25 May
Mouthing Off: Take Your Kids to the Park and Leave Them There Day Nonsense

As you probably already know, The Mouthy Housewives like to keep up with all the parenting trends out there. If we’re not Tiger momming our cubs, we’re Frenchifying nos bebes, all in an effort to raise the best kids we can.

So when we heard about the Third Annual Take Your Kids to the Park Day and Leave Them There Event, we were all over it.  Because by that point, we’d spent a lot of time with our kids already and frankly we needed a break.   Seriously how long can we sit at the park talking to the other parents and texting while our children play before we need to recharge our batteries?

The event was the brainchild of Lenore Skenazy, the author of Free Range Kids, who believes that children should be…free range.  And possibly organic and grass fed. 

Lenore’s idea was that parents would take their children to the park (ages seven and older, sorry moms of newborns!) and leave them there to play. This would help the parents overcome their fears and let the children eperience independence and fun.  Either that or lead to nervous breakdowns all around.

Either way, win/win!

Take Your Kids to the Park Day and Leave Them There? How about Take Your Kids to the Park Month?!  Now that’s something to get excited about!

Except I don’t like it.

At the risk of being called a helicopter mom (hey, watch that propeller!) I believe that children should be supervised because…wait for it…they’re children.  It does not mean that their every moment needs to be micromanaged and I certainly think that some distance is appropriate, but not the “have a fun day at the park,  see you in a couple of hours” kind that Skenazy seems to be advocating.

Because sure, our perception of danger may be distorted in light of the real numbers in terms of predators and other who want to hurt children. But I don’t know a single parent who thinks in terms of statistics when her child’s safety is at stake.  No parent is going to say, “Only 12 people on the sex offender registry in this neighborhood? Love those odds!”

Nor is the danger-by-stranger the only reason to remain with your child at the park. What about needing to be there in case your child gets hurt, get thirsty, or needs to use the bathroom. To say nothing of keeping an eye on your kid so he doesn’t wonder off or get lost.

At the end of the day we all need to do what we feel best for our families and our children. 

Even if it’s texting on the park bench while keeping an eye on them.

40 Responses to “Mouthing Off: Take Your Kids to the Park and Leave Them There Day Nonsense”

05.25.12#1

Comment by Sarah.

I don’t know…my brother and I grew up in Switzerland (we’re American, but dad was a businessman who was sent to run corporate headquarters in Vevey), and we had pretty much free reign. I remember being in first or second grade and running to the park a mile away, or taking the train to school, or walking to dad’s office a mile away to wait for him after work. If we got hurt, we either rubbed dirt on it and moved on, or we ran home crying. I honestly can’t imagine raising my kids any differently, even if it means I have to raise them overseas.

vodka tonic Reply:

There are some hurts that can’t be fixed by rubbing dirt on it. Or by running home, crying.

beyond Reply:

hi.i live in germany and i agree with you about children being more mobile and i dependant here in europe.i have seen kids who might be five years old crossing the road,going to school by themselves etc etc.and i think its great.they are happy and confident.

05.25.12#2

Comment by Happy.Baker.

Crap. I left my kids at the LAST annual “Take Your Kids to the Park” day. I didn’t realize I was supposed to pick them up.

…guess I should go do that… tomorrow, maybe…

Kristine Reply:

Hilarious!

05.25.12#3

Comment by Nicole.

I live a few minutes walk from a park now, love that I can send the kids over there by themselves. My parents rule was as long as there’s more than one of us (yes, even swimming), so there’s one to call if something does happen, we were ok by ourselves. My kids have been able to go to the bathroom and get drinks by themselves for several years – they are 8 and 9. Took my husband a while to get on board, he’s more the helicoptor daddy. Sadly they inherited my terrible sense of direction, but I make them lead the way home on long walks so eventually they’ll learn. Other freerangers – read Weapons of Mass Instruction for a great take on free ranging.

05.25.12#4

Comment by Chris2365.

Disagree. So sick of these neighborhoods where kids don’t play in the streets after school, where parents monitor every move they make. My children are loved, but they won’t be living in my basement when they’re 25 because they were never taught to think for themselves at 9 or 11. Free range parenting isn’t a free for all. Read more about it.

Marinka Reply:

I see no connection between children living in the basement at 25 and not leaving them in the park when they’re 7. Or 8, for that matter. Of course I feel especially safe from that phenomenon since I live in an apartment and don’t have a basement.

Lisa Reply:

With all of this hovering, the child gets the message, “you can’t handle this without me.”. Kids are inundated with that message their entir lives. What we end up with is this boomerang generation with an extended adolescence because they are too afraid to leave their comfy nest.

05.25.12#5

Comment by thepsychobabble.

