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Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Walk to the Park

The other day, I wrote about my son asking to stay the afternoon with his big brother and that the reason I wouldn't allow him to wasn't that I felt he could handle it but it was out of fear that I would be judged as putting my children in danger by allowing them to be kids and hang out together.  I am sure that more than a few people thought I was overreacting.  As parents, don't we know our kids best.  We would know if our kids were able to watch over themselves, fix themselves a sandwich and be safe.

Today, there was an article in the Orlando Sentinel about a mom who has been arrested for allowing her child to go to the park a half mile from home. (Florida Mom Arrested After Son Walked to Park)

Perhaps I wasn't just being paranoid about others views of parenting.

I live in Florida, and even this one caught me off.  You see, in Florida, not all districts bus kids to their local school if that school is within 2 walking miles from home.  Florida considers it safe enough to tell parents that their children can walk to school for 2 miles and across busy intersections with very few crossing guards.  Oh, and in case you are wondering, that includes kindergarten students.  I am not exaggerating on either.  We lived in Palm Beach County, one of the richest counties in the state of Florida, and the school district would not pay to bus kids.  In fact, we lived 3 houses east of the very busy Highway US1 and just under 2 miles from the elementary school (around 1 1/2 miles from the local middle school).  Every morning, the elementary kids would be driven to school.  Then, Fred, who was in middle school would take his bike and ride along and across US1, then again across Southern Boulevard on his way to school.  These are not empty streets.  This was in the heart of West Palm Beach and during the same hours that hundreds of commuters were on their way to their prospective jobs.

How is it that they can say, it is perfectly safe for your 5 or 6 year old to walk almost 2 miles to school, but it is not safe for them to walk a half mile (with a cell phone) to a local park to play with friends.  Seems like a double standard to me.  Or rather a bottom line economics.  It also gives very mixed messages to the parents and children.  How do I tell my 7, 8 or 9 year old that they can't go to the park to play because it's not safe for them to go alone that 1/2 mile, but that it is perfectly fine for them to walk a mile or more past the same park to go to school.

Wake up and let us parents be parents.  This mother judged her son to be responsible to walk and play with friends a shorter distance away than the school would have him walk to school. This mother provided her son with a cell phone to stay in touch.  If anything she was being responsible.

I guess my fear wasn't so unfounded after all.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mom... Can I stay home today?

"Mom, can I stay home today by myself?"

"No, dear you cannot."

"Why not?  If there's a problem, I can go upstairs to [the neighbor]."

My son is 9 years old.  Next week, in fact is his birthday and he will be 10.

When we were kids it would have been nothing to stay home for a few hours at 10 by ourselves.  Many of us grew up coming home from school, fixing ourselves snacks, and hanging out with our friends until our parents came home from work.

Why is today so different from then?

Honestly, I know my boys and I feel that my 12 and 9 year old boys would be just fine for a few hours on their own.  I know that they wouldn't go anywhere, and that if there was a problem, that they would go right upstairs to our neighbor or they would call their grandmother or myself.  I can see it now, I'd come home to a sink full of dishes and the an open jug of milk will be left on the counter.

So, why don't I let them?  Why do I instead hover over and say, "Oh, no!"

I'll tell you honestly, it's fear.  Not fear of any trouble my boys may get into, but fear of losing them if I left them alone for an afternoon to watch over themselves.  Fear that even though I know I need to teach them how to take care of themselves and be responsible for themselves that I am not allowed to do just that.  I am not allowed to use my best judgment in raising my children.

Here we are, a society that says at 18, a child is magically transported to adulthood and needs to know, understand and be proficient at all the rules and responsibilities of being a grown-up.... yet, we are not allowed to teach our children what those responsibilities are.  We are not allowed to let them be kids and learn be on their own.  It's a slow process, not a fast one.  And, for me, I'm not talking about leaving him home all day, he just wanted an afternoon.  One afternoon to just hang out with just him and his big brother, doing brotherly bonding over computer games.  I know it, and still I have to say no.

Sorry, baby, Momma isn't going to let you  have an afternoon of boy-time with your brother because Momma doesn't have any desire to go to jail or risk having the state take you away.