Freedom and Fun in Downtown Palo Alto

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by Alex

[Note: Alex is a student at Palo Alto High School. We parents can learn a lot from his perspective.]

In my freshman year of high school my parents gave me much more independence. I guess they finally decided it was time to let go and let me join my new, mostly older friends on their adventures around town. We could now roam the streets without someone telling us what to do. At first we weren’t sure what to do to entertain ourselves.

We had always been pretty much under the control of adults, who would bring us to specific activities where we knew what was going to happen before we got there. Now, all of this was suddenly taken away, and we were lost. Eventually we realized that we don’t have to do something conventional, that our only guidelines are our physical limits. This realization marks for me the beginning of what I consider the most creative time in my life. We did everything imaginable using our suburban surroundings. Probably my most vivid memory of our made-up games is bagel dodge ball. About seven of my friends and I were wandering around downtown Palo Alto early one evening and decided that we should check out the alleyways behind stores. We scavenged around for a while and finally found that the dumpster behind House of Bagels was filled with giant trash bags of abandoned bagels. So, we grabbed a bag because we were kind of hungry and thought that maybe we could also do something fun with them. We ended up in the courtyard behind Citibank, and just then, it started to rain. The rain inspired us to take all of the bagels out of the bag and throw them at each other. It broke out into a full out game of dodge ball with wet soggy bagels.

I think I remember this game the most because of my mom’s reaction when I got home with clothes covered in mushy bagel. But it was all worth it, because we had done something that probably no one else had done, and had a blast doing it. This was just one out of many many nights and many, many games.

I only wish that I had been given this freedom earlier, to expand my creativity and have more fun. My parents seem to have learned their lesson with my younger siblings. They allow my nine year old brother to go out and play with friends after school (not on play dates, just mess around outside), and they let my twelve-year-old sister go to Town and Country Village and downtown with her friends.

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