Eh. We compromise (ages 6 &4). I take them to the park, and I’m *there*, but they run off and do their own thing. I don’t follow them around from one area to another.

Kristine Reply:

That’s what I do, as well, though I prefer to keep a visual since my youngest (3) is a runner. This is miles away from dropping them off in public for the day, though, don’t you think?

Marinka Reply:

Yep, that’s what I’ve always done as well

Erin@MommyontheSpot Reply:

I do the same. I’m there to help, but I encourage them to do their own thing. Great post!

05.25.12#6

Comment by Bean.

I don’t think the answer is that simple. Factors can include distance from the park to home; Age and maturity of the kid; Other known kids/adults around & available; Speed limit on surrounding roads; Availability of sidewalks & crosswalks.

We live in the boonies, so this is a non-issue for us: no parks. But I do let my kids play outside (10 acres) without being on top of them. It’s not always easy, but teaching them how to handle being “unsupervised” is important.

sisterfunkhaus Reply:

Yes it is. It is actually developmentally inappropriate for kids to not be allowed independence. It hampers their decision making skills and stunts brain development since they won’t engage in imaginary play as often with an adult around. It also keeps them from taking reasonable risks, and they don’t learn problem solving b/c mom is there to fix it for them. Children must learn to navigate the world a little at a time on their own, and they have to have some freedom to do that.

This is why we now have 20-year-old college students with their parents calling UNIVERSITY professors when they don’t like a grade, and 25-year-olds with parents calling their boss for them when the boss is “mean” and reprimands them for some reason. We have an entire generation of completely dysfunctional young adults who cannot handle life in the real world b/c of helicopter parents who mistakenly thought that hovering was harmless. It isn’t at all harmless.

05.25.12#7

Comment by Cait.

While I’m all for independent children and promoting safe neighborhoods, I think we also need to take the reality of the world we live in into account. There are a lot of bad people out there, so leaving you kid alone in a park on a day advertising the fact that many unsupervised kids will be out seems to me a little like asking kidnappers and pedophiles to babysit. Why can’t parents and caregivers congregate on one side of the park- maybe arrange to bring coffee, bagels, refreshments of some sort- and let the kids play more or less unsupervised. The kids will know a trusted adult is nearby if they need someone, adults will know the kids aren’t completely alone, and predators might think twice about taking kids from this event.
Also, any number of injuries can occur on even the safest of playgrounds. Broken bones, concussions, dislocations. Believe it or not, I do actually take the 3 two year olds I care for to the playground. I even let them play!

Megan Reply:

I’m glad to see this comment, I thought I was the only one who was concerned by the idea that this was an advertisement to all “bad guys” that the park would be full of unsupervised kids. My kids don’t have any desire to be at the park without an adult, and I wouldn’t allow it anyway. I don’t hover, I’m usually sitting somewhere with a book, but I’m there and they know where to find me.

sisterfunkhaus Reply:

And yet, no one was kidnapped or molested as a result of parents leaving their children at the park on Saturday. And, there are not a lot of bad people waiting out there to hurt kids. If you have stats to back up what you are saying, great. But you don’t b/c FBI stats show a much different picture than what you paint.

Marinka Reply:

I hope that you are right that no one was kidnapped or molested on Saturday and it’s certainly nice to think that we live in a world that that’s the case. But we simply won’t know.

Not all incidents are reported– some not ever.

As to whether there are “a lot of bad people” wanting to hurt kids “some” or a “rare individual” is besides the point where children are concerned.

One is too many.

That’s the kind of statistical lottery I don’t want to bet on.

05.25.12#8

Comment by MommyTime.

This is one where the suburbs may have the advantage over the city: kids can run out the front door and play in the yards of their house and neighbors’ houses, go to the cul de sac or neighborhood pond (always only with a buddy), and not need to be supervised all the time. On the other hand, the nearest park is so far from our house that I would never leave my 8 yr old there for a day by himself — mostly because, having had him hit by a car while I was less than 50 feet away and watching him this past Feb, I know that it only takes an instant for a terrible accident to happen, one that takes adult intervention to resolve.

wendi Reply:

That’s how I feel re: the suburbs. And I let my boys ride their bikes to play in other parts of the neighborhood, but I’m always worried about cars. Thank goodness you were there to immediately help your son.

05.25.12#9

Comment by sisterfunkhaus.

Yet somehow WE managed at the park and in the neighborhood without mom and dad when we were kids. Everyone in my neighborhood played outside, rode their bikes, etc.. without parent supervision for hours at a time. Everyone I know now did that as a kid too. No one died because of injuries. Heck, I don’t know of anyone who got more than a cut or bruise. Certainly no one was kidnapped.

