Why Tho? As weather warms, you’ll see kids outdoors. No need to call the cops

woman in glasses

Lizzy Acker, Why Tho? advice columnist.Destiny Johnson/The Oregonian

Dear readers,

On a sunny day this weekend, I took a long walk with my daughter. She’s four years old now, and, as I walked and she rode her push bike, I kept thinking about her first spring, when we didn’t leave the house or if we did leave, we didn’t stop to chat with anyone, or play on the playground. Instead, we crossed the street to give other people a wide berth. And then her second spring, when she was older and we were still crossing the street, still seeing friends from six feet across our backyard.

In some ways, this is only the second real spring of her life, which is either beautiful or sad, but she doesn’t care. She was zooming around, taking breaks to swing on the sidewalk-adjacent swings that dot our neighborhood.

It also occurred to me, after witnessing a few surprising things, that maybe everyone else is living like this is only their second-ever real spring. Maybe we all need a refresher course on how to live side-by-side in the world together, now that the weather is so nice. Here are four rules for us all to follow, so we can have a great spring with each other in the wild.

1. Don’t pick the flowers.

My thoughts on picking fruit are layered and complex, but that is a debate for the summer. In the spring, there is no debate: Do not pick people’s flowers!

Flowers are for everyone to enjoy and many people put a lot of effort into their flowers. Pick a dandelion if you want, or a daisy in the park, but flowers in people’s yards and parking strips are 100% absolutely off-limits.

2. Leash your dog.

There are two places dogs can be off-leash outside in the city: Your fenced backyard and off-leash dog parks. Don’t let your dog just sit, leash-less, in the front yard, especially if you’re not around. Don’t let your dog off-leash at a playground. Don’t let your dog off-leash on a hiking path with a “no off-leash dogs sign.”

I know you think your dog is so nice. I know you trust your dog. But: Not all dogs are nice. It’s quite possible that another dog will bite yours. And also, a lot of people (me included) have been attacked by dogs and feel that awful fight-or-flight feeling if a dog starts running at them barking.

Just leash your dog, OK? And, while you’re at it, clean up its poop and don’t just leave the bag on the sidewalk.

3. Unleash your kids.

While your dog is your responsibility, I think all kids are all our responsibilities. We should encourage and support kids roaming free. Be nice! Don’t call the cops just because you see a couple kids playing together without an adult.

We really, really need to get our kids off devices and out of the house whenever possible. Especially these kids, all of whom, if you’re seeing them outside, spent two years indoors.

So drive slowly through neighborhoods, smile at kids when you see them and model good, outside-the-house behavior.

And, if you see a kid being annoying when you’re out eating dinner, remember, they are just learning to be human and believe me, you want them to learn.

4. Keep your judgments to yourself, or the group text.

Does someone wearing a mask at the grocery store make you uncomfortable? Does a teen girl in booty shorts bring on a desire to give a lecture on feminism? Does a pale, doughy, shirtless man fill you with rage? Close your eyes (do not roll them) and take a deep breath. Remember: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

And then, feel free to text your friends about it, as long as you can keep the judgment off your face.

Good luck and happy spring!


Have a burning question? Send me an email at lacker@oregonian.com or tweet @lizzzyacker! Or, if you want to ask me a question with total anonymity, use this Google form.

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