There are seven kids in my backyard right now. Four boys and three girls, ranging in age from 4 to 10. Most of them just appeared, by biking around the block or by climbing the fence at the edge of the yard.

They’re hard to see but there’s one on the trampoline, two on the monkey bars and four in the treehouse.

And it’s not just today. Almost every afternoon, Braedan brings one or two friends home from Fairfax, racing down the block with backpacks slung over their shoulders. Then another one or two (or sometimes four) neighborhood kids will appear, usually on their bikes, which lay scattered over our driveway.  The remaining daylight hours are filled with laughter and screeches as they jump, climb, slide, swing, bike, kick, chase, or scoot from the back to the front and back again.

I love this. I love that few of them are preplanned playdates, with drop-offs and pick-ups.  I love that I can glance out my kitchen window and check on them when I can’t tell if the screams are of pleasure or pain (they’re usually of pleasure), but can also just let them go, trusting that they’ll find me if they really need me. It reminds me of my own childhood when all the neighborhood kids played together, no matter our age, endless twilight hours of Ghost in the Graveyard.

This is how it’s supposed to be.