And huge majority sex offenders did not perpetrate crimes on children. There are a lot of men on the registry for statutory rape, which basically amounts to an 18-year-old having sex with his 16-year-old girl friend and mom and dad getting pissed about it. Back when we were kids, there was actually far more crime against kids, and we didn’t have their names on some registry either.

And Cait, you need to look at statistics rather than just buying into the idea that there are a lot of bad people out there. Again, crimes against children have gone down and are lower than they have been in decades. According to the FBI only about 50 children out of the 800,000 that went missing last year were kidnapped and killed by a stranger. The rest were runaways or were taken by someone they knew–generally a non-custodial parent. What that means, is since there are 50 million kids under 13 or so in the U.S., any one child has a .0001 percent chance of getting abducted and killed by a stranger. They have a 1.6% chance of running away or being abducted by a friend or family member. The things we imagine in our head just don’t match up with reality.

If you don’t feel comfortable with your kids not being supervised, fine, supervise them. But at least be honest. My issue is when parents do it and spread misinformation because of it, or judge other parents b/c they are comfortable with giving their children age appropriate freedoms . The world is actually not a dangerous place when it comes to strangers wanting to hurt your kids. It’s safer than it’s ever been.

Sarah Reply:

YES. You beat me to it. Children today, statistically speaking, are safer than ever. Unfortunately, in this era of 24 hour news and networks desperately trying to win ratings and “scoop” each other, we hear horrible stories and think that they’re normal.

VelveteenMama Reply:

Thank you for this! My sister and I (both CPS workers) were discussing this and in our work and overall as a culture we are simply saturated with every horror story out there. One kid being abducted or abused is too many, but the truth is that a vast majority of that happens in the home or by people the child already knows, not predators cruising at the park. We have to step back and look at the big picture, the truth behind the statistics and make decisions for our families that are not entrenched in fear. Like every parenting decision it is very personal and judging others for their decision doesn’t really help anyone.

05.25.12#10

Comment by Stephanie.

I’d never forgive myself if something happened in my absence. And I’m reasonably certain I wouldn’t be able to relax anyway if I were at home and they were elsewhere, basically alone. Imagine how badly that mom would get attacked by the media, other parents, and onlookers in general if something serious happened?

05.25.12#11

Comment by Average Jane.

If you still need a baby-sitter when your parents are away for the evening, you should probably be supervised at the park. Seems simple enough.

Big ol' B with a capital B Reply:

Yes, Yes, Yes. Why is leaving them at a park for two hours any different than leaving them at home for two hours? In fact, they are SAFER at home alone because the doors can be locked! Why is it that they must have babysitters under a certain age but can wander freely in public without adult supervision at a public park?

Seriously, grab a book, find a nice bench and keep your kids in sight. Don’t hover, there’s no need to, but WATCH YOUR CHILDREN.

Bean Reply:

I get your point. However, I think there’s a big difference between being 3 blocks away and available, and being a car ride away in a movie or having drinks with dinner.

05.25.12#12

Comment by N and Em's mom.

Would I send a 7 year old to the park alone? No. But I would with older children that I trusted. Somehow by the time our kids are in their late teens, they need to learn how to go places by themselves. College age women are 4 times more likely to be the victim of sexual assault than any other age group. Unfortunately, my 19 year old daughter who is in college will probably not invite me to go with her to frat parties, but I digress. She had to learn how to make good choices choosing friends and how to keep herself safe, and it was my job to teach her. Despite my best efforts, horrible unspeakable things could still happen because life is not fair. Letting kids run wild teaches them you don’t care. Being overly protective and doing everything for your kids will cripple them in the long run. What I wouldn’t give for a crystal ball and an operator’s manual [heavy sigh]!

Big ol' B with a capital B Reply:

I agree with this entirely. Independence is a gradual occurrence. Before we know it, kids are walking, talking, cutting their own food, riding two wheelers, having sleep overs, playing in the backyard by themselves, going to a friend’s house alone, going on dates alone, getting part time jobs, getting a drivers licenses, graduating, going to college, getting married and having kids of their own.

It will all happen in due time. We don’t want to hold kids back by being overprotective, but there’s also no need to rush independence either if it doesn’t feel right at that particular moment. What works for one kid won’t work for another at that moment.

I think we can all agree that mom and dad shouldn’t be cutting their 20 year old’s steak for them but neither should a five year old be left to watch their siblings all night long either. It’s everything in the middle that is up for interpretation.

05.25.12#13

Comment by rhoda.

I’m sorry the world is what it is. You don’t let your 7- 8- 9- yr old go ANY WHERE with you. Good God it’s you job to see to it that no harm come to them.

Big ol' B with a capital B Reply:

I think you meant ‘without’ you, but Amen. Trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

05.26.12#14

Comment by Lisa.

