Do You Leave Your Kids Alone at the Playground?
In the face of rampant parental paranoia, Lenore Skenazy, author of Free Range Kids, is declaring May 22 “Take Your Kids to the Park … and Leave Them There” day. Will you be participating?
Inspired by “Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day,” Lenore Skenazy, who created the “free range” parenting movement when she allowed her nine-year-old son to take the subway home by himself and then wrote about it, has suggested a new take on this day. She has proposed that May 22 be declared “Take Our Children to the Park … and Leave Them There Day.”
Full disclosure—I am a huge fan of Lenore’s. While I may be more of a “helicopter” parent than I care to admit, I do aspire to her free range thinking—I just can’t always walk the walk. For example, my nine-year-old son—just this morning—asked me if I could drop him off at the soccer field fifteen minutes early. I looked at him as if he asked me to leave him in a dark alley alone and said NO WAY. What a shame. For me, and those even more paranoid and filled with stranger-danger, here’s what Lenore is proposing:
Across the country—what the heck, across the world—parents will converge upon local playgrounds and parks with their school-age kids. They will tell them to have fun, make friends and don’t leave with anyone. Then the parents will wave goodbye and the kids will amuse themselves for whatever amount of time they’ve decided with their folks. An hour. A morning. Or maybe even just half an hour, to get used to the whole thing, which, admittedly, sounds radical. But is it?
The crime rate in America is back to where it was in the early ‘70s. Crime was going up then, and it peaked around twenty years later. By the mid ‘90s it was coming down and continues to do so. So the strange fact—very hard to digest—is that if YOU were playing outside in the ‘70s or ‘80s, your kids today are safer than you were! I know it doesn’t feel that way. In fact, here’s an interesting poll about how the majority of people feel crime is going up when actually it’s going down.
But anyway, the point is that most of us used to play outside in the park, without our parents, without cell phones, without Purell or bottled water and we survived! Thrived! We cherish the memories! And if you believe the million studies that I’m always publishing here, kids are healthier, happier and better-adjusted if they get to spend some time each day in “free play,” without adults hovering.
I know there will be shrill voices insisting, “Predators are gonna love this holiday!” but keep a level head. Crime is down. Awareness is up. There is safety in numbers, which means getting kids outside again, together. This won’t happen until we actually start doing it.
So spread the word and be not afraid. Free-range kids never says there is no risk in the world, only that the risk is small and worth taking as it always has been. The trade-off is kids who make up games, who solve problems, who discover nature and get moving (to coin a phrase). Kids who don’t need a screen to entertain them. Playing outside, on their own, is what kids all over the world do. We have forgotten how vital and wonderful it is.
I admit—I might give this a try. But most likely I’ll be sitting in my car across the street keeping a watchful eye. What about you? Would you leave your kids at the park alone? Is Lenore onto something here or just a little crazy?
For more Free Range Parenting advice, visit Lenore’s blog.
Originally published on truuconfessions.com