Friday, March 13, 2015

Free-Range Kids? Or trip to the Pen?

I can't help but comment on the resent arrest of a mother, Danielle Meitiv, for letting her two children walk home from the park by themselves.  A 10 year old with a six year old.  Do I know the 'whole situation'?  No, I don't.  I only know what the media is sharing... but I've seen it before...  

Remember the mom arrested for letting her 9 year old be at the park alone while she worked at McDonalds.  The Florida mom who let a 7 year old walk to the neighborhood park...

It makes me so sad to think that we live in a time when our kids have to be in our sight, in our arms, all the time.

I let EG wander the park by herself.  We have a large park around the corner, and when we go to Anderson park, I sit on the bench with Ocho and let EG wander around.  I keep an eye on her, she knows she needs to check in every few minutes.  I let her climb the ladders, go on the swings, do it all without her mom right there.

Has she fallen?  Yes.  Has she gotten hurt?  Yes.  Do I think I'm doing anything wrong?  No.

I even let her play outside in the front, unfenced yard, by herself while I go in to check on dinner.  Do I think this is neglect, hell no.

I would be lying if I didn't say that some parents look at me strangely.  Some of them worry and wonder about me and my kiddos.  My favorite is when other parents try to help my kid climb something- something she is perfectly capable of doing on her own.  Honestly, if she can't do it herself, then you helping her is just setting her up for misery and a bigger fall down the line... but I digress.

Kids need to be independent.   It's a skill we find very, very important.  We've worked hard to create children who are self-motivated, independent thinkers and players.  People who can rely on themselves when they need something, and know when they need help.

I'm just so overwhelmed by the idea that there is an attack on parents.  In most of these cases, another adult called the police about the children.  The police didn't just wander over, they were called there because someone else called them.  Another parent, a concerned bystander. When did a child being alone become neglect?  It's not like these kids didn't know who they were.  They were each very reasonable children, who felt safe, who were safe, until some stranger started asking them odd questions.  

Working Dad and I have been in a disagreement about EG and Ocho.  I'm of the opinion that EG can help 'watch' Ocho, but if Ocho does something wrong, the responsibility/blame lies with the child who did the wrong doing, not the child who is doing the watching.  My opinion is that it won't really ever be possible for EG to have 'responsibility' for her sister who is only two years younger.  They are too close in age to really have that type of relationship.

He feels differently, that if EG is 'babysitting' then if Ocho writes on the walls it's EG's fault.  He believes that there will come a time when EG will watch Ocho.  Of course, it's totally irrelevant at almost 3 and almost 1.

It seems like our parents had it easier.  I remember walking to the 'park' around the corner from my house back when the park was just an empty lot frequented by high school skateboarders.  They didn't even build the park until 1991.  Which means that I was a 6 year old hanging around in a dirt lot with my 8 year old sister.  Apparently CPS should have arrested my parents.

I think the hardest part about all of this is that the rules are totally arbitrary.  Here in CA there is no law about when you can leave a child alone.  No laws about when a child is old enough to babysit.  And I'm not saying there should be.  However, sometimes it's nice to have it be black and white- then you at least know where you stand.

I wish that my Sister-in-Law, who home schools, didn't have to be so worried about sending her kiddos to the local park.  That she won't really let them out of the house during 'school' hours, despite their home school status because she worries about them being approached by a police officer and getting into trouble.  The kind of trouble it's really hard to get out of.

I believe in letting my child be independent.  Here's hoping I'm not the next tragic CPS case.

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