Monday, May 17, 2010

...leave them at the park.

I think this is going to be the first official crosspost subject between my two blogs (I'll assume you've read the SPD post first, if not, click here next).  Ultimately, this post is an advertisement for:


Free-Range Kids is officially declaring Saturday, May 22 — the weekend before Memorial Day– the very first, “Take Our Children to the Park… And Leave Them There Day."
Just that. If our goal is to get kids back outside (it is), and playing together (it is), and for parents to relax (it is), and to start creating community again (it sure is!!!), then “Take Our Children to the Park… And Leave Them There Day” is a great first step.
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?
Now I've been going on about the Free-Range blog for a while now (and I bought the book).  But I never really clarified why I got on the Free-Range bandwagon in the first place.  So let me share (as I always do).

First, it's out of necessity as a single parent.  One thing I've discovered as my kids have learned how to climb and open and (more or less) operate everything in the house is that if I'm monitoring them every second, I really don't have any time to get shit done.  And on warm days, I'm confined to the outdoors.  And then there's their strategy of one running to the front, the other to the back.  Which means no sitting, getting anything done, shopping, etc.

I wasn't this way in the beginning, because I got all kinds of advice and a wall of products designed to keep babies perfectly safe and mentally stimulated so they can fart Mozart.  And it was tiring even before I pried the Succubus (aka my third child) off my leg.  And the constant need to be ever vigilant began to breed apathy in me.  Then they really got into exploring.  So my choices were either be a slave to their activities or change the equation.

So even before I discovered Lenore's Free-Range blog, I realized I had to work to get my children as independent as possible.  With my son's challenges (a fun diagnosis of atypical Autism), at 5, he's damned near impossible to watch every second (that whole circling the house thing).  Thankfully, that 4-year-old daughter of mine has a tendency to try mothering her big brother (even if he ignores her and knocks her down half the time).  And I've worked to set a difference between acceptable boundaries, unacceptable activities, and shit you will get into immediate and terrible trouble for no matter what (the street, hot stove, etc.).  And so far it's worked.  I won't go into absolute details, lest I leave a record for any future actions by children's services (as my lovely ex, the Succubus, is looking for ways to get out of paying child support (as in "can we talk about shared parenting?")).

But that includes letting them play outside without constant supervision.  And so far, despite what the news says, they haven't been snatched, raped, killed, and eaten (not necessarily in that order) by some Stranger Danger pedophile.  And outside of some rare chance, it's not something I worry about (as in when I can't locate a child, I don't assume that's the problem).  Which brings me to what happened to my philosophy as I became a convert to Free-Ranging.

Second, I grew up as a Free-Range Kid before it became a movement.  This is an important point.  I, as my father before me, and his father before him, cut that part of the umbilical cord early.  As in we were each equipped with the tools to stay marginally safe without parents hovering over us.  Those tools have evolved over the years of course with changes in society and technology, as have things can get into.  As in I don't think my kids are going to go to their grandfather's house to smoke (which is how said grandfather got started smoking when he was a kid), and they're more likely to dick with a computer and download violent shit than shoot .22 rifles in the basement (again, that's my dad).  But they're still interested in learning about stuff the adults are doing, then taking off to play without adults sitting on them all the time.

But children haven't really changed, and are just as capable as they have always been. Only now, in this generation, have we gotten so paranoid that we attempt to lock them in a properly-furnished playpens and feed them a perfect diet, and give them proper educational non-commercial toys and watch every mouse click and only let them watch certain channels at certain times less they hear the word damn (if that's the worst I ever heard from my kids, I'd be convinced they're deaf, considering they've heard me give free reign during a political speech).

So when I discovered a blog and philosophy that was something that I was already gravitating toward because I instinctively knew it was the right thing to do, there was no question it was something I would embrace (and when the kid get older, (because this was the reason I hated school for obvious reasons)).

Now, as for the 22nd:  I don't have the kids on Saturday, so I won't be participating.  However, were I able to, here's what I'd do.  There are a couple more kids nearby, one conveniently in between my to in age, another school age.  That's four kids, the youngest of which (mine) I'd trust to stay without an adult as long as she was with older kids.  And the oldest seems to be fairly competent (although with some helicoptering issues).  And we happen to be a small town with no actual known predators (either animal or stranger danger (I checked, 3 registered, none a threat to kids)).  In two years, I suspect the kids and I will all be ready to do it.  After all, they're pretty damned capable already.

Considering I just had to remind that 4-year-old of knife safety as she lopped the top off another unwashed strawberry all by herself....


  1. Just a thought...instead of take your kids to the park, let them ride their bikes. My park is relatively close and no super busy streets to cross so just go crazy and let kids ride their bikes! That's what I do! Of course with a 9 year old you can send them to the store and cool stuff like that!

  2. That's my plan when they get old enough....


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