The situation is out of control. Did you read the story about the mom who was arrested because her daughter was at the park alone? Cliff notes:
Mom works at McDonald’s. 9 year old kid sits at Mcdonald’s while mom works. Kid begs mom to go to the park nearby. Mom gives kid a cell phone. Kid goes to park. “Good Samaritan” sees kid alone and calls the cops. Mom gets arrested. Kid goes into foster care. And they all live happily…wait, nope that’s not right.
Or what about the parents who were investigated for allowing their daughter to walk to the post office? These are just two examples out of many.
Are we so far removed from the days when kids left on their bikes in the morning and didn’t come home til the streetlamps came on that we call the cops on parents before knowing the full story? Most of these stories are not about neglected children. The kids are well taken care of, given a cell phone and allowed to head to a neighborhood park for an hour or two.
Listen, I don’t know if I would trust my 9 yr old to go to the park alone, but not because of stranger danger. I would worry about the other people at the park….and the park itself. My 9 yr old is a bit mischievous.
I don’t know the kids in these stories. I don’t know the parents. I also don’t know the area in which they were “left.” All of those things are factors in how I would handle the situation. What I do know is that kids from the 70’s and 80’s were left to their own devices ALL DAY and we not only survived; we thrived. We had street smarts. We gained self confidence and independence. We knew how to entertain ourselves. And yes, we also all have a story or two about the “strange man down the street.”
I worry that the kids today, my kids, are too supervised, too protected, and don’t get the opportunity to explore and use their instincts. I’m trying to find a balance. I don’t want fear to raise my kids. And now while I’m attempting to find that balance, I have to worry about police showing up at my door.
Is it more dangerous today than when I was growing up? It seems all the 24/7 “bad news” is having quite an impact on us but is the threat real? I don’t think so. I think now we are so afraid of the 10% chance that we forget to focus on the 90% chance that it won’t happen.
Like I said, I’m working on a balance. I’m going to squash that lump in my throat when I say yes, you can walk to the neighbor’s house without me watching you. I’m not going to sit out front when I agree to let the kids play in their own front yard. Hell, I may even get crazy and let them ride their bike around the block by themselves! Try not to judge me too harshly.
And if you happen to see my kid, alone but happy, please don’t call the cops. (Unless that cop comes to my house with his own boombox.)