Suffield Observations

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On “Walking Up”

Andy Sauer

It was a Friday afternoon, and I was headed to the Kent Memorial Library. It was a beautiful spring day, the kind that invites everyone to take in our bucolic town.

Outside the library, there was a gaggle of a dozen kids, about 13 years old, whose behavior scorched the otherwise placid environs of a place that demands silence. The scene was chaotic. Two kids were wrestling, and the others were retreating in absolute amusement, screaming profanities with little regard to anyone within listening distance, no matter how old they were.

Perhaps you’ve witnessed this kind of mayhem. This particular episode occurred in 2005 at roughly 3:30 p.m. The year is not as important as the time, for the behavior is a reflection of the age, but the time is a consequence of the local phenomena known as “walking up.”

Any Suffield parent with children older than 11 is familiar with “walking up.” It’s when middle school students upon dismissal walk up Mountain Road to one of the establishments in town that attract kids, and there are not many. After an hour or so, many are picked up by their parents. The remainder, however small, drift to the next part of town in search of anything to stem the boredom, much to the chagrin of just about everyone around.

My middle-school-aged kids always asked (and ask) to “walk up,” but I was a hard “no.” I know all too well the blockhead from which they were chipped (me), and I am all too familiar, regretfully, with the temptations and trouble that unrestricted freedom enables.

I have no data to support this, but you don’t see a lot of high school-aged kids “walking up.” That may be a reflection of having more to do, such as homework, sports practice, work or the ability to drive somewhere else.

Well, state law prohibits 13-year-olds from driving and obtaining working papers, but kids could take advantage of the extracurricular activities at the middle school. Or, maybe their homework load could be doubled.

I bring all this up because my 8th-grade daughter has been asking to “walk up” a lot lately, and it’s wearing me down. She’s a lot different than I was at her age: She’s an honors student and committed to a ton of extracurricular activities. She’s responsible and helps out at home. I guess she’s earned the freedom she’s requested.

So, I’ll let her “walk up” once in a while. Maybe on those days, I’ll stop by the library or stroll around town.

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