps or you could also get one of those “kids playing” things from Toys R Us. They look like a turtle holding a flag to me, but it might help get peoples attention. Second, I would NOT be responsible for the other kids, especially since you have a two year old. If you are “friends” with the other moms, I would explain to them that since your two year old likes to run amok (I have a 17 month old so I feel you!) that you can’t watch their kids the way they need to be watched. I would also explain to my older child that just because so and so gets to do that, our family has different rules. My daughter is 7 and has heard that LOTS regarding the kids in our neighborhood.

    We have a similar issue here on our street. We live behind my daughter’s elementary school where 900+ kids attend K-2nd. At the end of the day the traffic is a nightmare, so lots of parents have figured out to park on our dead end street to pick up their kids. We have seen MANY near misses between the kids and cars. Yet, no one will do anything. I have contacted our HOA, the police and even the school board to no avail. I sincerely think no one is going to do anything until a child gets hurt. No one wants to take the responsibility.

  7. Belladune 10/17/2011 at 8:50 am

    oy. I completely understand your frustration. I only ever let my kids out back, safely tucked in the fence. I’ll let other kids in the back with them, but feel kind of like the babysitter and as though I should send a bill. I wouldn’t send my kids over to some of these kids houses, because I know no one will be watching them. Good luck!

  8. Carina Wytiaz 10/17/2011 at 8:39 am

    Man, this is so tough. My street, while a through street, is quiet and straight–you can see cars from far away and they drive really slowly. So while I don’t encourage my kids to play in the street, they can ride their bikes or get a ball and it will probably be OK.

    I don’t even know what to say in your case! Blind curve? Proper street awareness in kids? Bad examples? I don’t think I’d allow it either.

    • Erica Fehrman 10/17/2011 at 8:54 am

      Also — besides occasional traffic, we have some other neighbors who think driving 30mph through the kids is a good way to teach them a lesson. All-around scariness, I tell you.

      • Shandra 10/17/2011 at 9:23 am

        The fact that other adults are trying to “teach them a lesson” should be brought up with the city! A few times of having a cop sitting there should be enough to slow them down. It is NOT the responsibility of drivers to teach kids that kind of lesson and they WILL hurt a child as a result of them trying to be a know-it-all! That’s RIDICULOUS and NOT adult behavior!

        • Steffb 10/17/2011 at 9:05 pm

          Maybe the cops should tell the moms/kids to get out of the street…