There are so many people worried about made up worries – strangers grabbing your child out of a park – that you clamp down to give yourself a FALSE sense of security. Your child is not safe if she can’t learn to take care of herself. You are causing him real and known damage that we are now seeing – and researchers are measuring – in young adults.

As a middle class, we are stunting our children’s development. There is a steady, relentless drumbeat of, “You can’t handle this without me.” rates of childhood depression and anxiety are soaring. Eating disorders are skyrocketing. That is real, that is happening now.

You worry about the alleged boogeyman harming your child’s psyche, but you end up perpetrating the equivalent of water torture. You are definitely harming your child, you just can’t see it from here.

Big ol' B with a capital B Reply:

So wait, let me get this straight. You’re fine with letting your seven year old walk three blocks to the park, playing there by himself/herself for two/three hours and then walking three blocks home? You’d never wonder how s/he was or who the kid was with or what the kid was doing? Really?

While I think that being overprotective is not in a child’s best interest all the time, neither is being negligent. And I also believe that ‘real and known damage’ by bringing a good book to read so we can be within seeing distance of our seven year old kids at the park is a little far fetched, don’t you think?

Marinka Reply:

Lisa, I completely disagree with you. this is from a comment that I left on another sit discussing this subject:

I can’t agree that we should take comfort in statistics. Stranger abduction may be insignificant statistically but that is of small comfort when it happens.

I fully admit to erring on the side of helicopter parenting, but I can’t say that my kids are not allowed to experience life.

I believe that the “drop your kids off at the park when they’re seven!” or “let them take the subway alone when they’re 8” is more beneficial to the parent who can claim to have an independence prodigy than it is to the child who cannot possibly appreciate how to navigate being alone in a park or on the subway. (In my mid-40s, I’m not sure I’m navigating the social dynamics of the NYC subway ride that well myself. Such as last month, when I saw a fellow passenger start chocking himself. What does Miss Manners say to do in that case, other than avert gaze and change cars at the next stop?)

What is the rush? My kids were not allowed to go to the park alone at 7, but my daughter goes around in Manhattan now that she’s thirteen. Did she lose five years of independence? Or did I gain time sitting on a park bench and being with her?

N and Em's mom Reply:

Lisa- I’m curious how old your children are and where you live. We live in a city in the midwest. One day when I mentioned that I let my 14 year old take the train home from school to another mother who lived in the suburbs, she reacted as if I announced that sent her over to the east side at midnight to dance on a pole and strip. Back to the subject at hand- the real issue with take your kids to the park is the premise that there is safety in numbers. This relies on the assumption that there are other children at the park who will play nicely with your child and not go all ‘Lord of the Flies’ on them and the presence of an adult willing to say, “Stop pushing!” Yes, I am the nice stranger who will assist your child if they are in an accident. Your child can use my cell phone to call you. I will even wait until you arrive. But the problem is this scenario relies on someone like me (a stranger) to step up to the plate. A child who is 10 (6th grade) is vastly different than a 7 year old (2nd grade). I also grew up in a small town and was comfortable with my daughters walking “uptown” to get ice cream cones when they were 10 and 6. If anyone started talking to them at the store they were supposed to tell them who their mom and grandparents were, so no one would worry about the 2 strange kids .

05.27.12#15

Comment by Fun Range For The Kids.

[…] Mouthing Off: Take Your Kids to the Park and Leave Them There … The event was the brainchild of Lenore Skenazy, the author of Free Range Kids, who believes that children should be…free range. And possibly organic and grass fed. Lenore's idea was that parents would take their children . […]

05.30.12#16

Comment by kokopuff.

The real problem in the world today is that somehow we feel we have the right to judge how other people raise their kids. Most mommy blogs do this regularly. Parents have a hard enough job in this day and age without a bunch of other people weighing in on how you’re doing with your kids. It’s absolutely none of your business how other people do this (you are allowed to intervene with a call to the authorities if there is abuse going on). And the 25 year olds who can’t make decisions and have their parents intervene on their behalf…well, those are the ones who will be managed by mine someday.

05.31.12#17

Comment by karena milford.

I am not at all comfortable with the idea of leaving my first grader alone @ the park. We live 2 blocks from the school, and I walk or drive her to and from everyday. I don’t Leave them alone in the house. I do take her into her dance classes and leave for the hour because it gets too crowded in the lobby area. I am a helicopter. But my kids are safe. They’re independent without being free range. They can get their own water, use the bathroom, dress themselves, get their own yogurt from the fridge, etc. And they have all learned this independence without being left to fend for themselves.

06.01.12#18

Comment by Mouthing Off: The Catastrophe Award | The Mouthy Housewives.

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