Douthat's ultimate focus is on the the governmental social safety net (free childcare, food stamps, etc.) and whether conservatives have an adequate compassionate response in their desire for a more limited government intervention. But what particularly resonated with me is his noting the far from subtle societal shift--in just a few decades--from a society in which children could freely roam about whole city neighborhoods to one where children always need to be under the watchful eye of a parent or guardian.
Now, I'm far from suggesting that children should have free rein to wander at will. In fact, I've done a little reading that suggests that the supposedly romantic era of the thirties and forties involved gangs of children terrorizing homeless people and causing general mayhem. That said, Rosemary and I have always yearned for a place where our children would have the ability to be outside, to run, and to be, well, kids. After the Dallas years, where we had a few fenced acres, last year in the Wake Forest rental with a tiny yard was particularly hard. So, the Shire has been a particular blessing. Though we're still lacking a fence for the front yard, the boys have the ability to roam more freely than they have for a long time. It's amazing what they think of and what they get in to. Sure, Cyprian has learned the hard way that poison ivy is not his friend, and Cletus has discovered that dancing on the sandy abodes of red ants isn't always the wisest. But here's a few pictures in praise of unfettered, free-range boyhood.